Nourish

Cherish life. Nourish it.


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Sleep, Part 3: Rituals vs Routines

A bubble bath Rituals are a part of every society. They differ greatly from routines, and are much more powerful. How can understanding the difference between the two help us craft a nourished life in which restful sleep plays a part? Let’s see.

Routines can be described as being:

  • Minimally engaging
  • Focused on completing tasks rather than enjoying the process
  • Duty based
  • Tedious
  • Acts contributing little to our sense of belonging
  • Externally motivated
  • A low awareness activity

Rituals, however, are much more nourishing. They:

  • Are fully engaging
  • Tell a story
  • Brighten awareness
  • Are process oriented
  • Foster joy and peace
  • Are internally motivated
  • Are celebration based
  • Add to our sense of belonging
  • Often feature symbolism and create a sense of purpose

Most of us would agree that the second set of options describes a much greater quality of life. Celebrating our life, lifting awareness so we are more conscious of our blessings, and having peaceful moments are all nourishing tools in the quest for best quality sleep. Being fully present in activities of our choice as we slow down from a busy day and prepare for rest will help us feel more connected with our body, and will reinforce the fact that we are worth our own best efforts in self care. 

What rituals might you choose?

  • A warm bath, scented with herbs or natural essential oils
  • Listening to soothing music
  • Listening to a book on tape (bedtime stories for grown-ups!)
  • Reading by soft light
  • Selecting our outfit and accessories for the next day to reduce the morning rush
  • Some slow, gentle stretches
  • Deep breathing
  • Massaging your feet with natural moisturizers

Our life has a story. When we use the power of positive story as a tool for nourishment, we relax into our life, as it is right now, imperfections and all. To illustrate, maybe we are a working mom, or a working single mom, who feels like the last thing she’ll ever have time for is self-care. Just the thought, “I’ll never have time for me”, creates a stress response. It’s a negative story, one based on scarcity (not enough) and a sense of endless sacrifice. Negative stories and stress responses rattling around in our brain are certainly counterproductive for sleep.

But changing that thought to, “I’m going to turn off the TV or computer 30 minutes earlier so I can listen to some music and have a relaxing bath”, creates a sense of purpose, a sense that we are worthy, and that life is manageable.

Maybe we are so busy that we don’t have any TV time to give up: what then? Evaluating and streamlining some tasks around the house will allow you some precious moments for a nourishing bedtime ritual. There is always time for the things that matter. And you definitely do.

 

 

 


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Sleep: must it be so elusive? Part 1

Woman Sleeping Slumber. Shuteye. Forty winks. A visit from the sandman. Whatever you call it, we can’t live without sleep. And yet many of are attempting to do just that: get by on far less sleep than is optimal for wellness. While well-publicized sources encourage us to get 8-9 hours per night, the average person gets closer to 4-5. What are some of the consequences?

Poor sleep contributes to:

  • Weight gain
  • Lowered Metabolism
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes
  • Poor memory and limited ability to concentrate
  • Increased inflammation
  • Reduced liver function and detoxification
  • Increased cravings for sweets the following day
  • Depression and anxiety

Are sleeping pills the answer? Most who have experimented with prescription drugs have found that in the long term, they only worsen the problem, and greatly diminish short term memory and attentiveness the day after their ingestion. Besides, logic would dictate that it is not possible to have a deficiency of a drug, which is not part of natural body chemistry.

Sleep is a multi-system effort in the body, and a number of aspects of body chemistry and lifestyle habits need to be optimized to get our best, most uninterrupted rest. This section will deal with some of the lifestyle aspects to be aware of, and later articles will delve into the chemistry of sleep.

Sleep can be improved through:

  1. Keeping a regular schedule: Set a regular bedtime, and stick with the schedule, even on weekends. If you are used to going to bed in the wee hours of the morning, start by moving your bedtime 15 minutes earlier every couple of days until you are getting to bed early enough to reach a 7-9 hour goal.
  2. Get some sunlight on your face early in the day. Take your work breaks outside, walk the dog in the morning instead of after dark, keep the blinds open at home or work.
  3. Reduce artificial light exposures in the evening. Change out your light bulbs to lower wattages. Reduce tv and computer time in the evening–the light from these back-lit devices is especially stimulating to the nervous system and diminishes the chances of getting into restful sleep quickly. If your favorite programs come on later in the evening, they can be recorded and played at a time that they will not influence your rest.
  4.  Regulate the temperature: cooler temps lead to more restful sleep. Around 65F/18C seems optimal.
  5.  Reduce noise: in urban environments, it can be difficult to eliminate noise entirely. Some find that a fan or white noise machine helps tune out barking dogs and traffic noises effectively.
  6. Don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed: Allowing a minimum of two hours between the end of a meal and bedtime makes a difference for many, as does reducing the spicy and fatty foods, which can contribute to heartburn.
  7. Alcohol:  while it may appear to relax us, alcohol always interferes with sleep quality and frequently causes wakefulness from about 2 am onward. Minimizing alcohol use can be a great sleep aid.
  8. Caffeine: Caffeine from coffee and chocolate, and its cousin Theophylline, found in tea, can take up to 12 hours to be eliminated from the body, and should best be used early in the day, if at all, by people with insomnia.

Our next article will deal with some of the biochemical aspects of good sleep, including the link between Serotonin and body-made Melatonin.


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Acne 101

skin carementIt’s happened to all of us: we might be anticipating a big social event, a vacation, or the first day of school, and, despite our best efforts, we have an uninvited guest square in the middle of our face. A huge zit. Or ten.

