Fish Oil, Fatty Acids and Other Nutty Ideas

Many people take Fish Oil supplements to boost their Omega-3 intake these days when only a few years ago nobody gave these Essential Fatty Acids very much attention at all.

Scientists have been aware of the benefits to health of omega-3 fatty acids for about sixty years, particularly for their role in helping clear up skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema. For about thirty years they have been thought to be effective aids to lowering cardiovascular risk and heart attack. But over the last few years there has been an explosion in public awareness of the many diseases that have a link to inadequate amounts omega-3 in the diet, and with this awareness has come the widespread use of supplements to address deficiency related health problems.

If you don’t know the difference between omega-3 and omega-6 you are not alone as most other people don’t either. Our diet now contains many foods high in omega-6 such as breads, biscuits and even meat fed on grains. While we need more omega-6 than omega-3, the ratio being 4:1, the ratio in our diets is actually closer to 10 – 20:1 and so we are getting far more omega-6 than we need at the expense of sufficient omega-3. The omega-6 is often from a poor, highly processed form of the food source. The effect of this unbalance is to cause many other health problems.

Omega-3 and omega-6 are both polyunsaturated fatty acids that we need to add to our diets because our bodies cannot synthesise them. Omega-6 is needed in greater quantities but is also more easily obtained as it occurs in many of the foods that are eaten in large quantities in the western diet. Whilst we need much less omega-3 the amount that most Australians consume falls very far short of their daily requirements.

 

What Are Essential Fatty Acids?

Simply put they are EPA, DHA, GLA, and OA.

  • EPA ( eicosapentaenoic acid) is great for a healthy heart and body
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) for healthy mood, mind and memory
  • GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) for healthy skin, hair and hormones
  • OA (oleic acid) for healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

EPA and DHA occur together in nature and so should always be taken together, along with OA (which is omega-9).

GLA is omega-6 and works well in combination with the other nutrients but as we receive more than adequate quantities in the western diet we do not need to supplement GLA.

 

Omega-3 Deficiency

Deficiency of DHA and EPA has been shown to be linked to many different health issues and the list seems to keep growing. Just a few conditions that indicate a need for more high omega-3 foods in your diet are:

  • depression
  • cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • fatigue
  • dry and itchy skin
  • brittle hair and nails
  • difficult concentration
  • joint pain

But there are many more.

 

Omega 3 Food Sources

Before you consider taking an omega-3 supplement you really need to consider whether it is possible to meet your omega-3 requirements from food sources, as research has shown that omega-3 may be better absorbed from foods than it is from supplements, even cod liver oil.

The very best food sources for omega-3 are cold-water oily fish. A few of the best are herrings, sardines and anchovies or in the larger fish, trout, blue mackerel, gemfish, salmon and blue-eye trevalla. A word of warning about salmon – all salmon grown in Australia is farmed, which means it is grown in dense-packed pens near ocean shores, fed fish meal that can be polluted with toxic chemicals, awash in excrement that then gets flushed out to sea and infused with antibiotics to combat unsanitary conditions – really salmon can be viewed as the “battery hen” of the sea.

Good quality salmon will be wild caught and in Australia is unfortunately found only in tins from Canada or Alaska. Opt for imported wild-caught salmon if you can get it.

 

 

DHA & EPA

The two important components of omega-3 are DHA and EPA. There is overwhelming evidence that both are of great benefit.

Omega-3 is also available from  sources other than fish (vegetarian) such as walnuts, flax, chia and pumpkin seed oils, soy products and dark green leafy vegetables. But these sources contain Alpha- Linolenic Acid (ALA) rather than DHA or EPA. This needs to be converted in the body and in many, many people, especially the elderly, this conversion is very inefficient and so these are not a reliable source.

But omega-3 from vegetarian sources is a better option than no omega-3 at all.

 

Omega-3 Daily Requrements

For the recommended requirements of omega-3 for Australian adults look here although be aware that stress or disease will modify your needs.

 

Fish Oil Supplements

If you do choose fish oil supplements there are a number of important things to consider about the particular omega-3 supplement you are considering before you start taking it.

