Breathe Deep

In a given day how often do you breathe deeply? In a stressed out world you can unconsciously end up breathing short and shallow breaths, this can reduce oxygen intake and further drive the stress response.

Breathing is an interesting function of the body and arguably the only one that is both unconscious and consciously controlled. Think about it, until you start dreading this you were breathing without paying attention to it. It happens automatically. But you can also slow down or speed up your breathing pattern at your own will.

Rapid, shallow breathing is a natural response to a stressful situation. Deeper, slower breathing is a natural response when you are relaxed. Taking conscious control of your breathing during the day, especially when you are stressed, can help calm your nervous system so it can focus on healing, digesting and creativity.

Try this simple breathing exercise each day to calm you mind and body.

4-7-8 Breathing

This technique was developed by Dr Andrew Weil as a great technique to calm your body when lying in bed at night to assist you falling asleep or to calm your mind and body during the day.

  • Exhale forcefully through the mouth
  • Close your mouth and silently breathe in through the nose as you mentally count to 4
  • Hold the breath for a count of 7
  • Exhale forcefully through the mouth for a count of 8

Do this a total of four times and repeat twice daily to maximise the benefits of the technique. The ratio of the inhalation to exhalation is more important than the overall length of time. At first you may not be able to hold your breath very long so count faster but as your body becomes more efficient over time you will find that you can really slow the process down.

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Royalty free breathe photos | Pikist

Learning From Longevity Cultures: Part 2

PART II

Continuing on in our theme of living a healthier and longer life we look at the next 3 common traits of cultures with a high amount of centenarians (people living to 100 or older). Genes dictate about 10% of your longevity and health, the other 90% is lifestyle! This means the power is in your hands to create a healthy and long life. Thankfully none of this is rocket science so it’s easy to start to make changes. Relax: The Seventh-day Adventist community and the Sardinians take regular time to slow down and pray, the Okinawans have a form of Ancestral veneration in which they take time to pay respects to there predecessors.

Taking regular time to reflect and slow down is crucial. Constantly being on the go and rushing fires up or sympathetic nervous system and triggers and inflammatory response. This response is linked with many disease states from Alzheimer’s to cardiovascular disease to joint degeneration. Taking time to quiet the mind and spiritually connect through prayer and meditation is something that people of faith have done for centuries but unfortunately in our day and ageless and fewer people are reaping the benefit of such activities, or rather non-activities.

 

They eat less:

Okinawans have a saying that they say before each meal to remind them to stop eating when they are 80% full, this is because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register the stomach is full. They also eat off smaller plates to reduce the amount of calories per sitting. Digestion is a fairly intensive process for the body to perform, which is why appetite is often low when you get sick as your body needs to focus its energy on the immunity and healing process. It is clear that being significantly overweight isn’t good for longevity but neither is being too underweight so take heed with this piece of advice. Eating enough food to maintain muscle mass but not too much that you put on fat

They eat a plant-based diet.

This point also reduces the amount of calories you consume until you are full and also means each mouth full is more nutritious . Most of these cultures eat a wide variety as well as large amounts of vegetables. The Okinawans consume a large amount of tofu, which has all essential amino acids and is a good source of iron. They still eat small amounts of meat and fish but supplement it with nuts, seeds and beans.

Family and connection.

Sense of belonging and connection is vital. In our modern world we may have more connections but it can be easy to let deep, meaningful connections slide. These cultures spend time with their children and taking care of their aging grandparents. The Seventh day Adventists reportedly schedule up to 24 hours per week to spend with family, friends and God. Make sure you proactively spend time investing into others and with people who support, love and challenge you. Don’t let yourself get caught up with being so busy that you don’t foster meaningful relationships!

 

If you missed the first part of this series go and check it out here and keep an eye out for our third and final instalment, the final three points might surprise you.

