The importance of resting

The importance of resting

    The best cure for the body is a quiet mind
Napoleon Bonaparte

Everybody would accept that after a long run you need to sit down and rest your leg muscles. But when it comes to the brain – the hardest working muscle in the body – we never consider resting. Our poor brains are always ‘on’. Remembering, learning, sorting, controlling all processes of the body. Even during the night, our brain is sorting through experiences of the last waking period, sorting and filing problems and memories away. That is why we often have such weird dreams.

 

 

 Lack of sleep  

With all these activities, it is no wonder that on average the brain consumes around a fifth of our daily calorie intake.

During sleep, the brain instructs the organs to get rid of toxins that have built up during the day.  However, a lack of sleep means that some toxins will remain trapped in the organs and over time this can cause harm. 

If you suffer from sleep deprivation for a few days or even weeks, the body is able to compensate. But if you consistently deprive yourself of well-needed sleep it can come to health problems. Think of the brain as it was a  big computer. Without rest, the brain gets clogged up and static, sometimes it is just time ‘to pull the plug’ and let the brain reset itself.

Here is an article of what happens if the brain does not get enough sleep

Your body clock is the deciding factor if you are a night owl or an early riser and how much sleep you need. In essence, it does not matter when you get up or go to sleep, as long as you keep to a steady rhythm. Everybody has their own personal sleep target. 

When you don’t get enough sleep your brain will find it harder to retain memory and handle information. In severe cases, the brain can even restrict the way the body functions. Over a long time this can lead to illness. Until not so long ago sleep torture was a common way to ‘break spies’ and enemies of the state.

But in most cases, a slight sleep deprivation will lead to crankiness, irrational emotional responses (like misinterpreting social situations) and lack of concentration.

Is rest and sleep the same?

No, there is a difference – rest means being idle, but not asleep. If you had a bad night, small periods of resting can help to compensate for some sleep deficit, but effectively rest and sleep are like apples and pears- you can’t substitute one with the other.

Sleep is vital to reset the body – like clean out toxins and build memory. Rest is also vital, but more complementary. Over time the right amount of rest can provide ample health benefits like helping with hypertension, relaxing muscle tension and increased creativity.

How did people rest in the past?

Only 100 years ago one of the most commonly prescribed ‘medicine’ was bed rest. We don’t hear of this prescription anymore,  but sometimes this is exactly what the patient would need. But with every employee being squeezed for more and more productivity, the world has become faster and faster and often it would be unthinkable that an employee just rests for a few days. But the increasing amount of ‘sick day’ shows that people still need this rest.

But why prescribe rest – that surely is what the holidays are for! But are we really resting in the few weeks of holiday or free time most of us have? And if you are free-lance – when do you rest then?

I would argue not many people really rest these days,  – at least not in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Usually, during our holidays we go on a  foreign trip with lots of added stress, or a staycation with kids off from school and don’t forget what are you doing in your downtime, holiday or not. Self-checkout at the supermarket, self-service in the restaurant, booking your flight online and wasting hours doing so, etc. This does not count as rest!  This is stress!

In earlier centuries a successful person was somebody who had ample time to ponder about life, art, and philosophy.  The poor had no such luxury as they had to work all day, often seven days per week. The only exception was Sunday prayer.

These days the trend almost seems to have reversed. Being busy has become a badge of honor. Just look at modern-day celebrities. They attend every event going, have perfect children and a perfect house. And of course, have highflying careers on top of all that, not to mention the work for charity, teach/partake in a course/TV show, run a marathon and the list goes on and on.

Social media promotes an ever-acute sense of permanently missing out. I am not anti-social media, it has its uses. But we must accept that we can’t be superhuman and have to make choices. Therefore we should put quality way above quantity. I know, easier said than done.

In 2016 the university of Durham, UK, did a survey about ‘resting’ – guess what the top 5 resting activities are – I list them here.

