Sunday, 26 April 2020

Dealing with unhealthy thoughts - unrealistic beliefs

How can I be more relaxed and enjoy life better in spite of tough ...

This is a time when we need to stay positive and destress. And this can come from our own demands on ourselves, and what we expect from others.

Having inflexible demands usually makes the form of words such as "must" and "mustn't", or "should" and "shouldn't".  Think of it as a little unbreakable law you have in your head. Using these words can add pressure and cause problems.

For example - you might believe "everybody must respect me."  "Everyone must like my cooking."  "You should like this film because I do."

In reality, not everyone is going to respect you, or enjoy your food. If yo have this belief, you are probably going to kick off rach and ever time you feel disrespected.  We can apply this to everything. Behind our outbursts, anxieties and depressions, there is always a demand for something.

So what is the answer?
Instead, you can state what you would like to happen, while also accepting that it does not have to happen.  So instead of saying that everyone should enjoy your cooking, you say "I would prefer it if everyone enjoyed my cooking, but it does not have to be the case." This allows for reality as not everyone has the same tastes. If you do this, you are more likely to communicate frustrations effectively - or simply let it go, as it is not that big a deal.

Why do we feel the need for everything to be the way we want it to be?  It is good to want the best for ourselves, but we need to appreciate the needs of others too. Ask yourself why you feel something is so important that you want everyone else to want it the same way you do?  If this lockdown has taught us anything, it is that life is precious, that every day is an opportunity to broaden our knowledge, and that friendships are crucial for our social life.  We need to start relaxing, listening, and communicating better.  Life is too short for unrealistic beliefs.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Why should we stretch? There are many health benefits.

25,933 Stretch Cliparts, Stock Vector And Royalty Free Stretch ...

Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon (or muscle group) is deliberately flexed or stretched in order to improve the muscle's felt elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone. The result is a feeling of increased muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion

This is a challenging time for us all, but we can take advantage. One way is to look at our physical activity levels, and improve our fitness, exercise, and overall health.

There are a lot more joggers out in the parks and streets, and even the Government recognise the significant benefits of getting an hour's outdoor exercise (which can be walking, cycling, jogging, and even high intensity exercise). We all need to try and find a way to get slightly breathless from exercise, or even build up a sweat - which is not important, but useful.

We must not forget the importance of stretching.  It isn't a must you stretch before exercise, but it can help your body to become more pliable, warm up the muscles and help decrease the chance of injuries.

What are other benefits?

Can help relieve Stress
Stretching soon after waking up can help jump start the mind and body, loosening tight muscles, and this helps the muscles relax and increase blood flow.  It also encourages the release of endorphins, providing a sense of calm and euphoria. It has been shown that stretching before bed can even provide you a more comfortable sleeping experience.

Corrects Posture
Stretching can help with posture by lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of your body away from their intended position and keeping your muscles loose.
By stretching the muscles of the lower back, chest and shoulders, you can keep the spine in better alignment and improve overall posture by relieving aches and pains. With reduced pain, there is a reduced desire to hunch or slouch.

Increase Stamina
Stretching loosens your muscles and tendons which relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. The longer you exercise the more energy you burn, typically causing one to grow fatigued.  With stretching you can delay the onset of muscles fatigue by ensuring oxygen is efficiently flowing through your blood, thereby increasing your endurance.

Increase Blood Flow
Not only will stretching help reduce post-workout soreness and shorted recovery time, it will improve overall health.
Greater blood circulation helps promote cell growth and organ function. The heart rate will also lower since it does not have to work as hard and blood pressure will become more even and consistent.

Raise Energy Levels
It might help to get out of your seat and do a few good stretches for a boost of energy, helping your mind and body be more alert.
Muscles tighten when we get tired and that makes us feel even more lethargic.  So you are encouraged to stand up and do some stretches. It will help you to quickly and efficiently revitalize your energy levels.

Improve performance
If your muscles are already contracted because you have not stretched, then they will be less effective during exercise.
Regular stretching will relax all of your muscles and therefore enable them to be more available for exercise.

Different kinds of stretching that Healthy Minds, Healthy Bods has promoted in its classes through our Fully Qualified Personal Trainer, Dean.
We normally start with Dynamic Stretching. They are active movement, are meant to help get the body moving and warmed up, and are not help for any length of time.
We would normally finish with Static stretching where they are held for a length of time.There are different opinions of how long people should hold them, but the general consensus is a minimum of 10 seconds and, depending on how tight muscles could be, they could be held for longer.

It is advised to warm up before exercise if you have been idle beforehand. However, if you have walked to a session it is not as important.

We hope this has been interesting. Do allow yourself to research more if you would like.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Why are nuts so good for you - let's take a peek

Worldwide, 74% of irrigated nuts are produced under water stress ...