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The secret of Longevity! | I got this in an email and prompt… | Flickr

Learning From Longevity Cultures: Part 1

Watching a TEDx Talk by Dan Buettner on longevity inspired me to write this.

The following three blogs are a summary of his talk with a few of my own ideas.

If you want to watch the original talk head over to YouTube and search his name otherwise stay tuned for a summary of his main findings. Scientists believe humans can live about 90-100 or so years and there are communities around the world that have a high rate of people who are living into their tenth decade. The NZ life expectancy is about 81 years which means Kiwi’s are missing out on 10-20 extra years. What would you do with 10 years?

The main thing a lot of people say when talking about living longer is that they don’t want to be in pain or incapacitated. But what if those years were full of life and joy? What else would you be able to achieve and how much more could you make an impact in other peoples lives with an extra decade or two? The majority of people in these long-lived communities, or Blue Zones (Seventh-Day Adventists in California, the residents of Sardinia, Italy, and the inhabitants of the islands of Okinawa, Japan) are not only living longer but are doing so in great health. In this three-part series we will cover the nine common principles you can learn from these cultures so you can add life to your years and years to your life.

They don’t exercise:

no, this doesn’t mean what you might hope it does! A sedentary lifestyle is not good for you. People in these communities set up their lives so they are nudged toward movement. They live in houses with steps and don’t have conveniences like premade food. They spend a lot of time and effort physically preparing food, cutting and collecting wood, fishing or farming their own food, and have more physically involved jobs. Basically their day to day is exercise but if you work a sedentary job exercise is still the next best thing so that you can minimise the impact of sitting all day. On top of regular exercise try to integrate more movement into your day by simply parking further away and walking to work or the shops. Yep, this will mean leaving home earlier, but convenience might be slowly killing you!

They live with Purpose:

In our culture we tend to gear our entire working life toward retirement at which point we become sedentary, giving up mental and physical challenges and along with it, losing a sense of purpose. Sure, your work capacity will decrease as you age but make sure you retire TO something and not FROM it. In Okinawa they don’t have a word for retire, they have a word ikigai, which means, “the reason you get up on the morning.” This could be a hobby, going to night school to learn a language or how to cook, picking up an instrument, joining a club or group, writing a book, being involved in your family’s life, the list goes on.

To be continued…

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.The secret of Longevity! | I got this in an email and prompt… | Flickr

 

Could Cold Showers Be Good For you

It’s time to make friends with the cold. It may be hard to believe but there are quite a few benefits to having a cold shower. The idea of using cold water as a therapy has been around for thousands of years. Even after the Greeks developed running hot water for bathing they would still use cold bathing as a mental and physical therapy. Taking a dunk in an icy lake after a sauna is a common activity in Finland and the other Scandinavian countries and Rickson Gracie, a legend in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, would often sit in cold water as part of his training and recovery.

So what benefits might you gain from such a masochistic activity?

 

Physical benefits

 

The Thrombosis Research Institute of England put out a study with some evidence linking the increase in metabolism due to the body fighting the cold to a stimulation of the immune system, increasing white blood cell activity. The same study also indicates an increase in testosterone. A hormone essential for particularly for men in regard to libido, fertility, strength and energy, but also an essential hormone for similar reason in women.

Many athletes use various cold therapies to aid recovery and reduce inflammation caused by their training. Alternating between hot and cold in the shower can aid circulation. Because, cold water causes your body to restrict blood flow and send it to your organs and away from your extremities and hot water does the opposite.

Taking a cold shower daily can be a cheap (or should I say free) and less harmful (please read the warning at the end) than regularly taking anti-inflammatory pills if you suffer from chronic pain and inflammation.

 

Get started

 

I recommend you start by having a normal shower. Over the course of a week spend the final 15 seconds in a progressively cooler temperature until you are using the coldest possible water.

Then go from spending 15 seconds to 30, then 45, then 1 minute and so on. I have found that once you get used to the cold it is no longer a shock to your body. Then you can start to actually look forward to the cold!

