Aug 23
What's the most important thing you should do every morning?


We heard this question recently and, like the person posing it, expected an answer along the usual lines.  Do a stretch or two.  Have a shower.  Don’t forget breakfast.  Clean your teeth.

Instead, a completely unexpected one came back. 

Be grateful – and happy – that you’re alive. 

It’s such a simple answer – and so obvious – and yet when did we last do it?  Wake up being truly grateful and happy that we’re alive.  Greeted the new day with a big smile.

If you’re a child enjoying the school holidays – and hopefully without a care in the world – then this should apply to you. 

But, if you’re an adult, can you honestly remember the last time you woke up full of the joys of spring?  Happy to be alive.  Probably not, as the cares and troubles of our lives have a way of blotting out everything else from the moment we open our eyes in the morning.

And yet, how often do we stop to consider the alternative?  That, if we don’t wake up, then nothing else matters.  For us.  Or those left behind.

As someone so beautifully put it – and we’re paraphrasing it, as the exact words have eluded us – “If I wake up, stretch my arms out and there aren’t any sides, it’s a great day!”

Before you think this is all rather morbid, it isn’t meant to be.  Instead it’s intended as a gentle wake up call.  Not only to how wonderful life is.  How fortunate we were to wake up this morning. 

But to remind us how precious a gift life is BECAUSE it’s finite.  And, here’s the twist in the tail, we never know exactly how finite until it’s too late…

When we forget that we’re mortal, it’s all too easy to waste our most precious – and limited – resource.  Doing stupid things or ones that don’t make us happy.  Living by someone else’s rules – or priorities – rather than our own.  Whether it be jobs, relationships or friends.  And we’ve all done it, perhaps are still doing it.

Chasing after all those shiny material goodies, instead of concentrating on what makes us truly happy.  Forgetting that true happiness comes from inside, not from the things we surround ourselves with.

And, if this all sounds as bit too “airy fairy”, just spend some time with one of your older relatives or friends.  Not only will they enjoy seeing you – and you may learn some interesting things along the way (!) – but they’ll remind you of the important things in life.  Or, may be, listen to those who’ve been seriously ill or had a near death experience.

Either way, the message will be the same.  Follow your heart and learn to be happy whatever else is going on in your life.  And we guarantee they won’t be suggesting spending more time at work or being focussed on the latest gizmo. 

At the end of the day all we truly have are our experiences and memories, we can’t take any “stuff” with us.

Let’s finish with a quote that we can remember (!):

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift.  That’s why it’s called the present.”

As always, the choice is yours.

Aug 16
Why do we yawn?

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It’s been a while since we’ve tackled one of those questions without a simple answer that children love to ask.  And, as it’s the summer holidays, there’s still time for plenty more!  So we thought it was time for a little research on something we all do every day without ever thinking about.

The easy – and obvious – answer is that we yawn when we’re tired.  Or bored.  Or both. 

The traditional explanation for yawning is that we breathe less deeply when we’re tired or bored.  This means that the body takes in less oxygen, leading to an increase of carbon dioxide levels in the blood.  Which, in turn, causes us to yawn and so breathe more deeply, taking in more oxygen and releasing more carbon dioxide.  As a result we feel more alert.  Less tired and bored.

However, recent research has suggested that reduced oxygen levels may not be the trigger but simply a sign of something else.  Of a rise in body temperature, particularly within the brain.

Our bodies are designed to function within a very narrow set of parameters, including body temperature.  As our core body temperature increases, brain activity slows down, making us feel sleepy and less alert. 

Yawning, quite simply, allows larger quantities of cool air to be taken in to the body so helping reduce body temperature.  At the same time, more oxygen is also taken in.  And both of these help to increase brain function and so makes us feel more alert.

While the new explanation may sound a bit like “two sides of the same coin”, it provides a more comprehensive answer for why we yawn.  It also explains why people tend to yawn more when they’re in a warm room, regardless of whether they’re bored or tired.  And why going outside into the fresher air usually helps stop it.

Yawning is also a way to release pressure within the inner ear, for example, due to a change in altitude or being bunged up with a cold.  It stretches the eardrum which, in turn, opens the Eustachian Tube, so allowing pressure to equalise; with its tell tale “popping”.  Chewing gum or having a voluntary yawn does the same thing.

