Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Power of ONE

It could be any typical Sunday spring morning here in Timaru.  The sun is shining and there is a warmth in it already; in the distance seagulls squawk loudly and a gentle breeze plays with the trees outside my bedroom window.  This Sunday morning feels quieter than Christmas morning - not a car on the road, not a person in sight ... eery in fact through lack of human presence. Where ON EARTH is everyone!?! They are in their homes, with friends and family - enjoying celebratory breakfasts and marinating in the post-win warm fuzzies.


The Rugby World Cup belongs to the mighty All Blacks once again.

Tick.

I am not your most loyal rugby fan - in fact for a PE teacher it took me a really long time to fully comprehend the complexities of rugby.  I did not spend much time in front of the TV watching the pool games ... in fact I did not really care until we got to the last four ... then I started to take notice.
Sure I can appreciate the skill and good looks of the boys in black, but ... meh ... I wouldn't get up at ridiculous-o'clock to watch a game ... except for the final. Why?
Why is it that people come together; unite; cluster-think ... become ONE ... putting ALL else aside, when something like the RWC is on? The power of ONE. Together as a nation we celebrate this win (some would say we played our best rugby in years), and as I look through the myriad of Facebook comments, even the most stoic grinches I know have allowed themselves a "feeling good" post about what happened this morning NZ time.

But why does the "power of one" matter so much? Is it because we all feel in some small but tangible way that we can influence the outcome of the game by sending our positive thoughts to the boys? It may not be as silly as it sounds.

Watching the Haka always sends a shiver up my spine; my hair stands on end and I am certain my body is getting a rush of stress hormones - fight or flight - that creates the physiological responses I am experiencing.  Think about the power of the Haka as a starting point for this discussion.  The boys are more together as a unit in those few short minutes than possibly at any other time in the forty minutes to follow ... the Haka sets the scene; it HAS to ... it grounds the energy ... it gathers and harnesses the energy and forms a collective consciousness; A ONE-ness.

Science is starting to sit up and take notice - finally - of the power of a collective consciousness. Science has known for decades that the mind is incredible in it's ability to create physiological change within the body and also to create a reality seemingly out of nothing.  The placebo effect is living proof of this concept.
David Emile Durkheim ( a French sociologist) coined the term "collective consciousness" way back in the late 1800's and he proposed that it was the power of shared beliefs and attitudes as a unifying force which could shape society.  There are studies that have shown collective consciousness to be incredibly powerful at enabling events to occur.
Princeton University's school of Engineering and Applied Science, collected massive amounts of data dating from the late 1970's which assessed the effects of consciousness on random physical systems and processes.  Data was collected for decades and provided clear evidence that thought and emotion could produce measurable influences on physical reality.  This is now known as The Global Consciousness Project (GCP).
Check out too, the study by Masaru Emoto on the effect of human consciousness on the molecular structure of water.  Emoto studied the effect of human consciousness and thought on the formation and behaviour of ice crystals. His work has been replicated successfully by other scientists and proves beyond doubt that consciousness is a powerful mediator of physical outcomes. Youtube clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAvzsjcBtx8

So - whilst our boys in black did everything they needed to do in order to create the outcome they and New Zealand wanted, do not under-estimate the power of a population coming together as ONE.
And that post-win glow you feel? Thats the power of a collective consciousness at work - ALL of New Zealand feels it right now. It will last for several days, it is tangible and has the power to impact positively on all sorts of things ranging from relationships to important business decisions! Use it wisely.

And in case you just did not get enough of the spine-tingling Haka; here it is again.  This time however, when you watch it, think about how it makes you feel.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTwbKryrhks


References:
Emoto, Masaru. “Healing with Water.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Volume 10, Number 1, 2004, pp. 19-21
—The Hidden Messages in Water. Oregon: Beyond Words Publishing, 2004.





Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The simplicity of wellness: 5 Daily "Do's" to re-boot wellbeing.