Here are a few  guidelines that may help:

  • When choosing fish oil supplements be very careful of the quality. You get what you pay for. Many fish oil supplements are poor quality and capsules can contain rancid oil. Not only will this not help your health, it can actually make it worse, because rancid oil forms free radicals which cause inflammation that leads to disease.
  • Many fish oil supplements are made from farmed fish (see the problems associated with this above)
  • Check the levels of DHA and EPA as these will vary with each product and get one which has 2-3 times more DHA than EPA. It is difficult for the body to convert EPA to DHA.
  • Taking just one or two capsules each day is unlikely to supply you with enough of the omega-3 you need and you will most likely need many more than this. Taking the supplement in a liquid form is a better way to get an adequate amount.
  • Cod Liver Oil is a good way to get the omega-3 EFA’s you need as well as Vitamin D and Vitamin A. These days these oils are often fruit flavoured without the fishy taste of days-gone-by.
  • Many fish oils contain high levels of contaminants such as mercury or PCB’s. Try and source impeccable supplies.
  • If you are using Krill Oil consider that Krill fishing has already been banned or strictly limited in some areas due to the ecological impact. Fish oil is more sustainable.

 

 

And Now To Totally Change The Subject…Nuts!

almonds

I hear you asking “so where do nuts come into all this”?

Nuts, especially walnuts, are another great food source of omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9. Because high heat, light, and oxygen destroy EFAs,  when you eat nuts for their EFA content, choose raw nuts rather than roasted nuts.

Last week I promised a blog follower a GREAT RECIPE for ALMOND MILK so here it is.

Of course it is not for anyone with nut allergies.

Home made almond milk is a wonderful substitute for dairy milk. It is quite nutritious, being high in protein and of course healthy fats. It also contains fibre, Vitamin E, the minerals phosphorous,  copper, selenium and calcium, the amino acid tryptophan, as well as flavonoids. In addition it has no cholesterol. It has a slightly nutty taste and a creamy texture and the flavour is lighter than soy or rice milk.

Almond milk is now widely available through supermarkets as well as health food shops, but is pricey and some brands are sweetened. A number of brands have a very low percentage of almonds in them, which greatly reduces their nutrient value. By making your own nut milk you can increase the nut content and so the nutrients, dramatically.

Almond milk is good cold, in tea or coffee, smoothies and can also be used for cooking items like cakes or soups. I use it, but in small quantities and so often end up throwing quite a lot out which means making my own is a great option.

 

Almond Milk Recipe

Almon milk is easy to make and you can make it in just the quantity that you need. Here is how:

  • Soak 1 cup of fresh, raw almonds in filtered water overnight. Make sure there’s extra water to allow room for swelling.
  • Remove the almonds from the water.
  • For a less gritty texture, remove the skins. If you want a richer flavour toast the skins lightly.
  • Place the cup of almonds in a blender with 2 cups of filtered water and blend on high speed until creamy.
  • Add flavouring like cinnamon, honey, cardamom, saffron or a pinch of sea salt and then blend again, if you like.
  • Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a fine strainer to separate the pulp.
  • You can drink it immediately or for a creamier version, leave it covered in the fridge overnight. It keeps in the fridge for up to a week.
  • The remaining pulp can then be roasted dry and stored in a jar to use as almond flour.
  • Or you could place the almond skins and the pulp in cheesecloth to use as an invigorating body scrub.

 

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles:

http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2009/s2766962.htm

http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=84

http://www.naturalnews.com/035948_omega-3_inflammation_disease_prevention.html

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/what-to-know-about-omega-3s-and-fish

http://www.mcvitamins.com/essential%20fatty%20acids.htm

http://goodfats.pamrotella.com/

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/ipad/the-pros-and-cons-of-almond-milk/story-fn6jaj16-1225984312290

Pay Attention! With Mindfulness

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

Red Water Lillies

Recently I was reading an article about mindfulness while I was eating a piece of toast. As I continued to read I suddenly became very conscious of the irony of the situation, There I was eating in a way totally lacking any mindfulness whatsoever, engrossed in the internet, with thoughts of what I needed to do during the day running around in the background.