Many of us enjoy all kinds of nuts.  Some argue about the calories contact, and yes they can be high.  But a handful of nuts a day can be very beneficial for your overall health.

Nuts are rich in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, which lower the LDL (or "bad") cholesterol, plus they are a good source of phytosterois, compounds that help lower blood cholesterol

Recent research shows eating a handful of walnuts a day can help keep the elderly brain healthy.  Walnuts contain high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols, which counteract oxidative stress and inflammation - the things that increase brain function.  The combination of healthy fats, protein, and fibre in walnuts helps to increase satisfaction and fullness.

If you suffer from Diabetes or high blood sugar levels, adding almonds to your diet, say experts.  The nuts can lower the rise of blood sugar that happens after you eat a meal as much as 30 per cent in those with Diabetes.
A bad sleeper? Almonds can also help you sleep better thanks to high levels of Magnesium.
Almonds are among the world's best sources of Vitamin E.

Now, we don't mean when they are wrapped up in chocolates like Ferrero Rocher or Quality Street, and they do have other uses than making Nutella. Hazelnuts are highly anti-inflammatory with one study finding that a diet rich in this nut variety reduced total cholesterol thanks to high levels of unsaturated fats.
Because they are rich in unsaturated fats (mostly oleic acid), high in Magnesium, Calcium, and Vitamins B and E, hazelnuts are good for your heart, help reduce the risk of some cancers, and aid in muscle, skin, bone, joint and digestive health.

Are Nuts Fruits?

This is actually one of my favourite flavours of ice-cream, but I am guessing that is not really what they mean. However, Pistachios are a great source of healthy fats, fibre, protein, antioxidants, and various nutrients, including Vitamin B6 and Thiamine.  Thanks to all this, they can help to lower cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as boost eye and blood vessel health.

Brazil Nuts
These are ideal for Thyroid function. They are a terrific source of the mineral Selenium, which we need in order to produce the thyroid hormone.  High levels of Selenium in the nut also help to support immunity and helps wounds to heal quicker.

One of the world's favourite nuts, used in chocolate bars, cakes, or even just as a bar snack. And it can be good for you. Studies found that women who ate Peanut Butter more than five times a week had lower rates of Type 2 Diabetes. Alongside this, Asthma and allergic disease rates have been found to be lower in children of mothers who ate peanuts once or more per week during pregnancy.
When I went on a residential bootcamp a few years ago, they would use Peanut Butter as a snack during the morning with Pitta bread.  But do choose the ones with very high (98-99%) peanut content. I know they are more expensive, but have less oil.

HMHB says:
We picked 6 varieties, but we could have added many more. A portion of nuts is usually a handful. Don't go munching your way through a whole packet. Try to avoid flavoured or salted nuts. Go for the plain, natural nuts to keep it healthy.  I sometimes make bread, and put nuts into that mix.
Why not try out some you maybe don't normally have. Create a mix that you can have a handful a day.  Food/snacks are there to be enjoyed, within reason.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Food cravings - how can we deal with them?

Decoding food cravings

Being in lockdown for much of the day can lead to many issues - one of these is a definite increase in snacking and wanting to eat certain foods.  I know this myself. I have had issues around food for a long time, as people will know who follow the blog.  But can I actually deal with them in a healthier way?

This is something I think most people can relate to. We consume a huge number of chocolate bars, and it is very much a go to snack.
It has to be acknowledged that some components in chocolate are scientifically proven to lift our mood and increase Serotonin, the feel good brain hormone. Therefore, logically, a desire for a nice bar of Dairy Milk (obviously any bar can be used) may reflect a need for an emotional lift if you are stressed or worn out.
Also, chocolate cravings can also indicate a low level of Magnesium. Cacao is rich in this mineral. Women are more at risk of this deficiency at certain times in their monthly cycle, hence the common premenstrual urge for a large chunk of chocolate.

So instead of picking up a milk chocolate bar, instead go for Dark Chocolate with 70 per cent Cacao. This provides less sugar and more Magnesium per square tham the milk options.  Try and keep to a small amount (god, I know nhow hard that can be).

Again, many will understand the need for a nibble of Cheese, but it is a high fat food, so your body may be telling you it needs more good fats.
Cheese also contains Vitmin B12m which vegan diets can lack. Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body's nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material kin all cells. It can also help prevent a type of Anemia, called Megaloblastic Anemia, that makes people tired and weak.
Although a deficiency can cause damage, it takes a few years for that to happen. Vegans are recommended to take B12 supplements.
Different sites can vary with recommendations, but the general consensus says that Mozzarella, Swizz Cheese, Bleu, Parmesan and Cottage Cheese are better than others, but it is worth researching further.