It is easy to get locked into a cycle of negativity that can threaten to unravel us; furthermore it is damaging at a physical level to be in such a cycle - not just at an emotional or spiritual level. To moan about one's life is seen as somehow normal, acceptable and almost expected in day-to-day interaction.  It is almost as if it is a competition for who is suffering the most! This can become a defining attitude.  I like to keep an attitude of gratitude - and thank you to whoever coined that phrase! It can be simple, in reality, to stay well by keeping true to some basic tenets.  These are 5 things I try to keep in mind daily, in order to remain well:
1. Start as you mean to go on:
By this I mean, wake up each day knowing it is another chance to be your best self. Start strong - finish stronger.

2. Eat a nourishing breakfast:
Start the day with the nutrition your body deserves. Aim for some protein such as eggs and avoid highly processed breads and cereals. You will feel fuller for longer and more alert!

3. Get outside:
Try to find time to get outside during peak sunshine hours to support the process of producing vitamin D3. Numerous hormones are activated through sunshine exposure - plus - it makes you feel good!

4. Remain mindfully present and engaged:
Take each action simply as it is - for example - if doing dishes; just do dishes. It is tempting to multi-task; to rush; to have endless projects on the go and to always be somewhere in the future. Be here NOW.

5. Spread the joy and smile:
It is true that smiling is contagious. Smile at someone; look them in the eye as you do so and see if they smile back. You never know what that smile could mean to someone.

So there it is - simple, attainable ways to get some wellness in your life. Consistency is the key - you become what you do consistently. Think about that.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Water Kefir And Why It Is So Darned Good For You!

We hear a lot about digestive health these days and there is new evidence linking our ability to adequately digest and absorb nutrients, with conditions such as depression, autism, ADHD, and dementia.  To be able to get the most out of the food we eat daily, there needs to be a perfect balance of healthy gut bacteria - probiotics - which enable and support a full digestion and absorption process.
In today's busy and "McPackaged" dominated culture, people are missing out on adequate nutrients, and what little they are able to get through real whole foods (if these do get included from time to time in a diet), cannot be absorbed because the digestive system has been damaged through processed foods.  Processed foods provide no probiotic support whatsoever and there is growing evidence to suggest that these types of foods are responsible for the health issues I mentioned in the opening sentence - along with many others such as irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, Crohn's Disease, obesity, skin disorders ... the list goes on.  Fermented foods happen to provide an incredible probiotic feast and usually taste amazing too.
While most people will have heard of some fermented foods, such as sauerkraut or the Korean kimchi, the majority of people will associate good gut health with consuming foods such as yoghurt. Yoghurt is a fermented milk product, which through the fermentation of lactose (milk sugar), lactic acid is produced which gives yoghurt it's slightly sour taste.  Sadly commercial yoghurts are chock full of added sugar, artificial "natural" flavours and other additives such as stabilisers and do little to aid good digestive health.
Kefir is a no-fuss way to include probiotics into the diet.  There are two types of kefir; milk and water.  I prefer water kefir as it is super easy and is refreshing to drink daily. Milk kefir is more like a runny sour yoghurt - fantastic for smoothies.
Water kefir is a grain - tibicos - which is a variety of healthy bacteria strains and yeast bound together by a polysaccharide matrix, all of which together form a stable growing culture.  Feed these microbes sugar and they will produce lactic acid, ethanol (in tiny amounts) and carbon dioxide; the result being a refreshing lightly carbonated drink through this fermentation process.