So I stopped reading and focused on the delicious food. Sourdough spelt bread toasted so that just the outside was crunchy and the centre still moist; the tang of the sourdough culture; the seeds along the edges of the crust; the sweetness of the warm butter which had soaked through into the heart.

I noticed the winter sun pouring in through the window and the small birds hopping on the branches outside. At one point I started thinking about writing this post about mindfulness, but being mindful, I put the thought aside and focused on eating the toast again.

Truly, I tasted and enjoyed that piece of toast far more deeply than many I have eaten. It was all the more delicious because I was focused in the moment.

My distraction while I was eating is completely normal. Human consciousness focuses on a lively dance between revisiting past events and anticipating the future. But learning and utilizing mindfulness can have a very positive impact on our lives as well as our health.

Mindfulness is a hot topic right now and is about mastering the art of consciously living in the present moment. It involves bringing awareness into the experience of the moment in an open and interested way. Instead of “doing” to achieve it requires us to be ”not doing”.

Embracing the energy of mindfulness and allowing it to flow into our lives and penetrate everything we do provides us the opportunity to foster the development of grace within. It deepens our capacity to live more meaningful, balanced and peaceful lives.

When we practice mindfulness we are able to see what is happening in our lives more clearly. Everyday problems do not disappear, but because we are fully present in our lives through the practice of mindfulness, we become able to respond to the pressures in a much calmer way while at the same time avoiding self-judgement and self-criticism. In so doing we benefit the health of our body, our mind and our heart.

Mindfulness is not the same as awareness. While mindfulness is all is about paying attention ‘on purpose’, awareness is only about noticing and it lacks the intent of mindfulness.

Mindfulness  is an ancient practice utilized by many eastern philosophies including Buddhism, Yoga, Tai Chi and Taoism. It has been embraced  in the West and is now widely taught in a non-sectarian way. It is being widely proven as an effective tool to treat many psychological clinical disorders.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist, has taught the art of mindfulness for many years. He teaches mindfulness first through mindful breathing and then through Walking Meditation. It leads to a more keen awareness of all aspects of your life and the world around you. This site is a beautiful guide to Walking Meditation by Thich Nahat Hanh. I have used and would recommend the Walking Meditation Kit

Commit to cultivating mindfulness in your life in order to gain the profound, sustained benefits.

  • improve focus and concentration
  • a stable mind rather than one that is dull or agitated
  • a flexible mind able to reduce the impact of stressful thoughts and feelings
  • increased self-awareness of the contents of your mind and its patterns
  • transform difficult and challenging situations by becoming less reactive
  • substitute self defeating behaviours with more effective ones

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves -slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

                           “I want to live in the moment – but not this one. I was thinking of maybe one on a beach instead”

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles:

http://whatismindfulness2.wordpress.com/2007/04/20/what-is-mindfulness-part-ii/

http://mindfulnet.org/page2.htm

http://www.stillmind.com.au/mindfulnesstherapy.htm

http://www.thehappinesstrap.com/mindfulness

© Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Fight Depression With These Simple Strategies

As you read this post Mental Health Awareness week has finished but the battle that is depression goes on for many people.

Commonly Depression is treated with drugs that flood the brain with serotonin. While it is important to address depression, there have not been scientific studies that show that this drug therapy really works, and in fact, a number of experiments where the serotonin levels in the brain were greatly increased, failed.

However, there are other methods that can be used to help relieve depression.

  • A therapist can help you with new ways to look at yourself and your life.
  • Adequate sleep makes you less susceptible to the negative messages that seem to swamp you. (I’ll write more about good sleep habits in a later post).
  • Exercise three times a week, difficult though it always is to get motivated, always helps lift your mood by altering brain chemistry. It doesn’t have to be at the gym as walking is always good and yoga is great too.
  • Structure helps, so getting into a routine is a good idea.
  • Keeping in touch with other people who love and support you is worth heaps, and if you can’t do that, then just getting out and being around people, anyone, will help. Even better if they have a laugh with you.
  • Getting lots of sunshine is also good as natural light has been proven as a cure for depression.
  • There are also lots of mood boosting supplements, like maca, that will help.

