The big toothbrush problem

The first plastic toothbrush made with nylon yarn went on sale on February 24, 1938.

Take a moment to think of all of the plastic toothbrushes that were made between 1938 and now. Then consider that ALL of those plastic toothbrushes still exist today. And they will continue to sit as landfill for a very long time.

This is particularly significant as we need to change our toothbrush every 3 months.

Hint: Change your toothbrush at the turn of the new season. HAPPY SPRINGTIME for my fellow Southern Hemisphere folks. Happy autumn to those in the Northern Hemisphere!

This spring (tomorrow) I shall be changing my toothbrush from plastic to bamboo.

Use code VICK_Y15 for 15% off your purchases at Sandcloud (click the image to get to the site)

These Sandcloud bamboo toothbrushes are so sturdy and light. They feel comfy and the biggest plus is that they decompose just like any other natural material.

For my readers I have this Sandcloud referral link for 15% off storewide (including the bamboo toothbrushes)!

Circadian Rhythms and their dance with mood disorders

How good are you at keeping to a sleep schedule? How important is sleep to you, personally? It might be surprising to know that sleep is far more important for your health than you realise. It’s all down to the circadian rhythms in your body.

Circadian rhythms are involved in many aspects of behaviour and physical health. This includes regulating body temperature, the release of specific hormones, concentration, mood, eating and sleeping. These features are involved in a 24 hour cycle. A disruption in this rhythm has been linked with health problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, some types of cancer, depression and bipolar disorder. 

Night shift workers are at an especially high risk for these issues due to the regular disruption of their circadian rhythm.  This is why working night shift is linked to a shorter life span and an increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Fun fact: A chronotype is the technical term for a “night owl” or an “early bird”. If you’re more active, and your brain is more awake, during the morning you would fit into the chronotype of early bird like me! 

A team of researchers has recently had a look at whether there is a genetic link between circadian rhythms (rest-activity cycles) and mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. They did this by identifying the sections of the human genome that are linked with circadian cycling. Two sections were identified and it turns out that one of these sections interacts with a gene for bipolar disorder. “Genome-Wide Association Study of Circadian Rhythmicity in 71,500 UK Biobank Participants and Polygenic Association with Mood Instability

A disruption in the rhythm has been linked with health problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, some types of cancer, depression and bipolar disorder.

However, the team says it found “little evidence of genetic correlation between rest-activity cycles and psychiatric phenotypes… This is surprising given the literature on circadian rhythmicity and mood disorders,” the authors point out.

Instead, the results showed an association between low levels of rest-activity and a higher risk for mood disorders, including mood instability, depression and neuroticism. “Mood instability is a common symptom across several psychiatric disorders and, as such, may be a more useful phenotype than categorical diagnoses for understanding underlying biology,” they point out.  Phenotype = the physical symptoms.

These results will assist further research on the relationships between circadian function and psychiatric disorders. “Circadian rhythm disruption is a core feature of mood disorders and the genetic variants identified in this study may be involved in the pathophysiology of mood disorders …  Several of the genetic variants identified are located within or close to genes which may have a role in the pathophysiology of mood disorders … The possibility of a direct link between genetic loading for circadian disruption and the experience of dysregulated or unstable mood is therefore of considerable interest and merits further investigation.”

How thankful are you?

Practicing gratitude can be challenging on those days you want to curl up and completely shun the world. Sometimes it takes a boost of gratitude to help you get out of a slump. Gratitude for yourself, for others, for the world. Yes, even gratitude for your enemies.

Gratitude meditation can be considered one of the most simple ways to meditate. You can try it at any time and anywhere. All you need to do is reflect on all of the people and things that you are grateful for.

As Jack Kornfield says:

Open the meditation to include neutral people, difficult people, and even enemies- until you extend sympathetic joy to all beings everywhere, young and old, near and far.”

Benefits of Gratitude Meditation

You may be skeptical but there are many benefits to invoking feelings of gratitude.

  • Decreased levels of depression(Sirois, 2017 Gratitude Uniquely Predicts Lower Depression in Chronic Illness Populations)
  • Greater feelings of well-being (Nezlek, 2017 A daily diary study of relationships between feelings of gratitude and well-being)
  • Trust in social situations with strangers (Drążkowski, 2017 Gratitude pays: A weekly gratitude intervention influences monetary decisions, physiological responses, and emotional experiences during a trust-related social interaction)
  • Greater sleep quality (Jackowska, 2016: The impact of a brief gratitude intervention on subjective well-being, biology, and sleep)
  • Reduced levels of stress and increased happiness (Kyeong, 2018 Effects of Gratitude Meditation on Neural Network Functional Connectivity and Brain-Heart Coupling)

 

Here is an easy 10 minute meditation to wake up with which will help you start your day in a more positive way.