Kefir is an excellent source of vitamin B12, B1 and B6 - which is good news for those who are vegan, and there has been research into the use of water kefir for cancer and heart disease treatment - it is that good!
So how do you get your hands on this stuff? It helps if you know someone who is using water kefir as they will be able to provide grains when they split their culture (the grains grow slowly over time), Look online for suppliers of cultures - there are numerous websites.
In New Zealand see http://www.thekefircompany.co.nz/

This is the recipe I use:
6 tablespoons of water kefir grains
4 tablespoons of raw sugar
one whole lemon de-skinned and cut in half
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of ginger powder (only if you would like a ginger beer taste)
Whole peeled raw ginger to taste (not absolutely a must though)
3 cups of water
One prune, date or fig

The grains go into a large glass container. Add the water and sugar and all other ingredients.
Place a loose cloth or lid that enables airflow over the top. Leave 48 hours. Drain through a sieve into another container and then pour that into a glass storage bottle with an airtight lid - store in fridge.
Rinse the grains under water and repeat the process.
Grains can be stored in the fridge with water covering them for approx 3 weeks (handy to know if you go away somewhere).
Drink daily! I find it particularly soothing 30 minutes before food or 30 minutes after food.
Enjoy!


Image from:
http://blog.culturesforhealth.com/wpcontent/uploads/2013/08/dreamstime_s_23222641.jpg

Further reading:
David Perlmutter; http://www.drperlmutter.com/gut-bacteria-protects-brain/

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The High Intensity Interval Training Revolution

I have been in the fitness industry for decades now, and too often I see the same people doing the same workout in the gym and getting the same results - that is - no improvement in their fitness or body shape.  Wasn't it Albert Einstein who said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Sometimes we just have to mix things up. 
The gym scene is one area in the fitness, health and wellness genre that often sees cycles and fads in 'new' training regimes "guaranteed to bring results" however, the things that actually do work are the "old school" methods that worked but disappeared into obscurity.  Think about for example, the rise of 'Crossfit'.  The exercises seen in a typical crossfit workout are not new - in fact they have been around for decades and pulled from various disciplines, most notably gymnastics - throw them all together and we have this fitness revolution rebranded as "Crossfit".
One thing is for certain - to gain any kind of change in body weight, body shape or fitness, the body needs to undergo a form of physiological stress.  If the body is not stressed enough, no changes will occur after adaption to the stress has occurred - that is, whilst there may be initial changes for a sedentary or untrained person who commences training, the changes will be short term. This does not mean the person will regress - it means that body weight,  shape and fitness are more likely to stay static if the training regime stays the same. One could argue that if that is the aim, then there is no reason to add any changes and I agree, however for the numerous people I know who come to the gym for that very reason - to reduce weight, change their body shape and increase their fitness further; they MUST do something different to elicit those changes. 
High intensity interval training (HIIT) has been around for decades, but because it hurts and because the myth was to burn fat we needed low intensity continuous training, it was largely left to track and field athletes to play with. Numerous studies have been done (Larsen & Jenkins; Essen et al; Billat) which show the benefits of HIIT over continuous low intensity training to improve fat metabolism (or the use of the energy system that promotes fat as the preferred fuel source). Getting into the science behind this is complex, so in lay terms; higher intensity workouts will improve fat burning and fitness. 
Back in 1996 a study was done by Izumi Tabata and his associates, where they used a protocol of 20 seconds high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeating this cycle 8 times - a total of 4 minutes. The results were astounding, with significant V02 max improvements (the maximal rate at which your body can utilise oxygen - and often the measure by which we define "fitness'), AND significant improvements in anaerobic capacity - that is the ability to work maximally at a high intensity before lactic acid inhibits muscle contraction.  There are numerous physiological reasons why these changes occurred that are beyond the scope of this post, but you can access Tabata's study online and decipher the maths for yourself if you are interested in knowing why these improvements were made. They were incredible results for a 4-minute regime. This study has come to be known as the "Tabata Protocol" and has made a huge entrance into the fitness world recently even though it is 18 years ago that Tabata did his study!
So what might a typical Tabata work-out look like? It depends entirely on what you are training for, but let's just say you wish to offer your body something different to do in order to elicit the changes I wrote about earlier in this post. I recently offered my work colleagues a simple workout using the Tabata protocols that took 25 minutes, as follows:

