Saturday, 11 March 2017

The goodness of Nature

Feeling stressed, anxious or depressed? Watch birds

Eurasian Jay perched on a branch in the rain

Research shows that there is a disconnect between people and nature in urban settings, leading to anxiety, stress and mood disorders among people. Increased urbanised living and the resultant sedentary lifestyle have been contributing factors to mental health problems in countries around the world.
It makes sense then that a daily dose of nature is good for mental health, particularly for those who live in urban environments. However, which characteristics of nature provide these benefits?
Researchers from the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland proposed one possibility, which is that the greatest benefits would be provided by characteristics that are visible during the day and are most likely to be experienced by people.
Evidence suggests that the availability and quality of neighbourhood green spaces are associated with greater well-being.
The researchers analysed data from 263 people who participated in an urban lifestyle questionnaire online. The participants lived within the urban limits of “Cranfield triangle”, which is a region in southern England. The questionnaire was delivered in May 2014 when the weather was mild and participants were most likely to engage with nature.
The findings were significant and found that people who were able to see birds, shrubs and trees around their home – whether they lived in urban areas or more leafy suburban neighbourhoods – showed reduced symptoms of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and stress.
The study, which surveyed people with different ages, incomes and ethnicities, found that those who spent less time outdoors than usual the previous week were more likely to be depressed and anxious.
The study also found, after an extensive survey of the birds in the region, that people who saw birds in the afternoon reported lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress. The scientists found that the number of birds in the afternoon tends to be lower than those in the morning but afternoon birds are more likely to be seen on a daily basis in their neighbourhood.
Many common types of birds such as blackbirds, robins, blue tits and crows were seen during the study but there was no relationship between the type of bird and mental health. Rather, the number of birds that could be seen from the window, in the garden or in the neighbourhood is what made a difference to mental health in the surveyed participants.
There was a positive association between birds, shrubs and trees and better mental health even after other variables were controlled such as variation in household income, age and other socio-demographic factors.
This research shows that the presence of birds around the home and neighbourhood is an important factor in preventive mental health, which can make cities and urban places healthier and happier places to live.
Immersing yourself in nature is a very healing experience. Even though you may live in an urban environment, having trees and shrubs around you can calm your mind. And, now that research shows how impactful it can be for your mental health and wellbeing, indulging in a spot of bird watching is yet another way to connect with nature and reap its benefits.
Source: BioScience

"Discover the beauty in silence"

Read full article discover the beauty in silence (Wellbeing magazine)

Extract : "The health benefits of silence

Research, mostly done on the effects of meditation and silent prayer, is showing that silence is not only beneficial for your physical, mental and emotional health but critical.
Dr Herbert Benson, an authority on the mind’s ability to affect physical health, coined the term “relaxation response” to describe the physiological state your body is in when you are calm and relaxed but not sleeping. It’s the opposite of the fight-or-flight response that triggers the release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin and has been shown to have a direct beneficial effect on your health.
People who meditate or pray regularly have been shown to reap a number of significant health benefits, from lowered blood pressure to increased immunity and fertility. Neurological imaging studies from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire suggest that the “normal resting state of the brain is a silent current of thoughts, images and memories that is not induced by sensory input or intentional reasoning, but emerges spontaneously from within”.
It has been shown that we have about 80,000 thoughts a day — where in this onslaught do you have time for silence?
Dr Helen E Lees, a research fellow in the Faculty of Education and Theology at York St John University in England and author of Silence in Schools, writes that more and more schools are now incorporating quiet times into the daily schedules of students. This has had a great impact on students’ learning and behaviour with reports that “it calms, focuses and enlivens the pupils”. Silence used to have negative and coercive aspects in schools but is now used as a positive educational tool. Some schools even provide sanctuary rooms or buildings where children can go to be still and silent as a restorative tool.
When you connect with nature in silence you begin the process of healing and rebalancing all bodily systems, from the hormonal to the neurological and cardiovascular as well as the immune system. This in turn benefits you emotionally and mentally, giving an overall sense of wellbeing.

Recognised health benefits

The proven health benefits of silence are that it:
  • lowers blood pressure
  • reduces anxiety
  • increases immunity
  • lowers cortisol and adrenalin
  • reduces pain
  • increases energy
  • increases concentration and mental clarity
  • increases ability to deal with emotional issues
  • improves sleep
  • improves fertility"

Saturday, 25 February 2017

10News speaks to integrative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra


Relevant video about the relashionship in between life style, wellbeing, health and longevity.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Aging, Awareness and Exercise

There are roughly 5 places in the world where people reach, in almost all cases, at least 100 years old and where very few (when it is not none) develop cardiovascular diseases. The model of the social system they live in is based on the same values, although they are from very different ethnicities, continents and cultures:
- live in family clan (the oldest members stay in the family and keep participating in social and family life),
- focus is placed on priorities and true needs,
- eat organic or local grown food,
- no stress or pressure about the future, they live in the present moment and are happy with what they have,
- exercise regularly, most of the time through the work they do (physical work like farming, gardening, building, hunting, fishing, walking to commute, etc.), and keep going at all ages, all life long.
- keep strong connection with the environment and the Nature around, live in harmony with them and in respect of ancestral rituals and cultures,
- use local and ancestral medications, see healers as well.
The Guanacaste in Costa-Rica and the Island Ikaria in Greece belong to these very special rare places in the world.