 

This guided gratitude meditation is just over 10 minutes long and you can listen to it wherever you like whether you’re on the train or bus on the way to work or just beginning your day.

 

How are gratitude and mindfulness linked?

Mindfulness is all about being aware without judgement of your thoughts. Try to observe your surroundings and also your internal mental state with compassion, without judgement.

I found it very useful to treat mindfulness as brain training. You can train your brain to stop reacting to negative situations with irritation and frustration. Expressing irritation and frustration will always lead to negative outcomes. Consider all of the times you showed irritation and how it worsened the situation. If we train ourselves to react with compassion and acceptance those negative moments become so much more bearable.

As written by Williams and Penman (2012), mindfulness can prevent the relapse of depression and I have definitely felt this in my personal experience. My depression and anxiety has become manageable and bearable thanks to the brain training towards a mindfulness mentality.

Feelings of sadness and pain are part of the normal human experience. However, our mental health is affected by the frustration with which we reaction to that sadness and pain. Sadness can cause a person to react with frustration. That frustration leads to more sadness. That sadness brings about more feelings of frustration that feeds the negative spiral downwards into depression.

The downward depression spiral can be stopped! There is hope. If we don’t react to negative emotions with irritation and frustration, but instead with compassion and acceptance, we can stop spiralling and become more productive.

“Once you’ve felt [negative emotions], acknowledge their existence and let go of the tendency to explain or get rid of them, they are much more likely to vanish naturally, like the mist on a spring morning.” -Williams and Penman, 2012

Acknowledge and accept the existence of your sadness and anger; then let them fade away. It’s just a moment in the span of your existence. Moments of pleasure don’t last just as moments of sadness don’t last. As long as you don’t feed them.

Happiness isn’t a life free of irritation and negativity. Happiness is a life where negativity and irritation aren’t fed and strengthened, they are acknowledged and accepted with humility.

“You can’t stop the triggering of unhappy memories, negative self-talk and judgmental ways of thinking -but what you can stop is what happens next. You can stop the vicious circle from feeding off itself and triggering the next spiral of negative thoughts.” -Williams and Penman, 2012

The next time you feel negativity bubbling up during a moment of vulnerability or desperation, do not get frustrated at yourself or at external factors, just take a deep breath and patiently acknowledge the experience, observe it as it simply fades away.

Gratitude makes it possible to notice the positive blessings around us and removes our thoughts from the difficulties we’re facing in this life. Mindfulness helps us react to our misfortunes with acceptance and humility.

Life is difficult enough for all of us, let’s not make it harder.

Matcha matters

If you’ve never heard of matcha, or you’ve heard it popping up everywhere lately and have no idea what it is, it’s a powdered form of green tea leaves. The leaves are of high quality and you’re obtaining the benefits of drinking the powdered tea leaves instead of discarding them in preference for the tea-infused water alone.

There’s a reason that the benefits of drinking green tea are so widely known and celebrated. It’s because those benefits are felt throughout the world!

Personally, I adore a cup of green tea to beat my afternoon slump when I’m falling asleep at my desk or I need a little pick me up. I’m quite sensitive to caffeine so a coffee is too intense for me if I have it after the morning.

If you’re wondering how this wonder drink can help you out here are some of the ways it helps others.

Relaxation

Although many people use green tea in meditation practices there is also a scientific reason why it’s a relaxing substance. Green tea can produce a calming effect thanks to the amino acid L-Theanine, which makes you feel relaxed without making you drowsy.

Improve concentration and memory

Green tea increases the production of dopamine and serotonin throughout the body. These are the hormones which boost your mood, you become more focused and your memory is ready to work at its best.

Antioxidants

Oxidants are all around us. UV radiation and environmental pollution are the most frequently encountered oxidants. To combat these oxidants you’ll need some antioxidants. Antioxidants, called polyphenols, can provide protection against heart disease and some forms of cancer, improve blood sugar regulation, reduce blood pressure and provide anti-ageing benefits.

Burn calories

It sounds like a magical elixir but green tea is also known to boost metabolism reduce bloating. There’s nothing like avoiding the inevitable bloated feeling after enjoying a cup of green tea.

Boost energy levels

Sure caffeine is great and it’s present in green tea but it’s the nutrients in green tea that are the hero here. The right kind of nutrients that lead to that slow burn energy to help you get through the day.

Detoxify

Help flush your system of toxins by downing a cup of green tea. The properties of the tea will get to work on improving your insides.

Heart health

In the family of flavonoids, Catechins found in green tea help lower LDL cholesterol, which decreases your blood pressure and reduces your risk of stroke.

