2019 Resolutions And Solutions

Old typewriter close up with "New Year Chapter One" typed on paper

I always look forward to the start of a new year for that feeling of a clean slate it gives and the opportunity to do better and more. I have always loved making resolutions too, not unrealistic or unattainable ones that I have no intention of keeping, but personal goals and exciting plans that help me shape how I want the year to go.

Last year didn’t work out at all how I had planned and while I am still dealing with some of the health issues involved in that, I am now in a much better place and ready to take on 2019. When thinking about what I want my resolutions to be, I quickly realised that it was all about self-care and wellness, which makes sense considering how sick I have been.

One of the biggest things that went “wrong” last year was that I didn’t look after myself enough. I pushed and pushed until I couldn’t go any further and put off looking after myself because I didn’t prioritise my own wellbeing. This year I plan to do things completely differently. I have learned the hard way that health and wellness is a precious gift that needs to be nurtured and I plan to do just that.

Basically my goal is to simply get back on track — with my health, my life, my happiness and everything else that I abandoned over the past twelve months. Ultimately I just want to feel well again and repair the damage I did to myself, and these are the resolutions that I hope will help me do exactly that. I have kept them simple with no pressure inducing timelines and in a way, they are all linked. I have also included solutions so that my resolutions are more concrete and achievable, which I think will help me feel more capable of following through.

Hormone Balance

Resolution: As a woman in my thirties this is such an important component to overall good health. Having hormonal irregularities has affected so many areas of my life from the obvious menstrual cycle related issues, to the not so obvious ones like when I sleep and how long for, what I eat and how much of it and other issues I will talk more about soon.

Solution: Balancing your hormones can be tricky, so it’s extremely important to consult a doctor and get your levels checked. Once that’s done you can make a plan to get them in order and that can involve medication, supplements, food and exercise. For me, I will be keeping track of my blood sugar levels, (hopefully) sleeping more at night and introducing female health supportive supplements.

I am currently taking Endo Complex and Fertility from Wild Nutrition because both contain an excellent mix of ingredients essential for women’s health with the addition of hormone support through B6, N-Acetyl Cysteine and Cordyceps (Fertility), and oestrogen clearance (Endo Complex). I will also be eliminating or at the very least limiting my sugar and dairy intake as both affect my hormone levels.

I plan to get several checks throughout the year to track my progress so I can have a better understanding of what causes my hormonal fluctuations and then learn how to minimize and manage them going forward.

Skintelligence

Resolution: Skincare is my thing and looking after my skin is something I truly enjoy. Testing products, reading about ingredients and experimenting with new routines is not a chore to me and I love the process of it all. Last year unfortunately I used too much, tried too many things, played around too carelessly and my skin did not like that one bit. For 2019 I want to find a balance between enjoying all the new launches and putting my skin first.

Solution: Last year I started to be more thoughtful than ever when it comes to skincare. Excess was in and it just didn’t work for me. I became acutely aware of how damaging the need to have and try all the products can be for our skin and mental health and I did not want to be a part of it anymore. When I got sick I had virtually no time for new products let alone the ones I already had, but what I learned was that my skin was actually pretty okay with less — less products, less routines. It was all about finding the right ingredients for my skin and not over using them.

Thanks to the excellent Garden of Wisdom range I have been able to simplify my routine yet still see great results. In particular the PHA PlusMandelic Acid 10%Alpha Arbutin 2% and Kojic Acid 1% and 100% Prickly Pear Seed Oil have done so much for my skin, even without using them every day. That’s because instead of jumping on every new launch, I have focused on the ingredients that I know work well for my skin. Finding what works for you when it comes to skincare is definitely a journey that will take some time and experimentation, but it is worth it in the end.

Mane Attraction

Resolution: I really neglected my hair last year and this is something I want to change in 2019. At the beginning of the year I was just too busy to bother with it much and then since last summer I have been too sick to do anything beyond a perfunctory wash and air dry, which isn’t the best look for me (my hair is curly with some frizz). I have also experienced some shedding/thinning due to my illness and suddenly a lot more greys than I started the year with. I’m a Leo and the stereotype of my astrology sign loving their hair is somewhat true for me, so I want to start taking care of it again.

Solution: As many of you already know from personal experience, the launch of Ful.Vic Health was a big one and I have finally jumped on board. I just started using the shampooconditioner and mist, and I am in love. The range targets hair loss, shedding and thinning, as well as scalp support and follicle repair. This is exactly what I need and I have already started seeing a difference. With each wash I see less fall out and my hair is so much smoother and softer, even without using a hair dryer or straightener.