It seems that our modern civilizations have lost touch with something essential, something that could prevent us to grow old too quickly... We have made the choices of ignoring what we always knew and which is deeply anchored in; the fact that we all have an infinite power to change our life and to reach peace, good health, happiness and serenity... and this power has been put asleep because of new beliefs, needs, desires that the modern society have generated. By making the choice to be moulded by the dictates of the society we have lost touch with our true self. But more and more people around the world have understood the limits of these current social systems and feel the desire of being back to the roots and finding alignment in between what they truly need and want, and what they truly are. We are rediscovering both; body and spirit, and understand that the spirit has the power to heal the body and the body is a tool, a support for the spirit to experiment the matter. If we take care of our body (not in terms of cosmetic aspects, but in terms of healthy choices like for instance; eating well, exercising, resting, meditating) we are already on a spiritual path that can take us as far as we want if we decide so. So by having "a healthy spirit in a healthy body" our chances to experiment the matter at its best are much greater, so are our chances of raising awareness on what's possible to achieve to slow down the aging process.

Deepak Chopra explains in his excellent book "Ageless body Timeless mind" that we can control the way we grow old and exercising largely contributes to it. Here is an extract of this book which tells a lot :
"When you start to assert control over any bodily process, the effect is holistic. The mind-body system reacts to every single stimulus as a global event; i.e., to stimulate one cell is to stimulate all (....) As one Noble laureate put it, "if you tickle the field here, it laughs over there." The fact that awareness behaves like a field is now deemed crucial to understanding aging.

On a wider scale, Walter M.Boritz, a senior Standford physician who specializes in aging, has coined the term disuse syndrome to describe how negligence in paying attention to the body's basic needs, particularly the need for physical activity, can destroy health and lead to premature aging. It is a well-known principal in physiology that any part of the body that falls into disuse will begin to atrophy and wither away.

Boritz took the next step and discovered that this effect was body-wide, spreading beyond the cardiovascular system. When a person decides to give up physical activity, he essentially invites his entire physiology to atrophy. As a result a constellation of problems appears:
1 heart, arteries and other parts of the cardiovascular system become more vulnerable.
2 muscles and skeleton become more fragile
3 obesity becomes a high risk
4 depression sets in
5 signs of premature aging indicate that the body is biologically older than its calendar years

The physical deterioration on this list are not surprising, but it seems unusual that being inactive, in and of itself, would lead to depression, long considered a disorder of mood of personality. However, studies from the Russian space program have found that young cosmonauts subjected to the forced inactivity of space flight fall prey to depression; when put on a schedule of regular exercise, this depression is avoided. The brain mechanism that controls depression appears to lie with a class of neurochemicals called catecholamines. In depressed patents, whose levels of catecholamines are abnormally low, healthy levels can be restored by giving anti-depressant drugs, but the natural way to accomplice this is through regular exercise.

Being holistic, exercise sends chemical messages back and forth between the brain and various muscle groups, part of this flow of biochemical information stimulates the production of catecholamines. Thus, whenever a doctor writes a prescription for antidepressant, Boritz declares, he is handling out a proxy for the boby's own inner prescription, which is filled by exercise.

The news that exercise offsets aging has been well publicized, although it is preventive on depression may not be as well known. What is far more fascinating, however, it is that underlying logic -function precedes structure- can be extended to say that awareness proceeds function. In other words, the parts of the body that age (losing structure) are not just the ones that are not being used enough (losing function); the person has also withdrawn his awareness from them."

Saturday, 11 February 2017

How meditation can improve our fitness

Meditating on a regular basis can truly transcend our workout and bring big benefit to our exercise regime .

First by learning through meditation how to be present in the moment we become aware of physical sensations like breathing or feeling our heart beating, feeling of heat or cold in the body, blood flowing, etc. By extrapolating this awareness to our workouts we can manage our effort better as our breathing and heart rate will give us the measure of where we are standing in our effort, so we can monitor the effort much better and push when we understand that the body is ready to push or recover when we understand the signals that the body sends us to slow down.

Second by focusing on the present moment while we exercise we forget about the rest of the day, only now counts. So your session will be much more efficient; your focus on the technique will maximize the immediate benefit and contribute to progress quicker on the middle to long term. You will also get a bigger sense of satisfaction as you'll be working in full consciousness integrating the sense of the effort and the power you are generating at that very moment and also the sense of being alive and the sense of pleasure.

You also can recover quicker thanks to deep breathings learnt through meditation (very useful when doing a High Intensity Interval training workout)

Third, it brings a spiritual dimension to the workout, you acknowledge the pleasure and you thank for it, you feel one with everything around, sending and receiving positive energy and feeling the love around :)

It also helps to recover quickly in between fitness sessions and to get more efficient energy to put into the next one!!!

Gregg Braden Unprecedented Interview.

Grey Barden is a wonderful orator. With simple words, much love and generosity he shares in this video how we can change our life and feel at peace and happy, how we can heal ourselves also how we can make the whole world a better living place.