As an aside, yawning has also been found to increase levels of dopamine – the so called “feel good” hormone – within the brain.  And, there’s no doubt about it, we all feel better for a good yawn.  Not to mention a good stretch.

While yawning is a natural part of life, excessive yawning has been linked to certain health problems, particularly of the Brain / Central Nervous System.  However it should be stressed that these are rare and include Epilepsy, MS and tumours.  Yawning can also be a side effect of some medication.

Yawning shares many characteristics with laughter.  Both can occur voluntarily or involuntarily.  And we all know how difficult they can both be to disguise!  They’re contagious, with one person yawning triggering those around them. 

As an aside, simply reading about yawning can be enough to trigger it.  So the question is whether you’ve had a yawn – or two (!) – while reading this post?!?  Finally, both laughter and yarning have been described as non verbal forms of communication, understood by all those around them. 

So let’s finish with a few bizarre facts about yawning before we go, to amaze – and confuse (!) – your friends.  Did you know that babies in the womb yawn?  That it’s not just humans who yawn, but many other animals too?  In some animals, like guinea pigs, pronounced yawns showing the front teeth are used as a sign or anger or aggression.  And, finally, that yawning is more contagious between family and close friends – and can be used to indicate how empathetic (or not) a person is.

And, finally, we couldn’t resist a second picture which definitely qualifies as a proper yawn.

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Which reminds us of what Little Red Riding Hood said:

“What big teeth you have Grandma.”

And, all together, with the reply:

“All the better to eat you with my dear.”

Aug 09
Why are so many people looking for a magic solution?


Over the years we’ve noticed that many people come to us seeking a magic bullet to cure their problem(s).  Instantly.  And, this is the crucial bit, without them needing to do anything themselves.  Or, heaven forbid, making any changes to the way they choose to live their lives. 

Not only do they want a magic solution, but they tend to be extremely selective in considering where the problem may actually have come from in the first place.  And it doesn’t matter whether it’s to do with their health, relationships, finances, work or something else entirely.  They always seem to look for an external reason for whatever the problem may be.

For some reason they seem unable – or reluctant – to look to themselves for the answer.  To take responsibility for themselves and the part their choices played in creating the problem in the first place.  And choosing to ignore an issue – to turn a blind eye and do nothing – is just as much of a choice as consciously taking action.

Instead they expect someone else – whoever that may be – to come and sort it out for them NOW.  Often the finger of blame is pointed in the direction of those perceived to be in authority.  Perhaps at the government or big business; or more specifically at doctors, teachers, social workers or their parents.  The latter being a favourite scape goat for people of all ages (!).  It’s almost as though they’ve remained a child albeit in adult form.

Added to this, the seeds of the problem are often obscured by the mists of time; making it difficult to link cause and effect.  Perhaps it was one poor choice years – or decades – ago that started the ball rolling and have had such devastating effects now. 

Or, more likely, a series of small yet bad choices. 

May be it’s down to an innocuous habit – or piece of advice in the public arena – they simply followed and never thought to question.  But – and it’s a big but – just because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for you to do.  

Or, the response we hear all too often, they’ve done it for years – whatever “it” is – and can’t understand why it’s suddenly causing problems now.  The signs were there, they just didn’t see them.

It may be a hard pill to swallow but the only person who’s responsible for you and your life; is you.  However much we would like it to be different, our lives are the result of all the choices we’ve made over the years.  Whether consciously or by default. 

While this may sound daunting to start with – “What on earth am I going to do about this?” – it puts you in an incredibly powerful position.  It lets you decide what’s truly best for you, rather than letting others assume that they know what’s best for you.  After all, despite what anyone else would like to tell you, you’re the one who knows yourself best. 

But what if where you are now isn’t the best place to start? 

Or, as that old joke so beautifully puts it:

A tourist stops to ask a local for directions.  “Well, sir” says the local “If I were you I wouldn’t start from here.”

Well, here is where you have to start from, however much you’d like it to be otherwise.  By simply deciding that you don’t wish to remain where you are – and having a general idea of where you’d like to be instead – you’ve already taken the first important step to getting there.  You’re looking forward to where you want to go, rather than remaining stuck where you currently are.

Equally important is to take a look back and see how you got here.  It’s time for a little introspection, however scary that may seem.  This isn’t so you can beat yourself up – or go into “poor me” victim mode – but so you can learn from it.  Remember you can’t change the past but you can learn from it.  And mistakes are only a bad thing if we don’t learn from them. 