An extra bonus is that you can save on your water bill as I guarantee you won’t be spending as long in the shower!

BE WARNED: if you suffer from heart disease or high blood pressure then this may not be for you. The shock of using cold water can put extra strain on the heart. Please take extra caution and try doing progressively cooler showers instead of going straight to cold.

 

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164-365 (Year 6) Cold shower :( | My shower runs cold, a plu… | Flickr

Improve Your Sleep and minimize insomnia

Introduction

We all know the frustration that comes with insomnia: watching the clock, counting the hours till morning, and flipping through late-night channels. If you suffer from frequent insomnia, you’re not alone. Approximately 30% of people suffer from insomnia each year and even more struggle in one way or another with sleep, such as grogginess, poor concentration. But apart from these frustrating symptoms, poor sleep habits can result in long-term medical issues, including cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and depression. Luckily, with some small changes in your habits and sleep routine, you can take control of your sleep and boost your chances of getting better rest.

 

Limit Your Screen Time

Despite the urge to watch Netflix in bed, try leaving your computer, tablet, or television anywhere but the bedroom. Doing so can improve your sleep, even if you don’t suffer from full-fledged insomnia. Using electronic devices, including your phone, just before bed has been linked to irregular sleep patterns and poor sleep habits. So if you find yourself waking up exhausted or tossing and turning before falling asleep, switch out your laptop for a book.

Limit your screen time

Move Your Body

An aerobic workout may be enough to tire out your body and promote deep sleep. After all, regular exercise has resulted in improving patterns of insomniacs. But even a single moderately paced exercise session may help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, at least for that night. Exercise may help with insomnia because it regulates your body temperature, reduces anxiety and depression, and helps to normalize your circadian rhythm.

Move your body

 

Change Positions or Your Pillows

No matter how tired you are, you may find it difficult to get into a comfortable position and stay asleep. If neck pain or headaches are keeping you awake at night and worsening insomnia, you may want to reconsider your sleep position or even your pillows. After all, an individual’s reported pillow comfort correlates with sleep quality. Aim for a position and pillow that prevents your neck from staying in neutral while you sleep. I would recommend THE Theraputica pillow or the complete sleeperrr.

A good night of sleep is irreplaceable.

Change positions or your pillows

 

Address Pain

Aches and pain not only make it difficult to fall asleep but lead to frequent awakenings, painful mornings, restless nights, insomnia. Unfortunately, pain and sleep may work in concert; pain can lead to poor sleep quality, and poor sleep quality can further exacerbate pain. To break free of this frustrating cycle, address the primary cause that is leading to a secondary condition of pain.

Address pain

 

Get Checked For Sleep Apnea

If you are a snorer, wake up gasping for breath, or struggle to stay awake during the day, do yourself a favor and get checked for sleep apnea. It is a condition characterized by cessations in breathing during sleep and it is devastating to your health. Short periods of oxygen deprivation lead to numerous subsequent micro-awakenings, ones that you may not even remember. Although between three and seven percent of adults suffer from sleep apnea, very few get treatment for this potentially dangerous condition.

Get checked for sleep apnea

Consider Supplements

If all else fails to minimize insomnia, you may find yourself desperate for a good night’s rest. Hopefully, you are not drawn to television advertisements for sleeping pills. Before you ask your doctor for a prescription, consider nutritional or herbal-based remedies that may help you get a better ZZZZZ’s. Look for foods that contain melatonin, including cherries. Some studies have found that melatonin supplementation reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and increases quality sleep time.

Consider supplements

 

Replace That Old Mattress

8 years old, stop! Take a deep breath, and imagine waking up in the morning without aches pains. I have tested, discarded, and been very disappointed MANY times over the years. There are two mattresses that I can recommend without hesitation. Intellibed or Sleepyhead Chiropractic beds. Do yourself a favor and put this in your shopping cart now and get some much-needed rest.

Replace the old mattress

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