Lifestyle

Healthy Scalp, Healthy Hair

Close up of scalp and hair

We think nothing of putting a lot of effort, time, and money on cuts, highlights, blow dries, buying the latest shampoos conditioners and styling products. Anything to avoid the dreaded bad hair day. Yet as any trichologist or hairdresser will tell you, glossy, shiny, voluminous hair is borne of a healthy scalp and, holistically thinking, a healthy body too. Of course when we look in the mirror, we’re dealing with the superficial and the right styling products are crucial to get our hair behaving and swooshing in all the right ways, but they’re similar to make-up in the way that they enhance what’s already there. Read More…

Healing Waters

healing-water

We all know that water is essential to life – and these days so much is made of staying hydrated. it does make sense when you think that the average adult is 65% water, and that it is a huge multi-tasker in the the body. It’s a building block for cells; helps to regulate internal temperature and the metabolism; it’s a primary component of saliva (where digestion begins); lubricates joints and helps to flush out waste via the kidneys. So no wonder the big wellness mantra of our time continues to be ‘drink more water’.

However, it’s the one health habit I personally struggle with, hence I use all kinds of ways to trick myself into drinking more. In the winter it’s hot water with lemon, and lots of herbal teas; summer, it’s room temperature with fresh cucumber and or mint. Sometimes I’ll add a little food grade rose water to my glass when I need a general pick-me-up. And though I know some might dismiss the idea of buying bottled waters, and most of the time, I’d agree it’s not the most sustainable thing in the world. And yet a good bottled mineral water tastes way better than tap to me, so I sometimes indulge (maybe even with a bit of fizz!).

Recently, I’ve been sipping on a whole host of new health waters. Having drunk my way through the coconut water fad, I was a little sceptical when I first heard about Birch water until a Lithuanian friend of mine told me it has been used for centuries in her country as a tonic in spring to revive after a long winter (likewise in Russia and Nordic countries). When I tasted it, I was surprised how much I loved it – kind of sweet/sour, a little bit medicinal yet very restorative and refreshing. Much more so than plain water. Maybe it’s no coincidence I’ve always loved silver birch trees, so being able to imbibe a bit of their goodness and beauty makes sense – and especially refreshing right now as spring gets into full swing.

Apparently, the sap is literally ‘tapped’ from the bark of silver birch trees as it rises full of nutrients post winter, and its sweetness comes from naturally occurring xylitol. The brand Sibberi blend theirs from birch tree forests in Finland, Latvia and Lithuania. They’ve now introduced Maple Water which has less sugar than coconut water, and Bamboo Water which contains silica renowned for its ability to boost skins natural glow. Tapped use Finnish birch sap in their collection which includes a deliciously delicate traditional Scandi berry flavour called Wild Bilberry & Wild Lingonberry.

Alongside hipster tree waters, you can now also sip in the power of flowers. Many of us are familiar with Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, created in the 1930‘s by Dr Edward Bach who is credited for modernising this ancient practice used in many traditional cultures throughout the world, including Australian bushmen and Native Americans. The method captures the energy, emotion and healing properties of flowers in bloom by floating them in water and allowing sunlight to help the goodness diffuse.

I’ve always been a big fan of sprays you can use in the atmosphere and drops to ingest and now a company called Conscious Water have made little concentrated sachets of flower essences you can drop into plain water so you can drink in the benefits. The packaging is a real delight – Japanese in detail – the box even contains mini wooden stirrers to mix in your essence. There are six flavours – my favourites are happiness which has a brightness I reach for to elevate my mood. It contains Purple Magnolia which heightens the senses, and Snowdrop which helps to boost enthusiasm. Also clarity on deadline days – it has Blue Lupin for focus and makes knuckling down to work a little smoother. The Variety Pack is well worth getting to try them all.

So now there’s no excuse for me – or any of us – miss out on our 6-8 glasses a day.