  • Reading (58 per cent)
  • Being in the natural environment (53.1 per cent)
  • Being on their own (52.1 per cent)
  • Listening to music (40.6 per cent)
  • Doing nothing in particular (40 per cent)

What all these resting activities show is that people crave occasionally solitude. We need to get away from the world around us. No interactions with others, no stress, no communication, not thinking about others’ problems, wants and needs – just being in and enjoying the moment, daydreaming and no care in the world. This is rest – without guilt!

The good news is that ‘resting’ can be learned. There is no use of spending days in bed without any conscious benefits – that is not resting, this is lazying around.  Resting only works when you are otherwise busy. The main objectives are to ease muscle tension and to lower your heart rate. Take a deep breath, exhale and think calming, pleasant thoughts and relax. 

How do you successfully ‘rest’?

People who have mastered the art form of ‘resting’  can do this in ‘micro resting breaks’. Here is an example. You are driving through town, it is a stressful morning, everybody is in a rush, beeping horns, etc. At the next red traffic lights, relax your hands holding the steering wheel.  Roll your shoulders back a few times and take a few really deep breaths and exhale long and hard.  Make sure you pay attention to relax all the muscles in your body and release all angry thoughts from your brain.

These are all little exercises, but over a day they can have a big impact –  as they get rid of rising tensions as it happens. So there is never a big build-up and you will stay in a good mood (at least most days!)

Whenever you have the chance to a 5minute ‘shut-down phase’ please take it! Sit still with your eyes closed and banish every thought. You can call it meditation, mindfulness or else.  There are now many apps available to guide you. But you could just close your eyes and simply have a rest.

Think Hercule Poirot before he solves another complex case – he rests and lets his mind unfold. With all these benefits I would not be surprised if employers finally see the light and offer resting booths for hard pushed employees – to offer small power windows to boost their health, happiness and ultimately their productivity with much less sick days!

The LWTM moon diet

The LWTM moon diet

A few years ago I started a trial called ‘The LWTM moon diet’. It was based on a book and some research I found in a library. The roots of it all go far back to Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine who lived in Ancient Greece around 500 B.C.

The LWTM moon diet

The trial gave some really good insights and I still thank the participants who were so generous with their time, interest and feedback. Most of the people who participated did so for health reasons and out of curiosity and only a few actively tried to lose a lot of weight with this program. However, all found an increased level of energy and small weight loss. I did not have the time or resources to extend it to a full-blown trial with properly measured results.

Before I go more into what it is – here are some of the testimonials I received after the 2 months trial run was completed:

I feel better and my digestions works a lot better. I am really enjoying it and will continue after the trial run”

‘ I really enjoyed the fast days and as an added bonus my period, who was a bit hit and miss became regular again – it now always comes around the Full Moon”

‘ I liked the variety of foods I could eat and I find the concept very interesting. I am not a natural cook and initially, I had to spend a bit more time dedicated to cooking, but once I got into the swing of it, that has now decreased and I learned a lot about healthy eating on the way’

‘ The part I enjoyed the most was the variety of herbal teas and what they were good for. I will definitely keep doing it’

Only since I took part in the trial run I realized that indeed I crave different foods at different times’

Naturally, you will be asking – so what is this moon diet? I will give you a few pointers and tips here that you can start trying on yourself. But the whole process is of course far too complex for a short blog post.

If you have read most of my previous material about Biodynamics, you will know that days are not all equal as they all have individual day qualities. This goes from planting/harvesting right through to eating.

When you look at the calendar you will see each day has a moon phase and element attached. In essence, the moon phase tells us about the way we should eat and the element tells us what kind of food we should eat.

I believe the real strength of this way of eating lies in the combination of timing and food variety. So instead of just eating whatever is around, you will make a conscious decision of what to eat and what to avoid.

In principle, there are 3 states or modes
1. Elimination/fasting phase
2 Changing weight phase (either gaining or losing weight)
3. Keeping your current weight (within the range of an up to 3 kilograms or 6 pounds).

