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How To Detox For Better Brain Health

Detoxification is an essential cellular function. When the body detoxifies, it packages debris in the form of foods and toxins so that it can be easily excreted from the body. We eliminate this debris through various mechanisms such as our gastrointestinal tract, genitourinary tract, respiratory tract, and our sweat glands, and it requires the function of multiple organs such as the liver, lungs, gallbladder, skin, kidneys, and yes, the brain!

Why organs like your brain suffer most from toxins.

Our body’s detox pathways also require a variety of nutrients that act as cofactors for the enzymes involved in this multi step process. These include activation, oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis, conjugation, methylation, and recirculation. Because it’s so complex, detox requires significant amounts of the body’s energy supply.

When our body is assaulted by the exposure to pro-inflammatory foods, alcohol, tobacco, medications, and foreign substances such as drugs, heavy metals, chemicals, persistent pollutants, and microorganisms, our natural detoxification systems can be overwhelmed and unhealthy metabolites can accumulate and ultimately trigger mitochondrial dysfunction, metabolic deficiencies, immunotoxicity, and resultant neuroinflammation (also known as inflammation in the brain). As a result, the body’s energy is diverted and metabolically active organs such as the brain, the heart, and the muscles start to suffer. It is then we start to feel unwell and experience not only chronic fatigue and weakness but slow processing and cognitive difficulties.

How to detox for better brain health.

So what can you do to start detoxing your brain from the effects of contaminants, toxins, and inflammation?

Here are some suggestions:

1.   Eat a diverse variety of fruits and vegetables.

Colors represent different vitamins and nutrients, so include ginger, turmeric, garlic, beets, broccoli seed sprouts, and herbs such as thyme and rosemary in your diet each day. Consume dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables regularly. Other important food groups include nuts, seeds, legumes, and fatty fruits such as avocados and bananas – .

2.   Include complex forms of carbohydrates.

While it’s best to stay away from simple and processed carbs, complex carbohydrates are an important energy source for the brain, as the glucose molecule—broken down from whole grain and starch sources by the intricate mechanisms with our body’s catabolic pathways—is the preferred energy source of the brain and its cells.

3.   Incorporate interval eating patterns into your meal plans.

Allowing the body to take a break from digestive duties will help divert energy from the gastrointestinal tract to the organs recruited for detoxification pathways. This can take the form of a simple intermittent fasting plan.

4.   Try to minimize exposure to toxins and contaminants as much as possible.

Eat organic when you can to minimize exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and farm chemical residues. Use eco-friendly cosmetics, personal care products, and cleaning agents.

5. Target your supplementation for additional detox capability.

You can do this with supplements like milk thistle for liver support, Coleus forskhii for respiratory support, ubiquinol and NAD+ for mitochondrial support, L-glutamine for gastrointestinal support, and N-acetylcysteine for additional antioxidant support since detoxification results in reactive oxygen species, which are damaging to our cells. For increased brain support, consider the use of plants such as Lion’s mane, Boswellia, and Macuna pruriens. For more information on how exactly to use these supplements and in what dosage, speak to an integrative physician, naturopathic doctor, or other supplement-savvy health care practitioner.

6.   Daily movement and exercise.

Run, walk, hike, go to a yoga class, dance, and cycle. However you can manage, sweat each and every day and it will support your detox pathways and your brain.

7.   Deep breathing exercises with episodic rapid breathing.

Did you know that breathing exhales waste by-products? It’s true. Rapid breathing (like in this video) also results in alkaline urine, which can help you better excrete other toxin metabolites as well.

8.   Maintain good hydration.

Fill up that reusable water bottle at least a few times a day. Proper fluid balance keeps blood and lymph moving through the kidneys and leads to better elimination of toxins through urination.

9. Aim for 20 minutes in nature each day.

Research is clear that immersion in nature improves mental clarity, decreases stress and anxiety, and has beneficial physiological effects such as lowered heart rate and respiratory rate and decreased blood pressure. These improved physiological parameters can only help the body during detoxification. So, go for a hike, walk through the park, or sit in your garden for a few minutes each day.

10. Sleep at least seven to eight hours each night.

During restorative sleep, the brain is able to repair cellular damage from toxins and other exposures. Make sure you’re giving your brain a chance to slow down and repair itself every night by getting enough sleep.

 

Rachel x

5 Minute Meditations To Change Your Life

Boost your happiness, recharge your confidence and get poised for success with these quick and easy meditations.