The (Unexpected) Benefits Of Meditation

the-unexpected-benefits-of-meditation

Many of us are instinctively drawn to meditation these days – it’s the much touted anti-dote to modern day life. However, not so many of us are actually able to do it every day, and stick to it. In my case, it remained as just another thing on my to do list for ages simply because in the back of my mind, it seemed like a waste of time to just ‘sit still’ for ten minutes each morning. The truth is even if we do get started it is hard to keep it up – some of the most disciplined yogis do fall off the wagon.

For me, it was a gradual start. I began to realise I enjoyed the breathing exercises and Shavasana (relaxation) part of yoga classes, and I went on to explore these and other meditative practices at home. I instantly reaped big bonuses, such as sleeping better, having more energy and this gave me the impetus to practice regularly. Little and often. Then I began to hit a real gold mine of deeper benefits which I’ve written about here. There are many more. And the experience will be different for each one of us, but I hope these less talked about perks will inspire you to begin or kick start your meditation practice. Read More…

Owning Our Own Bodies

own-our-own-bodies-2

As children, we’re very connected to our physical bodies – all being well, we move freely, our bodily functions happen naturally. Once our minds start kicking in there’s a sense of disconnection: our thoughts start to take control, we start to care about what others think. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are shaped by everything around us – our home environment, the food we eat, the emotions we experience and the wider influence of the culture and the society we grow up in. When we’re young, most of us are encouraged to be active, but often once we leave school, this falls by the wayside.

I’m a typical example of this. I enjoyed country dancing, going swimming, playing netball, tennis and rounders at school, but this faded away in my teens as I got interested in parties, going to the cinema, boys. By the time I went to college and got my dream job on a magazine, I found myself sitting at my desk writing for long periods. There was a certain amount of running around for interviews, going on photo shoots and appointments, but there didn’t seem to be any time for exercise beyond that. In any case life was so full and fun, I didn’t think about doing any formal classes or activities. In fact, I’d begun to consider myself as no good at sports, and now I can see that I lost confidence in my body and that this had quite an effect not only on how I saw myself, but also how I treated myself. Read More…

The Spa Cure

the-spa-cure-catherine-turner

The New Year usually sends us off on a diet and detox frenzy. It’s entirely natural after the Christmas excess to want to give our bodies a break, yet at the same time, starving ourselves in the depths of winter doesn’t seem to make sense. After all, the first months of the year can be the toughest to get through. However, my recent experience of an authentic spa cure in the Italian Alps gave me a whole new understanding of what it means to detox and that actually, the classic no-fad approach to this really works. After a week of clean eating, fresh air, deep breathing, massage, thermal mud baths and early to bed, my body, digestion and energy levels are transformed.

My first light bulb moment was thinking about it in terms of the chemistry of the body, because that helps to give meaning to the concept of ‘toxins’. In order to function normally, the body needs energy which it gets by breaking down everything we eat and drink. That process involves a cascade of chemical reactions in order to assimilate essential nutrients from everything we ingest and the Doctors showed me diagrams of pathways way more complicated than my ‘o’ level biology/chemistry allowed me to understand, but suffice to say our digestion is a complex, delicately balanced engine. The bi-products produced by these chemical processes are dealt with via our excretory organs (liver, kidneys etc). The more we take in things the body doesn’t ‘need’ or ‘recognise’ in terms of nutrients – such as excess sugar, medication, unnecessary chemicals – bi-products (aka toxins) are produced which if not released are stored in our bodies (in fat cells, for example).

Revelation number two is that our lungs are one of our excretory organs – because exhalation is also a way our bodies get rid of toxins. Back to ‘o’ level biology and the idea of inhaling oxygen, exhaling carbon dioxide. We also exhale other chemical molecules (again, generically ‘toxins’), especially when detoxing which is why we often notice our breath smelling when we have a change of diet. Likewise, skin is also a route the body uses to excrete bodily waste via sweat. And remember the skin is the body’s largest organ.