What does acne have to do with how well we are nourished? Plenty, as it turns out. The skin is our largest organ, and one of its jobs is to eliminate wastes and toxins through perspiration. And while it’s true that the kidneys and liver have most of the heavy lifting to do in the detox department, when they become overloaded, the skin has to pick up the slack. Acne and other skin eruptions are a signal that something in our body chemistry, lifestyle, or hygiene needs attention.

First, the external influences:

  • When the skin’s pores become blocked, through daily exposure to dust, pollutants, cosmetics, and oils, the skin cannot function properly. The microbes that cause acne (which are always present on its surface) find themselves in the perfect environment for proliferation.
  • Our skin sheds dead cells daily. If we are not cleansing away the dead skin cells as they slough off, this also adds to the layer of blockage between our live skin cells and the sun. Why does sunlight matter? Sunlight falling upon our skin has a natural antibacterial effect, which reduces the chances of microbial overgrowth that leads to breakouts.

The internal influences are many:

  • Hormonal imbalance: Teens experience a surge in androgens (testosterone), which then increases the production of an oily substance called sebum. Sebum is made beneath the skin and has to work its way to the surface. But if sebum is produced more quickly than it can pass through congested or blocked pores, blemishes result. What if your teen years are behind you, but you are still seeing spots on your face? Fluctuations in hormone balance can happen to anyone at any age, especially in those eating animal products like meat and dairy, which are full of added synthetic hormones.
  • Oral contraceptives, steroids, and some other prescription medications affect hormonal levels, making breakouts more likely.
  • pH balance: (acid/alkaline balance) This is an important factor, and is largely determined by our dietary choices. Simply put, highly processed foods containing sugars, corn syrup and its derivatives, hydrogenated fats, and foods which have been stripped of fiber, vitamins and minerals through processing cause an acidic pH. Bacterial overgrowth (including those that cause blemishes) thrives in an acid environment, meaning that what we eat will be reflected in our skin. Sometimes within hours. Plant foods, which are rich in fiber, minerals that alkalize the body, and other nutrients help lower the toxic load on all body systems and do not add to the body’s synthetic hormone level.
  • Stress: We all have it. Usually too much of it. And it causes a cascade of biochemical events in the body, including profound changes in hormone levels, increased inflammation, and a drop in pH into the more acidic range. Since all three of these factors cause skin changes, we should not be surprised that stress contributes directly to a drop in the skin’s quality as well as increasing the number of breakouts.
  • Nutritional deficiency: (NOTE: the following is not a substitute for seeking counsel from your health care provider, and does not comprise a recommendation or medical advice.) Many of my clients find that nutritional deficiencies in Vitamin D, inadequate Vitamin C, Acidophilus or other probiotics, Vitamin A, Niacinamide, and Pantothenic Acid, as well as poor Essential Fatty Acid nutriture all contribute toward a tendency to break out.

What can you do if you see breakouts?

  • Keep your skin clean. Washing twice daily with a natural, non-chemical facial product such as a coconut-based or olive oil-based soap is a good idea.
  • Deal with stress: exercise is still the best stress-buster around, and taking a brisk walk costs nothing. Make a habit of getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and boost your chances of getting to sleep quickly by minimizing tv and computer time for a few hours before going to bed.
  • Change your oil: the Standard American Diet is overloaded with hydrogenated fats as well as animal fats. Focus on more plant based foods, and be sure to include unheated natural fats such as nuts and avocado to satisfy your body’s need for fatty acids.
  • Check your pH: most drug stores will have pH test strips. If you find that you are more acidic than you would like, increasing plant foods while minimizing processed foods, especially processed sweets, will get your pH balance back into the alkaline range. Aim for 7.3 to 7.5 as a goal.
  • If you are using oral contraceptives, steroids, or other medications which you suspect are affecting your skin, consider talking to your health care provider about other options.
  • Seeing a qualified nutritionist can be a great way to address possible nutritional imbalances contributing to acne.


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Beans and Polenta Mexicana

A long day. Dinner had to be easy, but also a feast for the senses……so I reach for staples: leftover polenta, frozen black beans, tomato marmalade, chopped olives, capers, an avocado.

Here’s how it went:

photo (4)Brown the polenta and plate.

Into the pan: photo (5)go the drained beans, tomato marmalade, and chopped olives, a few capers, salt and pepper.

When warmed through, pour over the polenta, top with diced avocados, and a squeeze of lime.

photo (6)Just because the day was long doesn’t mean dinner has to be perfunctory or uninteresting.


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Appetite

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Do you hate your appetite? Does it feel like an enemy always seeking to subvert you, sabotaging your wellness  and fitness goals?

The belief that appetite is the enemy, and that food is its partner in crime, could not be more widespread.
But is that belief serving us? I would posit that the answer to that question is no.

If we could put an electric meter on our forehead on any given day and measure how much mental, emotional, and physical energy we are spending worrying about and hating on our appetite, food, and our own body, we would probably register enough power to light up China. For a year.

 

  • Appetite, defined: The natural psychophysiologic desire for food as it occurs.

Hmmm.. Nothing evil or subversive is implied there.

 
In fact, what could be more friendly than a signal representing a natural desire for food to preserve life?

 
What would change in your life if you chose to view your appetite as your friend rather than the enemy?


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Two Hits, No Misses

photo (1)This Lacinato kale salad has carrots, red cabbage, broccoli, beets, ginger, and is dressed with miso, toasted sesame oil, and lemon juice.

photo (2)Chickpeas with black olives, dried apricots, red onions, & parsley all dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette with a tad of dijon mustard, marjoram, oregano, and some roasted garlic.

And I am nourished.