Food For Depression

Another major way of fighting depression is through good nutrition, even though because of the depression you may not be feeling hungry.

Preparing and eating a meal might seem pointless but not only do the nutrients contribute to lifting your depression, it will also help you avoid the junk foods that make your depression worse. Don’t even buy or store sugary or salty snacks in your cupboards – it is far better to have simple healthy foods that don’t need lots of preparation to use when you find you are simply not able to face meal preparation.Foods like coffee, meat, alcohol and fatty or fast foods can actually make you feel more depressed and you will feel a lot different if you avoid them.

It really is a case of “you are what you eat”, bad foods make you feel worse and good healthy foods make you feel better.

Top foods to fight depression

1. Fish Oils:

Yes this is another benefit of fish oils as the right kind of fish contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, often lacking in depressed people. One study showed that taking just one gram of fish oil each day made a 50% difference in symptoms like anxiety, sleep problems, feelings of sadness, decreased sex drive and suicidal thoughts. You can also get omega-3’s through eating other foods including walnuts, flaxseed oil, or chia seeds. Oily fish include sardines, tuna, wild-caught salmon, gemfish plus others.

2. Brown Rice:

A great high-fibre food, brown rice contains lots of Vitamin B, B1, B3 and folic acid, plus lots of trace minerals which you need to function properly. It is also low-glycaemic, releasing glucose into the bloodstream slowly to prevent mood swings due to sugar-lows. You need to avoid any “instant” or “quick-cook” varieties because they don’t have any of these benefits.

3. Brewer’s Yeast:

The “darling food” of the 70’s, brewers yeast also contains B Vitamins (B1, B2 and B3). Don’t take this if your yeast tolerance is not great, but otherwise get your daily dose by mixing a thimbleful into a smoothie. It has heaps of vitamins and minerals in a small package, including amino acids which are great for the nervous system, and awesome for dealing with depression

4. Whole-grain Oats:

Again, you can’t use “instant” or “quick cook” oat varieties as they won’t help. With heaps of B vitamins (folic acid, pantothenic acid, B6 and B1) wholegrain oats help lower cholesterol, soothe the digestive tract and help prevent “sugar crashes,” so they assist with crabby moods and mood swings.

5. Cabbage:

With Vitamin C and folic acid cabbage protects against stress, infection and heart disease as well as lots of cancers (American Assoc for Cancer Research). There are lots of ways to eat it apart from boiled into a nasty mess – try it tossed in a salad or a wrap instead of lettuce, perfect in a stir fry, in a cabbage soup or just juice it. If you have trouble digesting cabbage add some fennel, caraway or cumin seeds before cooking. Or you could drink these spices in a non-caffeinated tea.

6. Other Foods

There are also a few other foods worth a mention here.

  • Grains like quinoa, kamut or spelt are better choices than refined grains like white wheat flour. Wholegrains are one great place to find the B vitamins which help improve your mood.
  • Foods like raw cacao (not a block of milk chocolate!), dark molasses and brazil nuts, which are high in selenium, are also great depression eliminators
  • Make sure your diet is loaded up with fruit and vegetables which will provide lots of vitamins and minerals to help lift the clouds that surround you. And remember that there is a big difference between both the amounts, and the quality, of the nutrients in organic and commercially grown produce. Organic foods have significantly higher levels of the nutrients you need than are found in commercially grown crops.
  • It is pretty important to try and keep your blood sugar levels stable and also to get enough B vitamins when you are feeling depressed. Avoiding sugar altogether helps stop blood sugar spikes and dips.

In the end it is important to remember that depression does not last, it is a transient phenomena and will pass. In the meantime take the decision to be proactive and make the changes you need to make to move on.  Even just setting this goal is the first step in moving forward.

Fight depression with diet

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

For more information:

http://www.naturalnews.com/020611.html

http://voices.yahoo.com/how-fight-depression-daily-habits-all-200108.html?cat=72

http://www.naturalnews.com/035463_depression_herbs_remedies.html

http://www.thedailymind.com/stress/5-small-but-big-ways-to-beat-depression-every-time/

http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/natural-treatments

© Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Dogs Don’t Deserve A Dodgy Diet Either

Today was the first day where I had no work obligations for quite a while and so I was looking forward to visiting the garden with my bouncy dog, perhaps check on the potatoes (of the earlier post) and generally experience the world outside. But instead, it has been a cold, dark day with lots of rain and even hail, and I have been stuck inside with a dog with ‘cabin-fever’.