Yoga lotus. Young woman doing yoga by the lake, sitting in lotus.

FOR CALMNESS

This meditation for calmness strengthens the heart and lungs, leaving you feeling peaceful and better able to take conscious, heart-centred action.

Close your eyes and sit with a tall spine, shoulders back and chin level. Place the left hand on the chest, parallel to the ground with fingers together pointing to the right. Bring your right hand up to your side with palm facing forward. Bring the pinky and ring finger into the palm and hold down with your thumb, the other two fingers point up. Concentrate on the flow of the breath. Inhale deeply and fully and suspend the breath in for as long as possible. Then exhale smoothly and gradually and suspend out for as long as possible. Keep going for five minutes. To end, inhale and exhale strongly three times and relax. The suspension of breath should feel comfortable, do not strain. Focus on welcoming greater peace and tranquility into your life.

FOR SUCCESS

Staying focused requires attention and concentration. The key to improving this is not just trying harder to attend. The strategy of doing more of the same can sometimes have the opposite effect, leading to exhaustion from the strain. Instead, engage lightly with inattention. Get to know those moments of distraction and lack of focus intimately. Knowing inattention allows you to respond more quickly when you are distracted and bring the focus back to the task. The mindful route to success is one that knows both the attention and inattention and flexes the executive attentional muscle, switching between the two.

1) Choose your focus, set your intention.

2) Know that the mind will wander and distractions will arise.

3) When you see the mind move, that inattention of any sort has arisen, give a cheery wave to the distraction and refocus.

4) Repeat as many times as necessary!

FOR CREATIVITY

Sit somewhere quiet and peaceful and read the below words.

Within you there is a stillness, and in that stillness is the magic of limitless creativity – a sanctuary to which you can retreat and be yourself. Allow yourself to go to this place where there is stillness of mind so the wonder of life’s energy can work through you, allowing you to express yourself through creativity.

Alignment with yourself, others, the earth and the universe is eternally yours. Return to the stillness in your deep, gentle breaths and witness life breathing through you. As you read these words, allow the life force energy to enter your body with a calm acceptance.

Know that you are as one with the sun, the stars and the planet on which you live. Always return to the stillness in your breath. Float in the still waters of your greatness. Feel the ebb and flow of the world around you. Relax into the gentle rhythm of the dips and swells as the current carries you. Remain in the stillness of your deep, gentle breaths.

Take a deep breath in and create a sense of wonder that you once had when you were a child. Use this on your journey through life and enjoy the unfolding. Live now.

FOR CONFIDENCE

Authentic confidence comes when you believe something is worth doing, you know spirit is helping you and you know that spirit will enable you to handle events no matter what the outcome is.

1) Relax, close your eyes and take a couple of easy, deep breaths. Give your inner wisdom and spirit permission to be in charge.

2) Imagine a glowing ball of light out in front of you and let it represent your authentic confidence.

3) See a waterfall of beautiful golden energy washing the symbol and removing other people’s beliefs and opinions.

4) Let your spirit fill the symbol with wisdom, information and energies that will manifest and sustain authentic confidence for you.

5) Bring the symbol into the heart and let the energy spread to every cell of your body, your DNA, your chakras and into your entire energy field.

6) Let the energy fill your present and pour into your future. Now relax.

FOR HAPPINESS

Sitting comfortably on a chair with your feet flat on the ground, allow yourself to receive the support of the earth holding you. Breathing in to all corners of your belly, allow yourself to fully receive the life supporting you with your breath. In the centre of your heart imagine a beautiful flower effortlessly opening, revealing a vibrant light within. This is your inner light, your divine spark, the part of you that is connected to the flow of life.

When this light is turned on, it has magnetic qualities, drawing in everything that is meant for you. Imagine this happening. As you breathe and receive, your light gets brighter and brighter and those creations and experiences are effortlessly being drawn in by your magnificent light. Simply breathe and receive as your inner light effortlessly attracts what your heart most yearns for to you. And with every exhale, let go of what no longer is.

Rachel x

 

Sitting For Too Long Could Be Hurting Your Brain

By now, it’s common knowledge that getting your body moving regularly throughout the day is about more than just staying fit. Sitting for too long can lead to a slew of adverse health effects over time: Past research has shown that sedentary behavior can increase your risk for cardiovascular damage, obesitycertain types of cancer, and even early death. Yikes. And now, a study conducted at Liverpool John Moores University in explains how your brain could also be feeling the effects of extended physical inactivity. Fortunately, the researchers were also able to identify a strategy to offset the effects.

