May 18th, 2013
The following breathing techniques can help to relax or revive you in less than 10 minutes.
For many of us, the search for products that can help relax us is a constant struggle, but it turns out all we need are a pair of lungs and a little time.
Controlling your breath not only keeps the body and mind functioning at their best – it can also help reduce blood pressure and promote a feeling of calm. Many experts encourage us to use the breath as a way of increasing mindfulness and awareness. The following breathing techniques can help you keep calm and carry on…
Equal breathing (or Sama Vritti)
One of the easiest breathing techniques is all about balance. Breathe in for a count of four and then exhale for a count of four (breathe through the nose). Once you are comfortable with this feel free to increase the count to six or even eight. The overall effect can help calm the nervous system, reduce stress and increase focus. This technique is particularly good for those who struggle to drop off to sleep as it helps distract you from overthinking.
Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates. Aim for six to 10 deep breaths to reduce blood pressure and heart rate. This technique is great for when you feel stressed, i.e. before an exam or presentation.
Alternate nostril breathing (or Nadi Shodhana)
This breath is said to calm and balance the mind while giving the body an energizing effect. Hold your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of the inhalation, close off your left nostril and exhale through your right. Continue this pattern, alternating the breath. Great for those in need of an energy boost, this technique can help you focus and feel more awake… and is much better for you than coffee!
If you want to find out other natural ways to relax or revive yourself, take a look at our Therapy Topics and browse the therapies.
View and comment on the original Greatist article.
May 15th, 2013
In a fast-paced, modern world, employee attention spans are becoming increasingly short. Now researchers from the University of California have found that meditation could be the key to improved memory and sharper focus.
Researchers in Santa Barbara enrolled 48 undergraduates in either a mindfulness or a nutrition class.
The classes were held for 45 minutes four times a week for two weeks and taught by professionals with extensive experience teaching their respective subjects.
In the mindfulness class, participants learnt the postural and mental strategies used in meditation. They were taught how to integrate these methods into daily life and were required to complete 10 minutes of meditation each day outside of class.
During the class, students were asked to sit on cushions in a circle and focus on one of their senses i.e. tasting food, feeling their breathing, listening to an audio recording and so on. They were encouraged to minimize distracting thoughts by reframing these as ‘mental projections’ coming from the present. Breathing was used as a way to anchor their thoughts if they ever found their minds drifting.
Both groups – mindfulness and nutrition, were asked to take a standardised test considered for grad school application before and after the two week course. They were also tested on memory and attention span to see how the lessons affected their abilities.
Results showed that those in the meditation class improved their scores on all tests while the nutrition group remained the same.
Experts believe this suggests taking time to focus on thoughts, breathing and posture can all contribute towards overall cognitive function.
If mindfulness interests you, you may be interested in autogenic training. This is a therapy designed to heighten your bodily awareness, treating a wide range of emotional and physical conditions. To find out more, please visit our Autogenic Training page.
View and comment on the original The Atlantic article.
May 11th, 2013
Feeling awake, alert and productive is the holy grail for many of us, but could supplements really help us get there?
The topic of mental clarity is very popular these days, with diets, supplements and non-supplemental interventions all being discussed as ways to achieve this state – but what exactly is ‘mental clarity’?
The term mental clarity can be defined as meeting the following requirements:
- being able to focus
- feeling awake, but not to the point of feeling jittery
- feeling balanced – i.e. not euphoric or depressed
- not having a headache or feeling lightheaded.
In summary, mental clarity is present when we are awake, focused and not stressed. Certain issues can hinder these factors, making us feel lethargic and unbalanced – these include the following:
Nothing quashes productivity more effectively than a pounding headache. If you know the cause, be sure to eliminate it and consider your triggers – for example, if you get a headache when you haven’t eaten in a while, try to keep healthy snacks with you.
In terms of supplements, caffeine can help to increase blood flow to the brain, alleviating pain. It is important to bear in mind that those who are not used to caffeine may well trigger one by having too much – so consider your personal limitations. This is also not an excuse to go crazy on the coffee – consuming the lowest dosage possible is recommended.