It is possible that if you are craving crisps you are dehydrated. Salt stimulates thirst and helps your body hold onto water. So if you are not drinking enough, have been sick and exercising hard, it is common to crave salt, and therefore Crisps.  Maybe tuck into a glass of water or squash, as these have been shown to reduce salt pangs without the need for crisps.
Alternatively, you may just like crisps. But do be aware of the high salt content. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure.

Sweets / Cakes
I can relate to this very much - in fact I have to be honest it has made my mouth water just thinking about a large slice of cake (you can never have a small one).
This craving, through studies, has been linked to stress, sleep problems, or simply because we are not full.
Sweet food offers a quick glucose fix when your blood sugar levels drops, but because it is just a quick fix the cravings will soon return - and now you have a taste for it. Think of how you can go through a packet of biscuits, or a whole cake (or is that just me?).
Instead, you need to opt for wholegrain foods such as oats or bread to avoid these fluctuations. For example, porridge with honey at breakfast should keep you full to lunchtime.

Fast Foods
There is nothing with having a takeaway now and then. However, if you are stressed or tense, you might feel the need for junk foods such as pizza, fried chicken, or fish and chips.
The combination of fats and carbohydrates laden together triggers the release of Dopamine, a hormone neurotransmitter which the brain connects with reward and pleasure. And short-term benefits are massive. But over time, you will associate the feelings with fast foods and that will lead to cravings.
The obvious answer is to take the healthier options. But that is easy to say. They maybe will not taste as good to us.

HMHB says:
It really comes down to personal choice and personal goals. Hopefully, everyone would like to lead a long and happy healthy life. That does come with some sacrifices. It means maintaining a healthy lifestyle of exercise and diet. Yes, have some "naughty" foods, but make that a treat. Concentrate on giving your body what it needs and is essential for life.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Mindfulness and Meditation ; pros and cons; why should we do it?

Mindfulness, meditation and Yoga: how to increase productivity in ...

"Mindfulness is the psychological process of purposely bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, which one develops through the practice of meditation and through other training" - wikipedia

A lot of recovery programmes and mental health interventions now have sessions that focus on Mindfulness. It feels like it is the "in thing" to do.   According to one site we have seen: "The goal of meditation is not to control your thoughts, it's to stop letting them control you."

Certainly, if you are stressed or anxious, you need to find a way to relax and not allow the situation to overwhelm you. And at this time of lockdown, where we find ourselves in unsettling times, it could be the perfect way to help us relax.

In this entry, we are not looking at how to meditate (we will do that in a different entry). Instead we are looking at why we should try it. At the end of the blog though, we do point out a few negatives brought up by professionals.

So what are the benefits?

  • reduce stress:  mental and physical stress can cause increased levels of the hormone Cortisol. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation and fear, and is best known for helping fuel your body's "fight or flight" instinct in a crisis. Too much though can cause health issues.  Mediation is proven to help reduce Cortisol levels, and relieve these symptoms.
  • become more self-aware;  Meditation can give you time to connect with who you are. Especially at this time, where tensions are high, there is an opportunity for you to work on your relationship with yourself, and that in turn can develop stronger bonds with those around you. By becoming more self--aware, you can express your own needs and deal with challenges you may encounter.
  • improve focus;  Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre claim meditating can change the structure and function of the brain through relaxation. This can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, as well as increase focus and concentration, which is fantastic for brain health overall.
  • you are kinder;  According to studies, people who practice meditation feel more grateful than those who do not, and this translates as kindness towards others. At this time of lockdown there is a great feeling of community and camaraderie, where we feel we must help others.  I should point out that the science is not conclusive on this, but it does show people demonstrate more compassion.
  • improve sleep;  well, this is one for many of us. Lazza can confirm that his well-documented issues around sleep have returned.  But this is quite understandable as people have financial and family health worries to deal with currently. However, repeated studies have shown that people who meditate before bed nod off faster and sleep deeper than those who do not. It also improves control of the autonomic nervous system, which reduces how easily you are awakened. It is also thought that meditation can increase the hormone levels of Melatonin - the sleep hormone.
  • anyone can try it;  You can do it on your own, or with others. It is free, you only need the space you are in, there are no pieces of equipment. The only thing the experts say is to allow yourself to embrace the concept, and see what happens.
Is there a downside?

It is also right that we point out that certain studies have brought up some negative aspects of mindfulness and meditation. You need to be aware of these.

Research has said that it can bring back some tough memories and feelings from the past, and these can have a profound reaction. In fact in one american study, a couple of participants ended up in hospital, and others needed counselling to overcome memories, and buried emotions, that had been brought forward.
It was also pointed out that it may not work for everyone, and if you are one of those you may feel inadequate or weak. Of course this is not so, but the individual may wonder why.
In another example, some teachers and books contend that their way of meditating is the "right way to do it", and even go as far as to dismiss as wrong other techniques and approaches. Please disregard this. There is no right or wrong - find the way that you like, and that is fine.