Hair care is definitely an inside-out job, so along with these topical products I will also start using the Elixir and making sure I’m getting enough scalp and hair supporting vitamins and minerals, which I should be thanks to the Wild Nutrition supplements. I might even treat myself to Hayo’u’s Beauty Restorer Comb as it is designed to promote healthy hair and reduce stress, and in my experience the two are linked – the more stressed I am, the more shedding I notice. I also plan to get my vitamin and mineral levels tested, so I can track the changes and any improvements myself.

Sleep Well

Resolution: Sleep is crucial for optimal health and fully functional living, and it is something I have been doing poorly the whole of last year. Continually having poor sleep has made dealing with an illness even more stressful and on top of that it sucked the joy out of things I used to love. I would find myself too tired to hang out with friends, falling asleep during movies or after reading a few paragraphs, and it just made me feel like I was dragging myself through each day like a zombie. I am the type of person who thrives on more sleep not less, so my plan is to make that a priority again.

Solution: What I have found is that getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done. Even when I find myself exhausted and barely able to stay awake at 7 pm, once I am actually in bed and ready to sleep I can’t. I will be wide awake until 5 am and then absolutely shattered when my alarm goes off a few hours later.

Sleep is so important because it is the time when the body gets to rest, repair and restore itself, so without that most people won’t be able to feel their best. Knowing how essential sleep is to good health I plan to make my evenings more structured and deliberate. I will set a time to switch off from stimulating devices and begin a wind down routine that will help signal to my body that it’s time to sleep. For me this will include things like having a bath, wearing cosy pyjamas, reading a book and meditation.

I absolutely love listening to Soul Medicine before bed to help me relax and unwind and now that winter is officially here, it’s time to start using my beloved Space Masks again, which are brilliant for getting off to sleep quicker thanks to the soothing heat. Not only that, having my eyes covered means I’m less likely to be enticed by my phone whenever it vibrates or glows. De Mamiel also have a lovely sounding sleep range that I’m going to look in to and supplements like Magnolia Rhiodola and Magnesium have helped in the past, so I am taking those again.

Good sleep is a process and something that has to be learned and maintained, so achieving it is not something that will happen overnight, but if you can commit to a schedule of sleeping and waking and keeping your bedroom free of distractions, you will find that you will start to fall in to a natural pattern and when that happens it will be bliss. No more sleepless nights and exhausted days — just deep, restorative sleep that will help you feel and live better.

As you can see, my resolutions are pretty simple, but they are all linked. Improving my sleep will help with my hormones and balancing those will in turn help my hair and skin. The goal is to basically feel like myself again and that involves feeling good on the inside and out as well as finding my way back to joy. Self-care is important for mental and physical health and for me, that’s my aim for 2019 — looking after myself properly and committing to making my needs a priority. No matter what your resolutions for 2019 are, I hope they are ones that make you feel good and look forward to the year.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

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I was never one of those kids who was afraid of the dark. I loved the cloak of invisibility that it gave me. And while there is nothing I love more than a bright, sunny day, I have become pretty obsessed with darkness over the years – not in an ominous way (as in ‘going over to the dark side’), but in terms of the important role it plays in my wellness.

You really ought to stay in a hotel room with me, sometime, to fully understand my obsession with darkness. I travel with a roll of black gaffer tape, the better to ensure a good night’s sleep undisturbed by the cockpit’s-worth of blinking lights that many modern hotel rooms feature. My first task, on checking in (even before switching on the kettle and attacking the free shortbread), is to eliminate as many of those lights as possible with two neatly-snipped squares of gaffer tape. Message lights on phones. TV control lights. Aircon on/off lights. Charging electrical gadgets. And of course, the light ‘leaking’ through the edges of the curtains.

What I’ve discovered is that gaffer tape can also be lightly stuck to pretty much any wallpaper (well, I mightn’t try it on a gold hand-painted mural) without damaging it. So yes, I am that weird (maybe certifiable) creature who gaffer-tapes the edges of the curtains to the hotel room walls – the most extreme example of which was in a ‘presidential suite’ a hotel once upgraded me to when they’d lost my booking. Last done up in the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency, is my guess, it featured ‘shortie’ curtains that ran along the entire 10-metre window which I then taped every inch to the wall. Exactly what kind of bondage game housekeeping thought I’d been up to when the found the tape I’d peeled off in the morning and put it in the bin, I’ve no idea – but I did enjoy a really good night’s sleep. (Why don’t I just wear a sleep mask? Because – along with earplugs – I find them a bit claustrophobic. Fine on an aeroplane when there’s no alternative, but otherwise, a no-no for me.)