Safi

Soon after acquiring my gorgeous pup, Safi, I had an argument with the vet over her diet. I had been feeding her a reputable and apparently high quality dried food, but she vomited, at least once a day and often more, as well as every single time she went in the car. Fed up with this, I had been doing some research starting with the book by Vet Don Hamilton, “Homeopathic Care For Cats & Dogs”.  This book is a wonderful treasure trove of information. Hamilton describes of what is ‘normal’ and natural behaviour for these animals, as well as offering a range of practical holistic measures to take to deal with illness and achieve good health and detailed information about Homeopathic treatments that can be used.

I had already seen the fast effect of homeopathic medicine when I had used it on my previous dog for an ear infection after he fell in the pond, and later to counteract the effect of rat bait he found, and then ate, under the house. So I hoped this book would provide an answer to the vomiting problem.

I had begun with the expectation of giving Safi some treatment to stop her being sick but what I ended up with was a whole new approach to how I should be feeding her, one my vet strongly disapproved of. One of Hamilton’s recommendations for chronic vomiting was simple, “change the diet to a fresh one, as this will improve most cases and eliminate the problem in some”. Easy!

It set me wondering what exactly a fresh diet should consist of for a young pup. I also started to think about the reality of feeding a pet a diet that consists only of dried or tinned food, and about just what undesirables were contained in this type of food. After all, I try to keep the family diet loaded up with fresh whole-foods and the puppy was part of the family, so it seemed reasonable to do the same for her.

Here are just some of the things I discovered along the way:

  • Commercial dried dog foods are made up of about ⅔ grain
  • Cans and rolls can contain 70% water
  • The unpleasant results of grain-based, processed, year-in and year-out diets are common and there are many serious health problems associated with this type of diet
  • Dogs in the wild don’t just eat meat, they also eat plants and small amounts of grains
  • Much of the ingredient labeling on pet foods is very misleading (hmm…where have I seen that before?)
  • Ground up, unwanted animal parts labeled as “meat and bone meal” often contain high levels of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides.
  • No ADDED Preservatives’ doesn’t mean there aren’t any preservatives, just that the end manufacture didn’t actually add any, although the ingredients they used may have already had preservatives put in them.
  • Commercial pet foods are full of preservatives and additives
  • Ingredients used in pet food are often highly contaminated with a wide variety of toxic substances
  • Because the ingredients they are using are not wholesome, their quality may be extremely variable, and the harsh manufacturing practices destroy many of the nutrients the food may have had to begin with. In ‘top-end’ products, other ingredients, such as vitamins and other nutrients, lost in the processing, must then be added to “fortify” the nutritious wasteland that the product is.
  • Terms like ‘complete and balanced’ relate to minimum standards not optimum standards
  • Pet foods are surrounded with just as many “marketing claims” as human foods, and deserve about the same credibility.
  • Plus there were lots of other dubious and frightening facts

It set me reassessing things!

I would never accept foods that were this highly processed and full of questionable ingredients as a regular part of the family diet and it is crazy that we blindly accept it for the dogs (and cats) that are a part of our family. These diets are like feeding your dog junk food at every single meal, usually with nothing else that is wholesome in the diet.

So after more searching I eventually came across details of how to put together a diet that is similar to the diet of a dog in the wild, and it wasn’t difficult to do. The percentages of the components of this diet are 50% raw meat, 30% fruit and veg, and 20% grain. The quantity of raw meat needs to equal 3% of the dog’s weight, so a 10kg dog needs 300g each day, a 20kg dog needs 600g. I was surprised to find that they do need some plants and grains in their diet, although not nearly as much grain as what is put in commercial foods. Apparently, wild dogs get their plant and grain needs by ripping open the entrails of their prey and eating the partly digested plant and grain products they contain first.