This is the reason why visits to the past can be so useful, provided they’re kept short and sweet.  Whether it’s that you DEFINITELY won’t do x again (!) or you’ll do it differently next time, that’s fine.  Learn what you need to from it and move on. 

And there’s one little word that will  help you with this no end – and one you can easily resurrect from your childhood – the little word “why”.  Regaining the habit of questioning everything – whether it’s something you’ve always done and accept as being true; or some new information coming your way – is one of the most powerful habits you can foster. 

So now you know where you’d like to go, and have learnt all you can from where you don’t want to be, you’re well on your way.  Not only have you got into your car and turned on the engine, but turned it round to point in the direction you want to go.

Or, put another way, you’ve put solid foundations in place for the new life you’d like to build. 

And then, if you feel you’d like some help from others – whether it be a person or an organisation – then you can do it on your terms, in a way that suits you best.  You’ll still remain in control of your life and of what’s best for you.

Ironically, by taking back responsibility for your life, you’ll often find that magic solutions seem to appear to help you on your way. But, here’s the secret, they only appeared because you’ve taken responsibility for your life.  Not to take it away from you.

As always, the choice is yours.

Aug 02
Summer, the season of aerial attacks


At this time of year many a day is marred by the unwanted attentions of those “flying beasties”.  Perhaps it’s the dreaded gnats, midges or mosquitos on the lookout for an easy meal.  Or a wasp or bee on the defensive.  Either way, a bite or sting can ruin anyone’s day. 

So, this week, we’re going to have a look at these beasties, as well as giving you a few tricks to help prevent being bitten in the first place.  And, if the worst happens, speeding things on their way. 

Let’s start with those beasties out for an easy meal, in other words, a slurp of blood.  Gnats, midges and mosquitos.  While it may feel as though you’re being singled out, they have quite eclectic tastes; not minding too much who the lucky donor is.  Human, pets and livestock; as well as other animals too.

And, before we go any further, here are a few of bizarre facts about them. To start with did you know that only mosquitos bite?  Gnats and midges cut through the skin using four cutters inside their mouths, rather like a surgeon’s knife.  We bet that’s made you squirm! 

Or that it’s only usually the female of the species who has a nibble?  It’s thought this is due to blood being rich in protein and other nutrients, providing the raw materials needed to produce eggs for the next generation of flying beasties.

And, finally, gnat bites tend to be more painful than mosquito bites.  Gnats also tend to take more blood than mosquitos, with their bites taking longer to heal.

Regardless of how the skin in punctured (!) saliva is then pumped into the wound.  Among other things it contains anti coagulants to prevent a blood clot from forming – so bypassing the body’s natural healing response – and allowing blood to be sucked out.  At the same time, other chemicals are released, alerting any nearby beasties that food is available.  This is the reason that, as soon as you’ve been bitten once, you seem to be top of everyone else’s menu too!

Contrary to popular belief, it’s the saliva – rather than the bite itself – which causes the tell tale inflammation, blisters and irritation.  And this, in turn, can be affected by whatever the beastie has nibbled on before you.  We won’t say any more about this but leave the rest to your imagination (!).

The response to a bite can vary hugely, depending on the person and their particular sensitivity.  While one person may only have a small itchy lump which clears away in a few days; another may have a full blown allergic reaction and need to carry an epipen. 

Obviously a little commonsense is needed, but there are lots of things that can help to reduce the inflammation and itching, while promoting healing.  Lavender essential oil ticks all the boxes, as well as helping keep other beasties at bay.  Aloe vera gel, along with witch hazel gel, both help to reduce the inflammation and itching.  Applying an ice cube to particularly painful or swollen bites can also help reduce inflammation, as well as soothing any pain.  Finally, homeopathic remedies such as Ledum and Arnica can help too.

Other essential oils can also be used as natural insect repellents including citronella, eucalyptus, lemongrass, clove oil and rosemary.  You can either apply a few drops to the pulse points – behind the ears and on the inside of the wrists / ankles – or dilute them in water and use as a spray for you or areas you spend time in.

With the flying beasties being more active in the evenings, keeping covered up – with long sleeved shirts and trousers – is a sensible precaution if you’re outside at that time of day.  As is keeping away from water, where they like to gather.  Finally, light coloured clothing is thought to make you less conspicuous to them.