As always, remember to consume everything in moderation. Avoid drinking matcha while pregnant, don’t drink green tea more than water and very likely be fine.

And if you don’t enjoy the flavour of green tea consider taking green tea supplements! Reply below if you’re interested in a super special secret 10% off green tea supplement offer. Worldwide shipping is available so get in touch!

The shame of being medicated

To remove the stigma around taking medication we should begin by opening up the conversation of mental illness and the treatment of that illness. The taboo around taking medication can cause many people feel that they are unable to go to the doctor for help or are unaware of the help that is available to them. It can even prevent a person from taking the medication that is prescribed to them.

For years I didn’t know I needed antidepressant medication. I didn’t even know I had PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Think PMS but on steroids). When I finally found the courage to speak to a doctor about my symptoms I received a diagnosis. After more than 15 years of struggling through the symptoms I finally had an answer! At first I avoided buying the prescribed Zoloft by trying out naturopathic remedies. However, the nature of my disorder is too severe and pharmaceutical antidepressants are required.

I prefer to be open and honest with people about my condition and the treatment because if we don’t speak about these topics then the stigma will always remain. Women who have undiagnosed PMDD may benefit from learning that such a condition exists! People who don’t have the disorder can have a better understanding of what symptoms and side effects that patients of the disorder encounter. This is true for all illnesses that are not well understood.

To help others see that there does not need to be a stigma around taking medication I love this analogy of comparing medication to eyeglasses.

A person can live their life with blurry vision, not knowing they need glasses. Life can be difficult when living with poor eyesight and the person may struggle significantly until they find out they need glasses. Once they are prescribed a pair of glasses life is much easier and clearer.

If we consider the same for medication, it doesn’t seem so scary or taboo. We just need to put our glasses on every morning (or with meals or before bed).

If we don’t open up the conversation about mental health then nothing will change.

Please comment below with your experiences with mental health and medication. #breakthetaboo

Where to find your motivation

How do you keep going when you’re only halfway through your workout and feel yourself slipping? Where do you find the drive to keep going after an entire day of work then coming home only to cook and clean? How do you find the inner strength to continue job hunting following rejection after rejection?

When you’re running low on motivation what do you do to keep going?

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. –Henry Ford

Henry Ford may be on to something here. When you start believing that you can’t do it you’ve already begun to fail. The power of suggestion is stronger than many people realise. Even if it’s yourself that is doing the suggesting.

But then how do we get out of a rut? Or a slump? Or a pool of stagnant water that is the metaphor for your current career situation?

Remember, we all face obstacles. It’s how you approach them that sets you apart.

The most productive way to face an obstacle is to identify what the true, deeper cause is, ask yourself what is the real de-motivator in your personal situation?

Fear

We can most easily lose motivation through fear (also recognised as anxiety). To get through this obstacle, address the fear, acknowledge your fear or fight/flight response is trying to protect you. Give it a little nod of thanks for trying to protect you, after all, your anxiety means well. Then question your fears by asking why. Why am I afraid to ask for the promotion at work? Why am I afraid to start training for the marathon?

Setting the wrong goals

When we set the wrong goals we rapidly lose motivation. Think about the goals you made back in the new year. Were the too big? Were they too vague? Tackle smaller goals to lead to your final outcome and you’ll keep up that momentum with ease, especially when you see all of the milestones you’ve been reaching. Each small victory can spur you on to the next one.

If your goals are vague and lack clarity you risk not having a clear plan to move forward. An easy fix is to reframe and review your goals so that you have a defined path to follow. If your plan is “lose weight” try and make it more clear by setting a weekly or monthly weight target. If your plan is to “run a marathon” start by setting small training goals such as a defined distance per week. Adjust your goal to your personal situation and resources and you are already on the path to success!

Burn out

You might be smashing out goal after goal and reframing, reassessing your goals as needed but then you suddenly crash. We can lose momentum or completely collapse if we don’t look after our physical, mental, emotional health while we’re working so hard. With a lack of self care we run the risk of burning out. Too exhausted? Grieving? Giving too much of yourself? Allow yourself time to slow down, grieve and recover. We’re human and other humans will understand if you need to pull back just a bit, before setting off again towards those important goals.

Boredom

It’s easy to forget that a lack of challenge can sap our motivation. We get bored when we’re no longer challenged. Have you become autonomous with a new skill? Challenge yourself, learn a new skill, advance your current skills, aim for a higher level. Always review your goals.