I get roughly this 50-30-20% balance for my dog by giving her porridge and fruit or vegetables at breakfast and meat at night. As soon as we started the new diet she stopped vomiting straight away. Magic!

She absolutely loves her food, especially carrot and cabbage (is that coleslaw?) bananas and apple, broccoli as well as lots and lots of others, and whenever she hears the sound of the knife on the chopping board she races in to get her share of vege offcuts such as the ends of the carrots or the apple core. I get her a mix of different dog meats from the pet store (where it is only about $3 a kilo) which I mix up and freeze in 300g parcels (as she weighs roughly 10kg). These are so easy to just defrost each day. Plus, I also give her raw bones and add Cod Liver Oil. Dogs need variety just as we do and the variety of meats means there are different textures, flavours and fat contents. She has a huge variety of fruit and veg and porridge from a few different grains. She doesn’t get our leftovers other than the vege offcuts, just as we don’t get her leftovers (if there were any). Her needs are quite different to ours.

The BARF diet (biologically appropriate raw food) designed by an Australian vet is similar to this but contains no cooked grain at all. It may be true that dogs need no grain but I have found that Safi does well with the small amount she has.

What amazed me was how quickly changes to her health problems occurred once I switched her diet, although sadly not everyone was so lucky with their experience

The vet’s objection to changing from a commercial food to a raw food diet was that my dog would not get a “balanced diet”. In fact, what she actually did get when we changed to the raw diet was exactly what she wasn’t getting before on the dried food, a “balanced diet”. I simply do not understand how any health professional, treating either humans or animals, can advocate a permanent diet of junk food for good health although I have heard that some Vets do not recommend a diet that is solely commercial food. After what I found it seems to me that they should be recommending a diet that is not at all commercial food!

I came across this mantra in my research which seems appropriate and you might like to take on board:

“I will never again buy pre-manufactured, unnatural food for my dog. I will resolve to learn what my canine companion truly needs, in terms of healthy nutrition and feeding, and I will feed my domesticated wolf in accordance with its nature, to the best of my ability, and not in accordance with commercial advertising and exploitation.”

 Safi is now eighteen months old and a lovely, healthy dog full of joy, although still with that puppy over-exuberance. What is interesting is that we were able to turn her health around with such a simple life-style change.

Now what I really hope, for both hers and my “mental health” is that the hail eases up and we get outside tomorrow in a glorious sunny winter day.

© Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thank You

To the followers of my blog who were kind enough to take the time last weekend to tell me how much they enjoyed reading the posts I offer my humble thanks. Any feedback is always very welcome and helpful, particularly on first starting out as a blogger. But positive feedback is absolutely wonderful!

If you would like to comment or leave feedback again there is a place right at the bottom of each post where you can post a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts on other posts, as well as your experiences as a result of what you have read here.

Wonderful Warming Ways To Weather Winter

Winter Sunlight Through The Morning Fog

I met a friend outside the bank yesterday who after exchanging the “it is sooo cold” comments, told me that she had been told that apparently yesterday morning was the last really cold morning we were going to have here in Melbourne this year. Given that the meteorologists from the Bureau don’t often seem to be able to get the forecasts right,  I don’t feel terribly inclined to believe such a wild and sweeping prediction. Although who knows, perhaps this person has extraordinary physic powers that focus on the weather.

Perhaps it was significant that we had that conversation yesterday as the second of August is Imbolc here in the Southern latitudes. Imbolc is a festival celebrating the approaching Spring and the return of the light. It coincides with the first stirrings of Spring. Here in Melbourne early spring bulbs are busily flowering and the wattles have been dressed in a blaze of gold for weeks now. But it’s easy to imagine how significant the sight of a tuft of green glimpsed on this day would be to someone who’d been snowbound for months. In fact even in Melbourne we often feel a bit low by the time Imbolc arrives, lacking energy and eating and sleeping more.

In spite of spring beauties in the garden, and in spite of seeing the  seasons have begun to change I’m still feeling the effects of winter. I am still cold! The garden is still too cold and wet to get started on spring planting, and the air is too wet to start on spring refurbishments around the house. Spring has really not yet managed to get a toehold on the side of winter.

In the interests of getting us over the mark into “real spring” here are some uplifting and reviving ideas to carry us the extra yard.