One other thing to bear in mind is that the natural smell of your skin can play a part too.  It seems that some people just smell too good as far as these beasties are concerned.  Some foods, particularly marmite – or as alternative, Vitamin B1 – and garlic can subtly change this and so help reduce the chance of being bitten in the first place.

By contrast, wasps and bees aren’t out for a quick meal.  Instead they feel threatened and so go on the defensive.  While it’s true to say that wasps have a shorter temper than bees (!) even an angry bee will leave you alone if you give it a little room and let it go about its business.  This is particularly so as, for a bee, a sting is fatal.  This is because their sting is barbed and so pulling it out literally disembowels them.

In both cases, the pain from a sting comes both from it puncturing your skin and the venom injected into you in the process.  The venom produced by wasps and bees is slightly different, with bees tending to produce larger amounts than wasps.

As with the smaller beasties a little commonsense is needed, particularly for those who are sensitive to stings.  However, again, they can be easily dealt with at home by the majority of people. 

Not surprisingly, the first thing to do is to make sure the sting has been removed.  Rather than using a pair of tweezers, use your thumbnail to ease it out sideways.  Then gently clean the area and use an ice cube to help reduce the swelling.  Compresses can also help, using bicarb of soda in a little water for bee stings and vinegar for wasp stings.  The difference is due to the difference in the venom produced by bees and wasps.  Aloe vera gel or witch hazel gel can also help, as can lavender essential oil.  And don’t forget that the same homeopathic remedies can help too.

With that, it’s over to you to enjoy your summer!

As always the choice is yours.

Jul 26
What have I done to deserve this?

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It's a sentiment we've all felt at times.  And one we hear from clients from time to time, not to mention family and friends too(!).  It's underpinned by the feeling that they've been singled out for some special – and unwarranted – treatment.  As though some higher force – whoever or whatever that may be – thinks they deserve particular punishment for some unspecified act or crime.

Perhaps it's another person's behaviour, an illness, society as a whole, government or something else completely different.  Whatever the source, the message coming over loud and clear is that IT'S NOT FAIR AND they feel powerless to do anything about it.  Just imagine a small child sulking and you get the picture.

While we would each like to think that we're centre stage of our own little world, the truth is that we're not.  More often than not we're playing a supporting role – or are one of the onlookers – in a much bigger play; one that has very little to do with us at all.  The play that's called "Life." 

In fact when we take a look at most of what happens in and around our lives, we find that much of it has absolutely nothing to do with us at all.  It's not our responsibility and best left alone. 

Despite this, the little monster we all have living in our heads (!) insists that if it's happening in our lives then it must be to do with us.  In other words, it's personal.  And once we've classified it as "personal" then we can only see it from our own subjective viewpoint.  So any objectivity is lost.  It's little wonder that we then roll up our sleeves and wade in.  With, all too often, predictable results.

While it may seem a radical concept, life doesn't happen to us, life flows through and round us.  It isn't about struggle and endless tests to see if we're "good enough".  Whatever that may be.  Rather it's all about the journey, the experiences and learning some new things along the way.  Most of all, it's about learning to be happy regardless of whatever's happening in – or around – our lives.

The tendency to see everything that happens in our lives as personal, means it's all too easy to slip into a passive "victim mode".  "Poor me, look what's happened to me" AND how unfair it is. 

Unfortunately, by going into victim mode, we spend much of our lives being powerless.  Doing nothing.  Going nowhere.  What a waste of time.  Not to mention our lives.

So what's the alternative? 

Well, as we've already mentioned above, much of what happens in our lives is nothing to do with us.  It's not our responsibility and outside our control.  However this doesn't mean that we're powerless.  While we may not be able to control the situation WE CAN CONTROL HOW WE REACT TO IT. 

It's a natural human tendency – one we learnt as a child – to classify everything that happens in our lives as "good" or "bad".  In fact it's a crucial part of our survival strategy to be able to identify any threats around us.  "These are my allies; those are my enemies."  "This will help me; that will hurt me." 

If you take a moment to observe those around you, you'll quickly notice how most people only see a situation from their own – subjective – viewpoint.  How it affects them, rather than looking at the bigger – more objective – picture. 