Finally, we would like to say that Mediation itself is not therapy. It is a personal journey that can be healing and nourishing. However, if someone is facing difficulties and seeking help, it may not offer the support you need. In that case, please visit a doctor or medical practitioner so you can be heard and understood.

Monday, 13 April 2020

How can we prevent anger during times of stress?

What do you do to #reduce #stress in your life? :: Click here to ...

I joked with someone the other day that as soon as the lockdown is lifted I bet there would be a lot of couple heading to divorce lawyers. But it is not funny. In fact, it has been reported in some cities in China, which has lifted some lockdown restrictions, divorce rates are at record highs.

When we are cooped up, it can be very easy to allow anger to overwhelm you. But are there practical things we can do to help this situation. Let's take a look at when experts online, and thee media, are saying about it.

If you miss targets
Sometimes the anger arises because you get angry at yourself for not achieving what you set out to do. One big one here is when people are trying to lose weight. They set themselves a target, sometimes unrealistic, and when it does not happen they want they get angry.
The real problem here is recognising the pressure you are putting on yourself. In this example, instead of saying "it's okay, I'll go again next month and get back on track", you think "I've mucked it up, which means 'll never do it,  which means I am such a failure ... which means etc.".
In fact the only person creating these targets are yourself.  You need to step back, and instead say "I did not lose the weight I wanted this week, but I can do it next week and beyond. It's not the end of the world."  You can actually relax. Look at the bigger picture. The next time, inevitably, you don't reach a weekly target, you can train yourself to the new response.

Experienced something devastating
Trauma can be incredibly difficult to deal with, and in many cases is beyond your control. I'll use an example fro my own life. One of my closest and best friends conned me and stole my life savings around seven years ago. It was extremely difficult to deal with, especially as he planned it at a time I was recovering from depression and it sparked incredible anger, not just on him but also at myself for being so trusting.
How did I manage to overcome that? It wasn't easy, but talking about it to a professional counsellor was amazing. I was encouraged to write down an unsent letter to him - for me to release the feelings. I was also shown that I would not get answers that I felt I needed, I have appreciate that would never happen, but I needed to let go and allow my life to carry on. I could not control what happened, but I could control my reaction to it. It helped me anyway.
(I will add I continue to get a four weekly payment direct from his salary, decided and overseen by a Court of Law, until the total is paid back - will take around another two and a half years - yay!!)

You feel shamed or humiliated
This is more common than you think, as it could be being reprimanded at work, or someone publicly disagreeing with you or joking at your expense. How many household arguments are two people with different opinions??  You hate the fact the other person does not agree with you, or sees things in a different way.
The experts say - instead of saying "this is making me angry, I am right, I will turn this back on you", stop and look at yourself.  Is the criticism of you acceptable. Could you have done something better at work? Is this possible? An argument at home. See their side. Is it really worth causing an argument over this? Does it matter if your opinions differ in this case?
Try and understand that it is okay to have varying thoughts and opinions. Maybe practice listening a bit more. This is something I am continually trying to improve in myself - as I know I have a knack of interrupting people if I have an opinion.
Finally, don't take things so personally.

Your needs have not been met
How many times do we feel anger when we think we have been disrespected. It can leave us feeling unwanted, unloved, unappreciated and unsupported.
The experts say that this kind of anger can be a result of not being able to articulate your own emotional needs.
Take a step back. If we feel unappreciated, does the other person actually know what we need, what we feel is important?. Do you actually talk enough?
So instead of getting angry, in a sensible way let the other person know that you were maybe upset at a reaction or comment, and why. Do it without aggression, or even passive aggression.  Let others know your targets, your goals, but also appreciate other people. Respect is earned.

Stress itself
Stress can feed to anxiety, which can lead to outbursts of anger. It can be a feeling that your life is in crisis and there is no way out,. People who are long-term unemployed can suffer this, for example. A feeling that whatever they do life is just not going to get better.
All medical advice is about getting support. It's funny how many of us do not feel that we should be asking others to help us. It feels quite a British reaction. Are we really ashamed to let people know we are suffering?
The more we hold on to stress, the worse the anger will be. So, whether it is a friend, family member, or a recognised health expert (which we recommend), you need to stop telling people "I''m fine" and instead open up ab out what is making you stressed. It can help relieve even the biggest worry.
There are no promises that everything will sort out the way you want - but you also need to appreciate that.

HMHB hopes that helps a bit, especially during this lockdown. Lazza is on his own, but both Dean and Luke are with others.. We can all go through stress though. Please talk to people. Stay sane, stay inside, and stay safe.