The balance of sedation and wakefulness is key to mental clarity – if you feel tired or over excited, things may not appear as clear as you would like. If getting to sleep is causing you problems, try to seek natural ways to help you fall asleep and identify the cause of your issues if possible. The most effective supplement for this is melatonin; however, it does not enhance your quality of sleep, it simply helps you drop off. Try getting this supplement through natural sources such as bananas or almonds.
Something we all suffer with from time to time, stress (whether it’s acute or chronic) can affect more than just our mental clarity. While supplementation should not be your first port of call when it comes to stress (uncovering your triggers and addressing your lifestyle should be priority), it is helpful to know what help is on offer. Two of the most supported and well-known supplements to help with stress are Panax ginseng and Rhodiola rosea.
Be sure to speak to a medical professional before taking any new supplements.
If you want to learn more about natural ways to achieve mental clarity, please see our Therapy Topics page to see what therapies are available.
View and comment on the original Greatist article.
May 8th, 2013
Do you walk for less than nine minutes a day? Most Brits do, contributing to a rise in inactivity-related deaths and making it the world’s fourth biggest killer.
One quarter of adults in the UK now walk for less than nine minutes a day, a figure which includes walking to and from the car, around shops and in the home. This amounts to just one hour of walking over the whole week – not enough to stay healthy.
The figures come from a YouGov poll of 2,000 over 18s for the Ramblers, published exclusively in The Independent on Sunday.
Medical authorities say adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (i.e. walking) a week. Unfortunately nearly half of those surveyed were 30 minutes or more short of this recommendation.
Exercise and health specialist (and GP) William Bird said: “We’re going to find this generation will die earlier than their parents if they don’t start doing basic movement.”
The consequences of not exercising include diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Dr Bird encourages other doctors to tell their patients about the importance of movement for health, as he believes it should be a priority – not something at the bottom of their list. If everybody walked regularly throughout the day, it would have a massive impact on the health of the country (and the amount of money spent by the NHS on inactivity related conditions).
The World Health Organisation now ranks physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer in the world behind obesity, high blood pressure, tobacco and high blood glucose.
British walking charity Ramblers is launching a ‘walking revolution’ to get 100,000 more Brits up from their couches and onto their feet.
Walking is an effective way of preventing the onset of disease. To find out more about preventative measures and therapies available for good mental and physical health, please visit our Therapies Topics page.
View and comment on the original Independent article.
May 4th, 2013
There have been many studies into the health benefits of yoga, and the results appear to be very clear: yoga can reduce stress, improve fitness levels and even help you sleep better. Read on to find out what makes yoga so good for us…
Whether you’re looking to improve your flexibility and tone up, or you’re simply keen to start a hobby where you can relax and de-stress, yoga might just be the perfect exercise for you.
With so many different classes available these days you can pick and choose a style to suit you and it is up to you how ‘into’ the spiritual side you want to be.
Health benefits of yoga:
1. Reduces stress
There have been many studies researching the effect yoga has on stress levels. According to a recent study, a group of middle aged women showed significantly lower stress levels after completing just one 90-minute Hatha yoga session. Another study found reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression in a group of students after they participated in a yoga class.
2. Increases flexibility
Many people forget to include stretching in their fitness regime even though flexibility is key to a healthy body. Yoga helps to increase flexibility by stretching out muscles and encouraging people to push outside of their comfort zone.
3. Strengthens your core
Many of the poses in yoga require the use of our core muscles. Strengthening the core helps the spine to be held up by our abdominal muscles and not our neck and shoulders. When the upper back is stressed it can lead to tension and poor breathing which ultimately taxes the nervous system.
4. Improves sleep
Research has proven that the calming effect of yoga is an effective treatment for insomnia. With some poses designed to relax you before bed, yoga is a safe and side effect free treatment.