  • 2 minute gentle jogging warm-up
  • Sprints (20/10/8x)
  • Push-ups (20/10/8x)
  • Jump squats (20/10/8x)
  • Step-ups with dumbbells (20/10/8x)
  • Burpee with star jump (20/10/8x)
  • 2 minute gentle jogging cool-down
Each set had a 30 second recovery before starting a new exercise. Such a workout is easy to do anywhere, requires minimal equipment and is completed in a short time frame. Most people would be hard-pressed to do more than 30 minutes of Tabata training, and in fact Tabata himself argued that 4 minutes a day was all that was required to elicit changes.
As a group fitness instructor, I have seen the rise of Tabata-type training enter the class format, with sections of Les Mills RPM and Body Pump classes utilising it as well as the advent of GRIT classes which capitalises on interval training techniques to gain favourable results. All in all, HIIT protocols are certainly the current trend for fitness improvement and as the studies I have mentioned here show, HIIT has been around for a long time and is likely to remain so due to the favourable results people get when including it in their training programmes.




References:
1. Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30. PMID: 8897392.
2.  Paul B. Laursen and David G. Jenkins, The Scientific Basis for High-Intensity Interval Training Optimising Training Programmes and Maximising Performance in Highly Trained Endurance Athletes, 2013.

3. Essen B, Hagenfeldt L, Kaijser L. Utilization of blood-borne and intramuscular substrates during continuous and intermittent exercise in man. J Physiol 1977; 265: 489-506 62.

4. Billat V, Renoux JC, Pinoteau J, et al. Times to exhaustion at 90, 100 and 105% of velocity at V . O2max (maximal aerobic speed) and critical speed in elite long-distance runners. Arch Physiol Biochem 1995; 103: 129-35 67

 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Colouring for Calm

We did it as kids; now we have 'permission' to do it as adults - colouring.  As a person who engages in 'mindfulness' activities such as meditation, I find the concept of colouring for calmness quite novel.  As a child I was a perfectionist when it came to my colouring (I CANNOT possibly go over the lines!!) and I am still the same now with many things I do - I wondered if colouring, for me, would create anxiety rather than calm! On my way back from Nepal recently, I spotted an 'adult' colouring-in book in an airport book store.  It was on mandalas, which I thought was completely appropriate considering where I had spent the last few weeks.  I love the mandala and all it represents.  Watching Nepali Thangka painters produce incredibly intricate and colourful mandalas with a steady hand made me realise how calm and centred they needed to be. It was intriguing to watch.

So I purchased the book and began colouring on the plane trip home.  Remarkably one of the things I noticed was the sense of 'mushin' (this is a term I knew from my karate training - it means "no mind').
I coloured and was completely immersed in the process - there was no inner voice attempting to pull me into distractions; no sense of urgency; no noise.


So why has the colouring-in-book become the latest 'must have' stress-relief tool for adults? Some could argue that in today's computer-dominated work space, people spend too much time looking at a screen and follow this up with TV screens at home or perhaps again straight back onto a home computer screen - thus reducing our ability to relax the brain and induce an anti-stress state.  Tis is happening not just with adults but at an earlier and earlier age.
Taken together, studies show internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision-making and cognitive control (Lin & Zhou et al, 2012).
In other words - we just cannot switch off, and we are teaching our kids how to not switch off also. The effects of prolonged stress are now well documented. Some folk may argue they are not stressed at all - but stress is insidious - it hides as busy-ness, rushing, attempting to fit too much into one day, not providing the brain time to rest ... all of which has an impact on the body at a physiological level - at a hormonal level - and the cascade of events that can be triggered are life-altering.
So - just colour! Colouring can be termed as an "active meditation".  It calms the mind and occupies the hands through repetitive and simple motions, the result of which focuses the brain on the present.
A recent study has shown that people who participate in creative activities are more engaged employees and exhibit less stress;  such activities cross-over with mindfulness and mantras - where there is just enough happening to slow the clutter in the brain down without it requiring so much concentration that it instead becomes draining.  In this busy world, people want a way to unwind that does not impact too much on their personal time - colouring appears to offer that opportunity. Amazon cites adult colouring-in books as being in their top ten sales of 2015!
Having purchased my own colouring book, it occurred to me one day that colouring could have benefits for my step-father who had recently had a series of strokes.  His fine-motor skills were impaired and he also had problems with his left eye and was struggling with the reality of what the stroke meant for him - a bright intelligent former doctor.  I knew he loved art and he had also painted water colours.  I bought him a colouring-in book and he has been slowly completing pieces at his own pace.  I wondered then too about the placement of these types of books in doctor's waiting rooms - what a fantastic way to lower anxiety (blood pressure!) prior to a doctors visit. 
Colouring is so popular there are Facebook groups dedicated to it, and in France colouring-in book sales have surpassed cook-book sales ... imagine that! Books are easy to transport, they can be done anywhere at anytime unlike meditating which is more difficult to carry out in a crowded workplace or hospital waiting room!
Colour-in ... create ... be amazed.