 

Himalayan Salt Foot Bath

Foot baths were once seen as something for old ladies with sore feet. But a few years ago I discovered just how nice it is to sit with my feet in hot water, while I read and sipped tea. Now  never, ever regret it when I manage to indulge in this way. Also, soaking in a bath, even a foot bath, is a great way to gain the health benefits of essential oils or Himalayan salts.

Our home lacks the luxury of any bath that allows more stretch than “knees around the ears” so foot baths are the alternative. I managed to pick an electric one up on e-Bay for $1. But you can use any nice big bowl instead. In fact I rarely plug mine in, as the oils or salts do their job perfectly well in the still water.

Soaking in a Himalayan salt foot bath is soothing for your feet, so it’s great after a long day, and also very revitalizing. Essential Oils  have wonderful healing effects and can be added to your foot bath to deal with all sorts of winter problems. Just be careful to check the actual oil you choose before using them as some are contra-indicated for various diseases and others can be irritating if they come into contact with the skin. According to reflexology philosophy our whole body is mirrored in our feet, so anything we do to nurture them is also going to nurture our whole body.

Foot Bath – any large bowl will work well

 

Herbal Teas For Winter

Warming Winter Herbal teas are a great way to get a winter lift. This excellent page links to 52 different herbal tea recipes.  There is a huge range of choice to suit every taste, and many are made from ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen cupboard. Like the essential oils, many are specific to winter ailments. Also, you could easily mix a few up for a yummy brew.

Herbal teas are the easiest way to get the benefits of herbal healing wisdom that has been around for thousands of years. Although there are many ready-made versions of the teas it’s great to tailor make them to fit your needs from fresh ingredients.

Loose leaf herbal tea
Loose leaf herbal tea

 

Winter Mood-Boosts

Sometimes we just need a “mood boost” during winter so here are a few quickies…

  • Put on some uplifting music, especially good if you can dance to it. Music accesses your emotions directly and  can be a really quick mood booster.
  • Call your best friend and perhaps even meet up for a cuppa. It’s tempting to hibernate in winter but socialising gives a great sense of belonging and makes you feel appreciated. Make sure to keep the conversation light!
  • Get moving especially if you’re sitting at a desk all day, even if it is just for a few minutes. Exercise releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine and with all those dancing around inside you’re sure to feel livelier.
  • Don’t forget to laugh. Laughter clubs are everywhere. A good laugh send you straight into a relaxed state. It lowers your blood pressure and also stimulates endorphins. Remember how good you feel after you hear a good joke? Of course you don’t need to join a club, a funny movie, a joke on facebook are all good.

 

Winter Gratitude

Winter is a great time to count your blessings. Cultivating gratitude has been shown to be a wonderful way to increase happiness. Try making a list of some of the things in your life for which you are truly grateful. It’s a wonderful and quick way to get you out of a slump

Cook up a big pot of yummy warming winter soup this weekend. I found this interesting variation  on traditional Potato and Leek soup. This chef catered a party for me once and his food was delicious. If you have a slow cooker put on a nourishing casserole for dinner. You can load it up with root vegetables full of nutrients for a great health boost.

Find yourself a great book in which you can get immersed. By the time you finish it and raise your head you’ll find that spring has sprung. Too often we save up the great books for holidays and forget to enjoy the relaxation and pleasure they bring throughout the rest of the year. Turn off the TV, close the computer, and instead grab a cosy rug, a warm tea and curl up for a couple of hours blissful reading…for pleasure, not for work.

I’m not about to pack away my winter woolies for a long time yet, in spite of the positive forecast of that friend-of-a-friend. But I am going to look for the parts of winter for which I’m grateful. There’s the crispness of the air, the beauty of the fog hanging low over the river in the morning, the awesome heater I have in my house, the chance to wear my great collection of beautiful boots, and the reassurance that the wheel of life continues rolling along. But right now I’m off outside to pick some of the gorgeously scented and very aptly named “Erlicheer” jonquils to bring into the house to lift my winter spirits and remind me that Spring really is in fact, just around the corner.

Erlicheer Jonquil

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

© Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.