By now, you may well think I’m completely tonto. But in reality, light has a profound effect on sleep. I realise I’m an extreme example in terms of how even a small level of light affects me deeply, but it’s been scientifically observed that insufficient darkness throughout the night can lead to frequent, long periods of wakefulness. Of course, we’re increasingly aware of the impact of the blue light from our phones on sleep; I’ve written before about the fact that if I look at my phone (never mind computer) after about 8.30 pm, it’s the equivalent of drinking an espresso in terms of the effect on my slumber. But experts now agree that bedrooms should be as dark as possible – which includes (as we do at home) having blackout linings to curtains, and ensuring window coverings are fitted to avoid slivers of street light or early morning light from seeping in. (Ah, so that’s why the pelmet was invented…!)

According to Cheng Chi Lee, who studies circadian rhythms at University of Texas Medical School, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests we should seek out darkness for its surprising effects on health and behaviour. There’s one particularly fascinating study in which tamoxifen was used on cancer cells in mice. One control group was kept kept in cycles of 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of complete darkness, while another the dark stage of the experiment was replaced with roughly the amount of light that might sneak under a hospital door. Even in such low levels, the cancer cells became resistant to the drug. And although this medical research was carried out on mice (and no, I’m not thrilled about that either), the scientists from Tulane University in New Orleans believe it could have implications for how cancer patients receive their treatment.

It’s well known that interfering with workers’ body clocks, meanwhile, can seriously impact on health. My hunch is that the winking lights in bedrooms and sleep environments will eventually be revealed to be more damaging than we currently understand. (But if you must have a clock with the time on? Make sure it has red digits, rather than blue or green; it’s been found to have the least impact on sleep.)

We were never built to live in such light environments as we enjoy now. For millions of years, people went to bed when it got dark and woke when it was light. Even now, when we’re lucky enough to find ourselves in nature, somewhere truly dark – and I support the Dark Skies movement, a campaign to eliminate light pollution – we feel connected to the universe in a way that feels truly primitive and (for me, at least) very, very grounding.

So while I’m eternally grateful to Thomas Edison for the invention of the light bulb – just miraculous, eh?! –it doesn’t surprise me at all to find that these unnatural, albeit low levels of night-time light may have impact on our wellbeing. If asked to make a list of our basic survival needs, food and water of course come top. Warmth, too. But I certainly know that darkness is essential for my quality of sleep, and my overall equilibrium. So if the Gaffer Tape Marketing Board is looking for a new ‘face’, I’m your woman.

Night, everyone. And lights out!

How To Maximise Your Fitness Routine

Exercise Routine

‘Getting fit’ is one of the most popular new year resolutions and it’s also one of the quickest to be broken. While there’s always an onslaught of new and inventive ways to encourage us to workout in January, few of us make it past February before we give up the early morning run or lunchtime gym sessions.

Yet, research continues to highlight the health benefits of working out. Recent research suggests that working out three times or for a total of 100 minutes per week could help reduce your brain age by a whopping 10 years when you pair it with a balanced diet. A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine also suggested that exercise, including walking, jogging, swimming and cycling, could be just as effective as drugs at lowering blood pressure.

The biggest fitness trends for 2019 are more attuned to our hectic lifestyles and easier to slot in, so whether you’ve got a full hour or just 15 minutes to spare there’s some form of movement that will work for you.

The top fitness trends for 2019

On demand

If you struggle to slot a 45-minute spin class into your schedule twice a week, then it’s worth exploring the world of fitness streaming. Plenty of gyms and instructors offer live streaming sessions or short videos that you can do at-home or from a hotel room if you’re a frequent traveller. ClassPass has recently launched its version of live streaming called ClassPass Live.

Slide and glide

For A-list fitness trainer Dalton Wong, 2019 is all about the glider. Not only does it give you a full body workout, but it’s also low intensity, so you don’t have to worry about putting extra strain on your knees, hips and back. Following the success of his Mini Band Workout last year, Wong has just launched his Glider Workout. ‘It’s designed to improve posture, tone and shape the body, and the workout actively targets the main problem areas – core, hips, thighs, bum, triceps and back – for total body conditioning,’ says Wong. The kit comes complete with two gliders and a 60-page manual that’s packed full of exercise routines. 