5. Improves your breathing
Because yoga focuses on the marriage of movement and breath, naturally your breathing will improve. By increasing your awareness and encouraging deep breathing, yoga can increase your lung capacity and even help with some forms of asthma.
If you want to find out more about yoga as a form of therapy, please see our Yoga Therapy page.
View and comment on the original Inspiyr article.
May 1st, 2013
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones lose density and become brittle and easy to break. Over many years of fractures caused by trips, falls and even sneezing, osteoporosis can result in disability, chronic pain and increased risk of death.
While you may be perfectly healthy now, ensuring you look after your body as well as possible could help prevent future problems. Here are three easy and natural ways you can help stave off osteoporosis:
1. Adjust your diet
Make sure you get plenty of calcium and Vitamin D in your diet, as these nutrients are essential for bone strength and hardness. According to the NHS, adults need 700 mg of calcium every day to stay healthy. However, exceeding 1500 mg a day could lead to stomach pains and diarrhoea.
The best sources of calcium are:
- dairy – milk, cheese and yoghurt
- green leafy veg – cabbage and broccoli
- soya beans
- bony fish – sardines and pilchards.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause bone deformities, teeth problems and pain. While most of our vitamin D comes from the sun, it is possible to get some from food including:
- oily fish – salmon, mackerel and sardines
- fortified breakfast cereals.
2. Do weight bearing exercise
Exercise will encourage your muscles to adapt to the impact of your body weight by building density. This will slow down the process of bone thinning that occurs naturally with age and help prevent fragility.
3. Get outside
We get most of our vitamin D from the sun so get outside and let the rays soak in. Of course, sun rays also contain harmful UV which can cause cancer, so try not to exceed 15 minutes of direct exposure.
In some cases physiotherapy is thought to benefit people suffering from osteoporosis. Through special exercises, physiotherapy can help strengthen bones, reduce falls and manage pain. To find out more, please visit our Physiotherapy page.
View and comment on the original Inspiyr article.
April 27th, 2013
Spring is a favourite time of year for many, but for hay fever sufferers it can be a nightmare in disguise.
Parts of the UK have been lucky weather-wise in the last couple of weeks with temperatures reaching 20°C and sunny in some parts. While this makes a welcome change from the long, cold winter we’ve been having, warm sunny weather tends to bring with it an increased pollen count. For sufferers of hay fever this means only one thing – streaming eyes, a blocked nose and constant sneezing fits.
The following tips could help to reduce symptoms naturally and may reduce your need for over-the-counter antihistamines.
1. Keep physically fit – getting regular cardiovascular exercise will help to strengthen your cardiovascular system, which is responsible for eliminating waste from the body (such as allergens).
2. Eat a healthy diet – eating a varied diet will help your body fight allergens, which will in turn reduce the strength of your symptoms. Foods full of saturated fats, preservatives and sugar are all inflammatory and can exacerbate symptoms. Try eating more lean protein, fresh fruit and veg and whole grains.
3. Keep hydrated – drinking plenty of water will help your body flush any toxins from your system as quickly as possible and will keep you feeling energised.
4. Try a shot of wheatgrass – this juice will help to boost your immune system and help to keep your system toxin free.
5. Boost your vitamin intake – this natural way of treating hay fever has proven effective for many people. Try to increase your vitamin E, vitamin C and vitamin B levels with a supplement to help reduce symptoms.
If you want to learn more about natural therapies, please see our Therapy Topics page.
View and comment on the original ehow article.
April 24th, 2013
Research shows women who smoke or have smoked regularly are twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Scientists in Sweden examined data from 34,101 women between the ages of 54 and 89. Of these, 219 had RA.
RA is joint damage caused by the immune system. Unlike osteoarthritis, it is caused by the body attacking itself rather than by general wear and tear from stress and injuries.
The researchers found that women who smoked for longer had a higher risk of developing RA than those who gave up. However, even 15 years after quitting smoking, the risk of developing RA was still twice as high as it was for non-smokers.