The scientists used ultrasound probes to study the brains of 15 healthy adults as they worked through three seated four-hour sessions. In the first session, the participants sat for the entire four hours uninterrupted. In the second session, they stopped two hours in to take a leisurely eight-minute walk on a treadmill before returning to their desks for another two hours. In the third session, they stood up every 30 minutes to walk on the treadmill for a quick two minutes.

The results came in squarely against long, consecutive work sessions: Those who didn’t get up at all in the four hours saw a dip in blood flow to their brains. The people who got up once midway through their sitting time did have increased blood flow while they were up and moving, but after they returned to their seats and kept working for two more hours, they ended up with even lower blood flow than when they’d started. But those with the frequent walking breaks in between? Their brains actually had more blood flowing by the end of the session than when they’d begun.

As common wisdom about “getting the blood flowing” suggests, the human brain needs a constant supply of blood to function properly. Blood is packed with oxygen and other healthy nutrients; even short-term dips in cerebral blood flow can slow a person’s thinking and memory. That means sitting at your desk for long stretches of time is not only bad for your health—it’s also eating into your productivity.

Moving your legs periodically (aka fidgeting) may help counteract a sedentary lifestyle. You can, of course, also make a point to stand up from your desk regularly or get a standing desk. If there’s no standing desk in your future, there are plenty of other ways to get the blood moving throughout the day: Try changing your sitting position often, give your eyes a break – every 30 minutes of screen time try to take a few minutes to look away from your computer, go outside and try to take the stairs whenever possible.

At the very least, have a bowl of brain-boosting blueberries handy—or within a two-minute walking distance.

Rachel x

Why You Should Try Loving-Kindness Meditation

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Loving-kindness meditation, also known as metta bhavana, is a method of developing compassion, disciplining negative thinking and balancing and harmonising wandering minds. Buddhists and Taoists have used it for centuries and believe that it enables them to achieve a powerful alignment with the universal flow of energy and love known as ‘qi’’. It can be adapted and practiced by anyone, however, regardless of religious beliefs.

The aim is to feel and emanate a pure, unconditional and inclusive love, one of wisdom with no terms or restrictions. It doesn’t depend on whether someone deserves it or not, nor is it confined to family and friends, and there are no expectations of gaining something in return. It is a meditation of care, concern and tenderness – a feeling of warmth for ourselves and others. The practice softens the mind and heart, opening us up to a deeper level of kindness, and breaks down our internal and external barriers.

We have to begin by loving ourselves, because without having experienced this unconditional love and acceptance on a personal level it will be difficult to extend it to others. From this point, we can then include those who are special to us and eventually all living things. Over time, the visualisation and meditation blend into the actual experience – the feeling of loving-kindness.

Take a comfortable and relaxed posture and bring your focus to the solar plexus (your chest area). Breathe in and out from the heart centre and anchor your mindfulness on the sensations coming from there. Recognise any areas of mental blockage, numbness, self-judgement or self-hatred and try to generate a kind feeling toward yourself. As you keep breathing in and out, repeat affirming phrases, such as ‘may I be happy’ and ‘may I be healthy and strong’, either in your head or out loud. Choose five that resonate most strongly with you, and after saying each one several times, move on to someone in your life who invites the feeling of pure unconditional loving-kindness (usually a partner or close relative). Repeat the phrases you used for yourself for this person (e.g. ‘may she be safe and protected’) while continuing to breathe from your heart centre.

Next, do this exercise for someone neutral whom you neither strongly like or dislike followed by a person you have difficulties with and who generates hostile feelings and resentment within you. This will no doubt be the hardest part of the meditation, but you will be surprised how much better you feel once you start directing positivity toward them. If negativity starts to arise, return to your first person of choice and let the loving-kindness flood back then try again. Practising this on a daily basis will bring you great benefits, both on a personal level and in your relationships, and should help you to cultivate a compassionate and loving mindset in work, rest and play.

Rachel x

How to Do a Body Scan Meditation

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One of the best ways you can become more aware of your body is by doing a body scan meditation. The whole goal of this meditation is to focus on one part of the body at a time and tune into how it feels without trying to change it.

Completing a body scan can help you identify any physical pain or sensations you may be feeling and any links between those physical feelings and your emotions. It can serve as a valuable regular practice that can help you discover ways to work through any stress, anxiety, tension or other physical pain in the body.