Versatile yoga

With self-care, or total wellbeing as it’s being dubbed for 2019, still resonating with most of us, the practice of yoga has become more prominent. Expect to see yoga and meditation hybrid classes rolling out across the country. From restorative yin practices to more vigorous power and flow yoga, the classes are designed to work on a physical and mental level to ensure you switch off and feel fully zen before you step off the mat. 

Functional fitness

It’s a trend that has been around for the past few years, but functional fitness is going to be just as big in 2019 and will be readily available everywhere. Generally speaking, functional fitness is anything that helps improve your balance, coordination and strength to support the movements and motions we do on daily basis without even thinking about them. For example, a squat would fall under the functional category because it strengthens your core and back, which makes bending down in day-to-day life easier.

Team work

Sociable workouts are on the rise. It’s less about solitary sessions on the treadmill and more about coming together as part of a class. Whether it’s a running club or signing up for a group spin class where you’re heart rate is on show and you cycle as a pack to hit a specific target, this year is definitely about working together to reach our fitness goals. 

How can you maximise your exercise routine?

Whether you’re a regular runner, keen cyclist or just about to dip your toe into the world of fitness, here are some tips to get the most out of your workout:

AM or PM

It’s often assumed that exercising in the morning is better for your body as it sets you up for the day ahead. However, if you’re more of a night owl and would rather spend an extra hour in bed, you’ll be pleased to hear that a recent study suggests that it doesn’t matter when you workout. Exercising in the evening won’t affect your ability to fall asleep – especially if it’s a relaxing yoga session.

Stretch it out

Sometimes it’s tempting to skip the last five minutes of your cardio class or not bother to stretch out your muscles after a long run, but pretty much every fitness expert strongly advocates some form of stretching following a workout. Not only does it improve your posture by loosening tight muscles and reduce the risk of injury and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), but stretching will also help calm your mind.

Relax your muscles

If you’re someone that always suffers with DOMS a couple of days after working out, it’s worth booking into a yoga class the following day to help stretch out your muscles and flush out any lactic acid or enlist the help of Magnesium Oil Original Flakes by Better You. A 20 minute soak in the bath with these can help soothe sore, tight muscles and leave you feeling fully relaxed. If you don’t have a bath, it’s worth considering the Magnesium Body Butter, which has the extra benefit of leaving your skin feeling soft and smooth too.

Treat yourself

It’s easy to go into any new exercise routine with the ‘good hard or go home’ mindset, but don’t forget to give yourself some leeway every now and again. ‘Still enjoy the odd beer, wine or your food of choice- it’s not meant to be a miserable process!’ says fitness trainer Matt Roberts.

The Wellness Formula That Helped Me Heal The Past

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At the end of last month’s article I mentioned some metaphysical “work” I had been doing to help with my current physical and mental health struggles and today I want to dive in to exactly what I have been doing and why because it has helped me so much. Everything I have been doing is completely new to me and will probably be to you too, but I have had such a profound experience with it that I had to share.

I consider myself to be a plausible believer (I’m a Leo) when it comes to my approach to life’s mysteries. I like a balance of science and philosophy, but tend to err towards philosophy as my experiences have taught me that science can only teach us so much about the human condition. A lot of the things we think, feel and believe, which make up who we are as people cannot be explained or fixed by doctors and medicine, at least that’s what I have found.

Saying that, I was skeptical of the new techniques my sister had discovered and very reluctant to give them a try. On the surface they seemed no different to every other new age/spiritual self-help jargon out there, but my sister (who is a Pisces) felt like she had found something special and she wasn’t wrong. The community is called Free & Native and the founder, Lacy Phillips, calls herself a Manifestation Advisor. I know exactly what you’re thinking because I thought them too, but bear with me.

One of the things I really liked about Phillips’ theories and approach is how different it is to popular “law of attraction” philosophies, which I found too contradictory to be reasonable. On the one hand the Universe is this all-knowing, magical entity, but on the other it doesn’t know the difference between what you do or do not want. Or my favourite one, positive thoughts are a thousand times more powerful than negative ones, yet one negative thought can stop anything good that was about to happen to you. Confusing, right?

Even though The Formula is essentially about manifestation, it goes far beyond using visualisation and positivity or gratitude to get what you want. It delves in to the core of our experiences and programming as children (0-14 years old) and how they shape who we are as adults. This is what really made a difference to me. My sister bought three “workshops”, but the one I want to talk about is “Reparenting”, which focuses on dealing with childhood trauma or negative experiences.