So why is detoxing important and not just a ‘lose weight’ fad? Long story short – continually eating a poor diet alongside exposure to environmental pollutants (in household cleaners, city pollution, certain beauty products) causes the body to ‘dump’ toxins in order to cope with overload. This leads to a myriad of symptoms from inflammation of the joints to IBS and allergies, and in the longer term can contribute to the development of more serious disease. My week long detox cured my increasingly aching right hip – which I had put down to desk posture – but that the expert massage ‘technician’ at the spa thought was inflammation.

The overall lesson from this is that we need to respect how we treat our bodies. That’s not to say we can’t enjoy ourselves – this is not about counting calories or being the perfect size 10, but protecting our long term health. And, thankfully, we can all adopt some very simple spa cure tricks into our New Year routines which will go towards healthy detoxing without having to punish ourselves.

Begin with the skin:

  • Body brush for a couple of minutes on dry skin before you shower. Temple Spa Giving It The Brush Off, £16 is a handy size which is easy to use. Use smooth sweeping movements towards the heart. This gets rid of dead skin cells and boosts circulation.
  • If you’ve a good power shower use it as a spa-style water jet to massage up your legs, around the hips belly and stomach. You could even give yourself a cold burst at the end to really rev things up.
  • Take a mineral rich bath by adding some salts. The crystals in Kneipp Muscle Soother Juniper Bath Salts, £8.95 are made from thermal spring salt water with typical Alpine herbs of juniper which helps to remove uric acid from the body and wintergreen which is a natural analgesic to help relieve muscle aches and pains.
  • Follow up with self-massage using oil and concentrating on joints and stiffer areas. Make it a nurturing ritual by splashing out on De Mamiel Salvation Body Oil, £75. It is hand-blended using the highest quality plant oils such as Baobab, Argan, Camellia, Rosehip and Coconut all rich in essential fatty acids to nourish skin, plus perfume grade essential oils of frankincense, bergamot, myrrh and jasmine which give it its heavenly, skin and soul-affirming aroma.
  • When you have time, consider a mud wrap or mask to really give yourself the spa treatment – generally masks help to relax the muscles and skin to encourage transpiration. Hungarymud, £20 is an authentic thermal mud full of minerals which help to increase circulation to the muscles, as well as having and anti-inflammatory effect on nerves, joints and muscles.

Other spa cure tricks:

  • Eat only freshly prepared food – no pre-packaged anything. It takes effort at first, but you’ll be surprised how easy this is, and how it makes a massive difference to the amount of sugar and salt you consume. Gradually you’ll appreciate the flavours of natural foods and less likely to crave sweets, cakes, crisps and overly salty foods.
  • Drink lots of hot herbal teas. There are lots of therapuetic ones around – so try lots and choose ones you love to drink. Pukka Detox Organic Herbal Tea, £4.58 contains aniseed and fennel great for digestion. Dr Stuart’s Detox Tea, £4.40 has dandelion, artichoke and milk thistle which are good for detoxing the liver.
  • Get out into green space and deep breathe in fresh air. Try this cleansing breath exercise: place both hands at your lower belly. Breathe in through the nose allowing your belly to expand like a Buddha, exhale through the mouth. Repeat six times.

Feeling Frazzled

feeling-frazzled-lifestyle

Lately, I’ve been using the word frazzled more and more to describe the way my brain feels after a day of work at the computer, or even just down time spent surfing the net on my phone. Believe me, I am not glued to screens like some. In fact, I avoid social media, and switch to ‘airplane mode’ as much as possible. However, the fact is, we cannot avoid the 24/7 streaming of information (whether it’s work, pleasure, good news, bad news), and undeniably, it is affecting us. Basically, it’s a hi-tech form of stress – our brains are having to process the enormous amount of information thrown at us by the speeded up digital technology we use everyday. Read More…