Mindset

A negative mindset is like poison. Consider the Henry Ford quote again. If you believe you’ll fail you’ve already set yourself up for failure. If the reason you’re no longer utilising your pricey gym membership is because you’ve convinced yourself you’re too tired or drained, try to reframe your thoughts and your mindset. Remind yourself of all of the positives, the benefits, the pros to getting up earlier or getting home later after a gym session. This can spark motivation. If you don’t have an already diagnosed health reason for feeling too tired and drained to attain those goals then you’ve just cheated yourself by making an excuse. Future you will thank you for the positive mindset!

If your goals are making you feel tired just by thinking about them that’s a sign that you need to cultivate a positive mindset. Perhaps it’s a combination of the above de-motivators. Feeling too lethargic to take action towards your goals can also indicate you’re bored, burnt out or that your goals lack clarity.

Take the time to listen to what your mind is really telling you, then go for gold.

The positive potential

The potential for meditation to assist people with many different ailments is enormous. People can turn to meditation for respite from anything including insomnia, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and addiction.

The positive mindset that meditation can bring seems to do so much good when we are experiencing such difficulty. Practising mindfulness through meditation has helped so many people move forward through the lowest points in their life in order to find the strength to carry on.

I’d love to share with you the experience of a friend who suffers from Crohn’s Disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract. It’s very painful and like many chronic illnesses it can prevent the person from working, or working as much as someone without a chronic illness which, as most of you know, can have a negative impact on every aspect of a person’s life (depression, stress, financial burden).

Here is Stuart’s story in his own words:

My life with mediation

My stress levels have been the biggest change with reducing stress due to the help of meditating…

Meditation has also changed the way I look at life as well the surroundings around me and understanding my own body…

My life has been a roller coaster since dignosed with a chronic illness which had taken over my self esteem but a close friend suggested to try meditation. After 8 months of self meditation my self confidence has been at a high and this helped me to deal with a chronic illness, Crohn’s Disease.

To control the mind and body through meditation and to do deal with the outcomes crohns throws at myself well it’s helped with the changes my body develops on a scale where its believed hard but mediation can bring happiness, self belief and self confidence.

If you have used meditation to help you through any difficulty in your life please comment below and tell us your story.

My case for bringing back the humble hanky

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When my mother offered me a stack of hankies from my late grandmother I, the young person I was, recoiled and immediately declined to accept the small squares of fabric. I thought that tissues were the way to go. They are, as it currently seems, the more socially acceptable item to use.

It wasn’t until I looked into blogs written by people living a waste-free life that I realised just how many tissues I discard on the regular. The beginning of my reduction of waste adventure has involved always taking reusable canvas bags when I go shopping, purchasing a small compost bin for my apartment, and turning some old clothes into hankies.

Yes, I found a worn out, hole-y old tank top to repurpose into hankies. I wonkily cut and sewed the soft stretchy fabric and now I have 2 extra hankies that are very effective. Especially since the fabric is so soft, it’s a relief to use them on the delicate skin on the face!

I was so excited about my little waste-reduction project that I called up my mum and asked for those lovely vintage hankies that have been sitting in storage. Then I began keeping at least one in my handbags, my work bag, my bedside table.

For almost anything that you would otherwise use a tissue, a hanky can be a substitute. And a very worthy substitute it is. I haven’t spent money on tissues (the cost of those little travel packets I kept in all my bags adds up!), cleaning up around the bathroom sink is an absolute breeze and they make the best napkins for a messy eater like myself.

It’s true, tissues can be composted but if you can reduce the waste you’re producing by making a small change here and there I say, why not go for it?

 

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The key to longevity

Caloric restriction has been touted as the best way to achieve a longer lifespan. Diets that involve calorie restriction include the CR (Calorie Restriction) diet, 5:2 diet and intermittent fasting.

Recent scientific publications and articles have outlined the way a diet that involves some form of fasting can benefit the human body.

A quote from one of the articles concludes with:

Longevity in humans is still an unpredictable by-product of our myriad variations in individual biology, behavior and circumstance. The objective, according to researchers, is merely to make the healthy portion of our lives last longer.

So although caloric restriction is only one small part of the bigger picture for your total individual health over the span of your lifetime it is a potential change you can make in your life.

Some tips for trying out a caloric restrictive diet:

  • Limit alcohol consumption as we often forget that alcohol contains a lot of empty, nutritionless calories. This is true for all types of alcohol!
  • Meals that contain a higher percentage of protein will make you feel more full. Carbs are great as fillers but protein is best for those lower calorie “fasting days”.
  •  Utilise those free calorie counting apps such as S Health which is compatible with Samsung devices or My Fitness Pal which is great for iPhone users.
  • Meal replacement products are often formulated to be high in protein and will help you feel full without going over your calorie limit.

If you’re interested in trying out some metabolism boosting supplements and meal replacement shakes that will assist in a calorie restrictive diet please comment below or contact me for more information!