During the Waxing Moon, you want to eat food that is very nutritious and stock up on vitamins and minerals. Additional you choose exercise programs like yoga, pilates, stretching, swimming, weight lifting anything that makes your body more flexible and strengthens/builds muscle tissue.
During the Full Moon – you either have a rest day or a fast day (depending on your current phase)
During the Waning Moon, you lose weight and step up the cardiovascular program, like running, cycling, hiking, everything that strengthens the heart and circulation.
The time of the New Moon is the fasting time, irrespective of weight. It is the time to cleanse and reset your digestion. This should go hand in hand with a relaxing walk or some stretching/relaxation exercises. Long runs and other strenuous exercises such as spinning class should be off the table. It is time to give your digestion and body a good rest.

During the program, it is important to follow a varied diet. Food is rotated in accordance with the elements, but the exact method is beyond the scope of this article.

Below is a recipe for the New Moon fast day. Just a few simple tricks can make a big difference.

Understand your body clock

Understand your body clock

25% of the population are early risers and 25% of the population are night owls, the rest lie somewhere in-between.

Section Brain, Eyes and Head

We are all different and we all have our unique body clocks. Some of us function better in the morning, others peak late at night. That in itself is no problem. It only becomes one if we are out of sync with what society tells us to do or if our partners have different sleep patterns which means waking each other up.

What happens during a normal day?

The typicial day

How does the body clock work?

The centre of our body clock lies deep inside our brains, in the hypothalamus to be precise. This is a small region located near the base of the brain and crucial for releasing hormones and regulating our body’s temperature. It is here that a release of hormones make us wake up and go to sleep.
In controlled experiments, where contestants were kept in a darkened room with no fluctuation in temperature, the body would make up its own rhythmic clock which follows a roughly 24 hour day. But as we live in an environment that is regulated by day and night, our body clock resets each day to stay in sync with the path of the sun and the moon.

Our eyes filter the intensity of the surrounding sunlight and tell the brain if it is day or night. Bright blue light mimics daylight and orange/yellow candlelight sends us to sleep.

What happens on a daily basis?

A gene called ‘period’ is responsible for our waking and sleeping process. Inside the nucleus copies of this gene’s protein are made and transported to the outer cell. There they swivel around and we are awake. Later in the day a second protein is produced which has the sole function to bring the first protein back into the cell again. Once the concentration of the 2nd protein has reached a certain level it shuts down the copying process of the first protein. As a consequence, we start to feel tired and both proteins break fully down.

Then we go sleep and the next morning it happens all over again. As mentioned before this copying and breaking down process keeps roughly to a 24-hour rhythm.

But nobody is the same. It all depends on the individual’s efficiency of this copying and breaking down process. This means some people need more sleep than others. Also, the timing of these ‘protein clocks’ are not the same but vary from person to person.

When it comes to optimum concentration, reaction and physical peak times, we all act as individuals. It actually does not matter when your peak performance is, as long as you keep to a steady rhythm. The problem arises when you keep on shifting your circadian rhythm (as your inner body clock is better known).

Latest scientific tests have shown that shift workers who permanently change their sleep pattern have an increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.

Sometimes you can’t help these changes, for example when the clocks go forward or backward or you travel to another time-zone.

However, there are tips that you can employ to improve your health should you be forced to change your rhythm on an occasional basis.

Social jet lag:

This usually affects night owls. They go later to bed than the rest of the population, but due to work commitments, they have to rise much earlier than their body clock is ready for.
It gets worse when their partner is a normal sleeper or even an early-riser, as both spouses will naturally disrupt each other’s sleep pattern.

If this happens to you, here are some solutions:
1) Separate bedrooms
2) Ear plugs and eye masks for each person, so that sleep is not interrupted by the other person’s sleep pattern. Additionally, each person should change to a job that suits their own personal rhythm. Like free-lance work or even evening work for night owls, early shifts for early-risers.
3) Change your sleep pattern. If you are a night owl, expose yourself to a lot of daylight during the morning and stay off tablets and phones (blue light) during the evening. If you still need to work on the computer or use your tablet/phone make sure you have a ‘night mode’ option switched on.
If you are an early riser, seek more daylight during the afternoon and working on the computer in the evening won’t be a problem for you, in fact, it would keep you awake longer.