Step-By-Step Process

Like all forms of meditation, a body scan is meant to be simple. Here are 11 steps to help you successfully complete a full body scan meditation.

1: Lie down or sit comfortably in a place where you won’t be interrupted.

2: Start by bringing your awareness to your breathing. Take three deep breaths as you mindfully tune into your thoughts and emotions, observing them as they flow freely.

3: Choose to start your body scan either at the top of your head or the tip of your toes. You’ll work down or up from there.

4: As you place your awareness on that body part, tune into what you feel there. You may feel pain, aching, itchiness, tingling, firmness, lightness, heaviness, warmth, coldness, or possibly even nothing.

5: Once you’re aware of what you physically feel in that area, expand your awareness to see if it also triggers your emotional state (a positive feeling, a negative feeling, or a neutral feeling).

6: Now bring your awareness back your breath and feel it reach down through your entire body as you breathe in, then exhale as you let go of any tension in the body part you just focused on.

7: Remember not to try and control anything — just let those physical and emotional feelings be as they are.

8: Move up or down to the next body part. If you started from your toes, you’d move to the soles of your feet. If you started from the top of your head, you’d move to your ears or your forehead.

9: Repeat steps 4 to 7 as you move through each individual body part.

10: Take as little as five minutes or as long as 45 minutes to go through each part of your body.

11: When finished, take a minute or so to just be aware and feel your entire body as whole, relaxed, and loved — even if you still feel any discomfort in some areas.

This is the perfect meditation practice when you’re just waking up in the morning or lying down at night to go to bed. A morning body scan will help you feel more present and in tune with your body throughout the day while a night time body scan will help you relax more effectively so you can drift off to sleep.

Try it for yourself. You’ll be surprised just how healing such a simple practice can be!

Rachel x

Why Meditation Is Amazing For Your Mental Health

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There’s no denying that meditation has officially gone mainstream. Gone are the days where people turned their noses up and wrote it off as a bit weird. Now, there are a growing number of meditation classes being offered as well as some brilliant apps to help us find calm anytime and anywhere.

Taking a few minutes to meditate every day with the goal of becoming more mindful, or focused on and accepting of the present, is a great way to relieve stress. But it’s even more powerful than you think. Mindfulness meditation helps ease mental health conditions like depression and anxiety—so much so, that some clinicians are trying it as a course of treatment before turning to medication.

Here’s how meditation can help put you in control of your mental health.

Meditating actually changes your brain, and with it, the way your body responds to stress. Which works wonders on depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Studies have been suggesting for the past decade that meditation can bring big health benefits, but it wasn’t until recent years that research has looked into exactly how it can change the brain.

A recent study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, studied 35 unemployed men and women experiencing the major stress of searching for a job, and found significant changes to the brain on scans done after just three days of mindfulness meditation. Specifically, there was more activity in the portions dedicated to processing stress, focus, and calmness. In blood tests, the subjects also showed lower levels of an important marker of inflammation – even four months after the study!

It’s this impact on the body’s stress response that seems to make meditation so effective in treating mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD

Meditation can even take the place of medication for some people.

One study published in 2015 in The Lancet showed that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), a treatment that combines mindfulness meditation with traditional cognitive behavioural therapy, was just as effective at preventing recurrence of depression as antidepressants—even for those with a larger risk of relapsing.

For the best results, meditate every day, first thing in the morning. And you can start with just five minutes.

Research has yet to pinpoint the magic time requirement to see these brain changes and improve mental health outcomes. But  ideally you should try to do it every day for 10-12 minutes. Four to fives times per week is great too, if you really can’t get to seven. The key is to be consistent.

A lot of my clients are health conscious, so I equate meditation with going to the gym. Think of meditation as mental fitness, you’re not going to get fit working out one day a week; it needs to be several times a week. We’re changing mental muscles in your brain, and it takes repetition and consistency for those changes to occur. If you’ve never meditated before, start with just five minutes or even just noticing your breathe and being aware. For many people, that’s going to seem like an eternity! Get used to focusing on your breath and stopping your mind when it wanders, and once that five minutes is flying by, increase your time to ten minutes.

 

Rachel x

Please Note: if you are suffering from a mental health condition it is always best to speak to your GP, I have also included in this post links to the mental health charity Mind who can also offer help and advice.  

 

How to practise mindfulness

The practice of mindfulness has the capacity to enrich and transform your life. But how do you actually do it?