Lin, F., Zhou, D., Qin, Z., Xu, J., Lei, H. (2012). Abnormal white matter integrity in adolescents with internet addiction disorder. PloS One 7. No 1: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030253

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Raising money for pregnant women in Nepal

I understand that harassing friends and family for funds especially leading up to Christmas is contentious at the best of times. I hate doing it actually; but I am always reminded that the needs of people in Nepal are far far greater than mine here in New Zealand.
I have tried very unsuccessfully to fundraise for the 11 pregnant women of the Bode Resettlement Camp in Bhaktapur Nepal, AND for BAWS - Bhaktapur Animl Welfare Society. All my animal loving friends keep their hands in their pockets and I am left trying to hock off personal belongings in order to get some money to these organisations.


Here is a link to the Givealittle project for the pregnant women - thank you to the 2 donors (myself and one other!)


https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/nepalama2b/#


Here is a link to Paws 4 Nepal - my project attempting to raise money for BAWS - hasn't even gotten close to moderation yet as requires 3 donors!


https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/nepalstraydogs/#


My theory was always that if I had 200+ friends on Facebook and each donated just $10 - there was $2000+. It does not quite work like that though. Interestingly, the people I thought would support my mad ideas and donate, never did, and the ones who I thought may be more reserved were in fact incredibly supportive and generous.


Thank you to my friends who understand what makes me tick. You know who you are.

Zoomlily Jewellery

It has been a long long time since I have created jewellery but I still have bits and pieces for sale at various galleries around New Zealand. Recently I decided to gather it all back and shun the 45% commission fees + GST and try to sell via Facebook. Asking friends to share my post falls on blind eyes and idle fingers so I do not imagine I will have much luck there either.


Making jewellery has been an incredibly rewarding process in that it is almost meditative. You end up totally immersed in the tactile nature of forging something out of nothing; of seeing an idea in one's head evolve into something tangible. 



My work tells a story. Each piece - an individual one-off creation - represents something that each of us can relate to some how. I like to think of it as three-dimensional art; a painting, a poem or a narrative crafted into form.



I work with a fusion of metals - I love the way silver and gold work so well together  and I love the feel of working with metals - the kinaesthetic nature of a piece taking shape is very satisfying.



As I make everything as one-off's, the pieces are not cheap. I find that people expect a bargain because I have made it from hand- as if my work is somehow not valid because I don't have a "label" or I don't do multiples.  When selling through a gallery I never ever make my money back in terms of the hours of work many pieces take - particularly hand made chains. The labour-intensive aspect of handmade jewellery means it is a labour of love more than anything else, and certainly I have considered doing more casting in order to reduce time. Some items I do cast - such as the "zoomlily heart" which has become the signature for my range of jewellery; and I often cast cases which will be used for resin work, such as in the necklace below.



Right now I am selling my work with the aim to use sale funds to travel back to Nepal and also to donate 25% of all sales to several fantastic causes/organisations I am supporting in Nepal. These are:
 These organisations will receive 25% of all jewellery sales so by supporting me though buying my work, you will also support them.
If you would like to see more of my work please email me on:
wellnessrevlife@gmail.com