“Reparent” is a workshop “centered on filling the biggest gaps of limiting beliefs, lack and dimmed magnetism stemming from childhood” specifically between the ages of 0-14 years old, which Phillips believes is where a lot of low self worth conditioning and imprinting comes from. It includes journal prompts and “Deep Imaginings”, where she guides you into a hypnotic state to really open up your subconscious and re-programme neural pathways. This neuroplasticity is described as “forming new pathways by weakening old ones” and that “repeated and directed attention towards one’s desired change” can rewire one’s brain. The idea of rewiring my brain through the Deep Imaginings was something that seemed impossible, but it happened to me.

My experience with “neuroplasticity” came completely out of the blue. One afternoon a few months ago when I was feeling particularly sick, my sister set up a mediation room for me so I could rest until the pain had passed. I lied down and decided to listen to ‘Being Loved’ from Soul Medicine, which is one of my favourite of the tracks from the brilliant founder of ila and ilapothecary. As the sounds began to play I found my mind wondering to my Grandmother, a deeply damaged woman and someone who had caused me great pain up until her death and even beyond. Then without even meaning to I was seeing an alternative reality of her life where I picked her up at the hospital as a newborn, took her home, cared for her and raised her.

I have no idea where all that came from and I know it sounds pretty unremarkable in the limited way I can described it in this space, but it was truly one of the most profound and transformative experiences of my life. What I saw felt real/true and the emotions it evoked were vivid and authentic. I suddenly understood and knew so much more about her and our lives that years of logic and conventional therapies never touched.

Most importantly, my feelings about her and what she had done had completely changed. I still had the same thoughts and memories, but I couldn’t connect with them in the same way. They were detached from me and even now, when I think of her and what happened between us I know all the same things, but I just can’t feel the same way about them anymore.

I know this probably sounds very “woo woo”, but there is science behind this, especially when it comes to Soul Medicine. I believe it was the catalyst to my Deep Imagining because it’s based on energy, vibrations and frequencies. Not only that, the Sanskrit sound ‘ma’ is an ancient syllable of healing. You can read more about that here and if you haven’t tried sound therapy I highly recommend it. Soul Medicine has incorporated healing frequencies that deal with many issues like conflict resolution, deep relaxation, hormonal changes and more.

Going back to my change in “neuroplasticity” I can certainly say that something within me regarding this particular issue in my life has changed. It hasn’t been some mystical quick fix or anything like that, but there has been a palpable shift that has allowed me to let go of this past trauma. To use the language of Free & Native, I feel reprogrammed, unblocked and healed.

My experience created a significant change allowing me to work through parts of my childhood (and my adult life) which needed forgiveness, maturity, compassion and a new perspective. As I have done more of the work I have been able to “rewire” everything from a deep betrayal to life after death, to my relationships with the people who mean the most to me. And some of the most healing work has involved my adult self reparenting my younger self — working though traumatic experiences and being the source of understanding and compassion that I did not have at the time.

Sometimes I journal, which has been really healing but often times I imagine myself as I am now — with all the knowledge and life I have, explaining moments to myself as a child and rewiring my experience of each triggering instance, reprogramming it and allowing myself to heal and move on from it. It is definitely “outside the box”, but I don’t think it is that much different to practices like writing down your thoughts and feelings or breathing exercises that might be prescribed by a traditional counsellor.

Of course, this won’t be for everyone and it isn’t perfect (the price may be prohibitive to many people although there is a lot of free content), but the wellness trend is not stopping. Like Victoria just wrote about here, the concept of self-care is evolving into total wellbeing. For me, this is exactly that — another complementary tool to aid my innate desire to feel well, inside and out, in mind and body.

Overall, what I’ve found incredibly helpful and insightful in Phillip’s work is her focus on self worth, reparenting and working through any aspects of yourself that have been rejected and how that relates to the way you live your life. I have only just started my journey and I have already learned and experienced so much, which is why even if you have no interest in “manifesting” or new age self-help, the tools in this program are excellent for dealing with old issues in new ways.

On Not Giving A Damn What People Think

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I grew up with a grandmother who cared a lot about what people thought of her. She was a wonderful woman – incredibly generous, pillar of the various communities where she lived, from India to Malaya to New York and finally, the Cotswolds. But in all the years I knew her, I don’t think she ever truly relaxed – to the point I’m not sure I actually did know the ‘real’ her. Read More…