Lead researcher Ms Daniela Di Giuseppe, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said: “Stopping smoking is important for many health reasons, including the increased risk of RA for smokers. But the clearly increased risk of developing RA, even many years after giving up, is another reason to stop smoking as soon as possible, and highlights the importance of persuading women not to start at all.”
The findings have been published in the online journal Arthritis Research & Therapy.
Therapies for RA treatment include massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, hydrotherapy and osteopathy. Patients are also advised to exercise regularly. Pain and stiffness can make some forms of exercise difficult; however, low impact activities such as cycling, swimming and cross training can prove very effective at staving off further ill health such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Find out more about the therapies available and how to contact a therapist near you by visiting our Therapy Topics page.
View and comment on the original Sydney Daily Telegraph page.
April 20th, 2013
If you want to give your immune system a boost and avoid the need for synthetic antibiotics, try these five natural alternatives.
Doctors are trying to prescribe less and less antibiotics these days due to modern reliance and over-use of such drugs causing new strains of bacteria to develop that are resistant to many commonly used antibiotics.
If your doctor has prescribed you antibiotics, it is because you need them to fight infection and get better; however, if you want to boost your immune system and ward off minor ailments such as coughs and colds – these natural antibiotic foods could help.
One of the best-known medicinal plants, garlic has been used for centuries in many cultures for its ability to fight off colds and flu. It is the chemical allicin that it thought to give it its therapeutic power. A variety of studies have revealed that garlic may also reduce cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.
Onions contain sulphur, which not only gives them their distinct smell and taste, but is also thought to have anti-bacterial properties. Syrups from the vegetable are thought to help get rid of nasty coughs, while traditional uses see it being used in a similar way to garlic to help fight colds. Onions are also known to help improve blood flow and are considered an anti-inflammatory.
3) Green tea
While green tea itself is not known for its antibiotic qualities, studies have shown that it helps any antibiotics you are taking to work well, hopefully meaning you will not need to take another course. On top of this, green tea is full of antioxidants and could help make resistant bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics.
Fantastic when used externally, honey (especially Manuka honey) is especially good at treating cuts and infections. Antimicrobial enzymes in honey release hydrogen peroxide which can help to prohibit the growth of bacteria. This makes honey ideal for treating both internal and external bacterial infections.
This plant extract is well known for its ability to battle a wide range of bugs, both viral and bacterial. By stimulating the immune system, Echinacea helps your white blood cells fight off infections better. Studies have revealed that taking a daily Echinacea supplement can help to reduce your chances of catching a cold by 58% and will reduce the amount of time you take off sick. The supplement’s effectiveness does have the ability to wear off though, so it is recommended that you take it in bursts of a few weeks at a time – perhaps during flu season or when you feel you are coming down with something.
If you want to find out more about alternative and complementary therapies, please see our Therapy Topics page for more information.
View and comment on the original Yahoo Lifestyle article.
April 17th, 2013
Acupuncture is gaining acceptance in the U.S. as a treatment for mental health problems such as anxiety, stress and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
When Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of America last year, help came for those affected in the form of Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB), a non-profit organisation formed to help people deal with stress, anxiety and PTSD.
AWB has since launched a campaign to help communities in crisis after natural disasters, or for families dealing with tragedies.
PTSD is an extreme psychological reaction to a stressful situation. It causes vivid flashbacks, anxiety and depression, all of which can impact the sufferer’s quality of life drastically.
Acupuncture is increasingly being used to break the ‘cycle of trauma’ by stimulating certain points on the body to encourage a smoother movement of energy. Upon penetration, the needles are thought to stimulate serotonin and dopamine production – the ‘feel good hormones’. Studies show acupuncture may be affecting the body on a complex molecular level.
“Over time, we’re seeing a lot more people whose doctors are recommending us,” said acupuncturist Mark Foley.
He explained that his goal is to help people enjoy their lives again – to wake up in the morning with a purpose and go to bed feeling like they’ve accomplished something.
To find out more about acupuncture and to find an acupuncturist near you, please visit our Acupuncture page.
View and comment on the original Pennlive article.