Travelling:

Here are some tips to combat jetlag.
If you travel east expose yourself to more sunlight in the morning that will shift your body clock to the earlier timezone.
Go west and do the opposite. If you only go on a short business trip try to stay as much as you can within your ‘own time zone’.

Night shifts:

If you need to work shifts then try to opt for work that keeps to a similar pattern. If you work continually nights, then try to keep to that pattern and crucially do not change the habit when you are off work. If you come home and it is already daylight, wear special glasses that mimic evening light to block out the blue daylight and when you go to sleep wearing an eye mask that blocks out the blue daylight.

I hope that in the not too distant future employers will be made aware of how damaging varying shift patterns are for their workforce and once fully understood will change work arrangements to suit individuals rhythm. This would make for a more productive and happy workforce.

The benefits of indigo and purple  crystals

The benefits of indigo and purple crystals

This month is all about the benefits of indigo and purple crystals connected to the Brow or Third Eye Chakra. Indigo, a mixture of purple and blue is a deeply spiritual colour. Prime crystals of this chakra are the Amethyst and  the Lapis Lazuli.

This chakra is all about imagination, creativity, healing powers and vision. It is the domain of healers and spiritual leaders, but also that of artists and social visionaries.

The physical aspect of this chakra deals with headaches, migraines, phobias, sinusitis, hyperactive lifestyle and insomnia. It is connected to the ears (all hearing), sight (all seeing) and the sinuses.

When this chakra is in balance the person is able to grasp the bigger picture and has a highly evolved intuition. People with a strong brow chakra are visionary creatives, often far ahead of their time. Or they may be highly spiritual people, motivational speakers and visionaries and others are flocking to them for advice.

When this chakra is not in balance people find it hard to accept reality and dream their life away. They find it hard to fit into the wider society and are often unable to cope with all the pressures of modern life. In this case a  life in a natural environment with less stress would be more suitable as a busy city life may overstimulate the senses. An ideal job would be conservation work,  work with animals or the land.

Sometimes the boundary can be quite fluid and it is not uncommon that people swing between the two sides, a so-called bi-polar disposition.  Therefore it is  not uncommon that an exceptional artists has a flurry of inspiration followed by spell of void (probably due to overstimulation) where he/she is prone to drug abuse and depression.

For mere mortals the brow chakra is connected with burn-out and with the help of crystals you can regain some of the energy or avoid a breakdown before it happens.

Here are the crystals associated with this chakra:

Amethyst: This purple-tinged crystal takes its name from ‘amethystos’ which in Ancient Greek meant ‘ not intoxicated’. It is a stone of strength and helps people who want to beat an addiction and with migraines and insomnia. People were instructed to hold this crystal under running water and then rub it against the forehead in an anti-clockwise motion to take away the stress and guard against headaches. The same method helps children to sleep, especially if they are afraid of the dark or have nightmares as it calms them down.

Purple Spinel: This dark purple stone is made of magnesium aluminum oxide. This stone is an all-body healer, inspires confidence and protects you from ill-wishers and jealousy. Wear it as a piece of jewelry to keep healthy. Good for people who suffer from epilepsy and circulatory problems, particularly in the lower body half.

Lapis Lazuli: One of the first crystals worn as jewelry.  Egyptian Pharaohs particularly liked this stone and it symbolised eternal life, friendship, career progression and promotion.

Sodalite: this deep indigo stone is very helpful for aging women who suffer from symptoms related to the menopause. It stabilises manic depressions, regulates high blood pressure and helps with insomnia and night sweats. Put a sodalite near your bed or under the pillow to help with sleep deprivation.

Lilac Kunzite: very similar to the sodalite above and useful if you have any gynecological procedures such as hysterectomy or reduced libido.

Violan: This beautiful stone is stress-reducing and ideal for the modern world. It gives strength and provides harmony in the home. Hold it in your hand whilst do a 5 minute a day meditation to unburden your mind and make you cope more with endless daily demands. Place it near your computer to be inspired and shield against radiation.