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What is mindfulness? How can it be useful to me? 

Long practised by Buddhists, and the bedrock of Eastern psychology, mindfulness is now growing in the West. Perhaps you’ve seen books on the theme, or read about it in the papers. It’s both challenging and exciting those who desire psychological or spiritual change in their lives; or seek to promote it in the lives of others.

Advocates believe this practice can help alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety.

But it is not just a medicine for hard times. More profoundly, it’s a way of living for all, enriching every moment of our lives, whether at work, on holiday or in the shower.

It was Hafiz, the Sufi poet who said: “If you would help me, do not shine a torch on my life – but place in my hands a candle.” So let us see if we can find a candle for ourselves.

Stop thinking

Surprisingly, mindfulness encourages us to stop taking our thoughts seriously. It invites us to stop wandering off into the past or the future.

Instead, we stop thinking and focus on our breathing. We’re quiet, present and watch our thoughts as they arise. Soon, we become aware of the mad restlessness and capricious nature of our minds; and, in time, we begin to take our thoughts less seriously.

This is liberating, as we have been their unquestioning slave for too long. Our thoughts do not always offer us the ‘reality’ we imagine.

Become an explorer

Mindfulness makes explorers of us, and like all explorers we will have to be brave if we wish to discover new lands.

Mindfulness asks a hard question of us: are you willing to experience openly what makes you unhappy?

We tend to shy away from this because the thought of it scares us. And, of course, this is why we became unhappy in the first place, because we were scared. But if we are willing to face things, we will discover a fresh knowing; virgin territory, which restores happiness. If we are not willing to face things, then, sadly, we continue to walk the same mental circles we have always walked. There is a great courage in mindfulness.

Seize the moment

Mindfulness is concerned with the present; with keeping your consciousness alive to the present moment.

This may appear a simple task, but is harder than it sounds. Most of the time, our minds are either taking us back into the past or into the imaginary future. To help us to engage with the present moment, breath work is a great help; this is so because unlike our mind, our breathing is always in the present. So becoming aware of your breathing is a wonderful start to becoming present.

Notice what is now

We are also helped into the present by noticing things. If we’re turning a key in a lock, we notice we are turning a key in a lock; if we’re walking down the street, we notice the shifting cloud formations or the negative feelings arising in us towards a car driver.

It’s about noticing what’s happening now. When we make a cup of tea or do the washing-up without thinking of what we are going to do next, then we are mindful. We are happier when we notice the present and let the future take care of itself.

Protect the space

Add a tablespoon of salt to a glass of water and it makes a significant difference. Add the same spoon of salt to a jug of water and it makes some difference to the taste. Add it to a lake, however, and it hardly affects anything.

Mindfulness makes us larger containers. This happens as we remove from ourselves all the clutter of past and future concerns.

In the present, we have endless inner space, which is a great step towards happiness.

Difficult emotions, like salt, may remain, but their power to affect us is diffused. Previously they could ruin our day, but now they can barely ruin five minutes.

Judge by results

Our judgments of others arise in direct proportion to our self-judgment. But as we allow ourselves to notice self-judgment, we also allow ourselves to be free of it.

People at peace are those who both see and accept the truth of who they are, rather than avoiding it and blaming someone else. Such people are less likely to find fault with others, which diminishes us and them and is always a waste of our time.

Question the negative

We are shaped by what we do with our negative experiences. Depression, for instance, is a turning away from experience in order to avoid emotional pain. Mindfulness doesn’t stop negative thoughts or feelings, but does help us to question their believability. Are these negative feelings quite as solid as they appear? Life is all in the perception; how we perceive events.

Mindfulness practice creates in us a sense of water flowing, things passing through, rather than hard blocks of ice inside us, solid and immovable.

It’s your work

No one can eat lunch for you, and no one can be mindful for you. It’s your work, and your wonder.

Give up your opinions

You cannot be mindful while holding on to your opinions. That’s like trying to keep dry by jumping into the sea.

Don’t censor yourself — accept yourself

As you get in touch with your breathing, thoughts will arise in you, unbidden. Don’t censor them, whatever their nature, but rather allow them all.

In accepting them, you accept yourself. If you censor emotions as they appear, they will bury themselves even deeper within you and you’ll never discover anything you didn’t know already.

If you allow everything, it may well be that you meet what is making you unhappy, but this is good.

How can you say ‘goodbye’ to it until you’ve said ‘hello’?

Rachel x

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