This means that everything in their life becomes personal and happens TO them.  "X happened TO ME."  "Y did this TO ME."  (and it's not fair).

Now contrast this with a more objective viewpoint of life.  In other words, by treating whatever happens as though you're an onlooker.  You're watching a play on the stage or film at the cinema.  You're observing the situation as a whole rather than only focussing on how it affects you. 

By moving to a more objective viewpoint, life happens THROUGH and AROUND you, rather than TO you.  "X happened."  "Y did this."  (and isn't that interesting).

By becoming more objective you no longer get sucked into a powerless victim mode.  Instead, you see the bigger picture and become aware of how others – automatically – react to it, without being drawn into it yourself. 

Even better, you now have the opportunity to make a conscious decision on what you're going to do; rather than been sucked into a knee jerk victim response.  Or non response. 

You've given yourself the opportunity to see the situation for what it is without becoming a victim. This allows you to decide whether the situation really has anything to do with you or not. 

Is it something you're really responsible for – and so it's down to you to deal with – or not?  And, while we may not like to admit it, we all know – deep down – which category it comes into. 

If it really is your responsibility is now the right time to deal with it?  If the answer is yes, then deal with it. 

But, perhaps, it isn't.  Other things may need to fall into place before you can do so, more research may be needed, other resources lined up, etc.  In that case it's simply a matter of sitting tight until the time is right to act.  And, in the meantime, ACCEPTING the situation as it is.  You may not like admitting it, but there's nothing you can do about it at the moment.  By doing so, you've just taken the pressure off yourself in the interim.

And what if it isn't your responsibility? 

Then, again, it's all about ACCEPTING the situation AS IT IS.  And this is regardless of how many good reasons you can come up with interfering (!).  If it's none of your business, leave it alone and get on with the things that really are your business.

Let's take a quick look at a couple of simple examples to see how this approach works in practice.

How about the old favourite, a traffic jam on the way to work?   The traditional subjective response would be "why does it always happen to me" accompanied by sky high blood pressure and a bad mood for much of the day. 

But just stop and think about it for a moment.  Are you responsible for the queue?  Well, no.

So how about a more objective response?  Accepting that you can't do anything about it.  Phew, that takes the pressure off.

Now let's look at the bigger picture.  The length of the queue, how long it's going to take to get through it and any possible alternative routes.  Perhaps there's no alternative route, so you just have to sit it out.  Ok, so is this a one off or is there something you can do to avoid a repetition in the future?  Perhaps leaving home earlier or going another way? 

The end result is that you've remained calm and objective, stayed in control and learnt how to avoid / minimise a repetition in the future.  No longer was it deliberately sent to persecute you in some way, but is something you can learn from and part of life's rich tapestry.

How about another scenario, one that we hear about all too regularly.  The illness of a loved one. 

Again, it's all too easy to go into a highly subjective "why has this happened to me, it's not fair that I've got to deal with this" victim mode.

But let's stop and think about at it for a moment.  Are you responsible for their illness?  Again, the answer is no.  It hasn't been sent to persecute you or as some sort of punishment.  It simply just is, whether you like it or not. 

However much you'd like to change it, you can't.  You can either carry on being a victim or just accept it.  While this may initially sound like defeat, it isn't.  It puts you back in the driving seat.

Once the situation can be viewed more objectively, then a more helpful response can be elicited to it.  What you can do to help.  What you are responsible for and what is down to others.  Not only does it help you feel more in control but it helps your loved one too. 

As soon as you start to view your life – and whatever happens in or round it – more objectively, life becomes much simpler.  Not to mention less stressful.  Trust us.  Oh and did we mention how much time it saves by not getting involved in things that have nothing to do with you? 

As always, the choice is yours.

Jul 19
Honey, one of the pleasures in life

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Looking back over the nearly 150 blog posts we've written in the last three years, sugar has featured several times as the topic of the week.  It's also been mentioned numerous times as playing a part in many of the health issues we've discussed.  In fact cutting down sugar, along with drinking more water (!), are two of the pieces of advice we most often give clients.

One thing we find particularly interesting is how few people seem to realise that sugar is a relatively recent addition to our diets.  It all started with sugar cane – a grass that only grows in tropical climates – and continued with sugar beet – a root crop found in more temperate climates.  Today, over half of the world's sugar comes from sugar beet.

However, it isn't the white – highly processed – sugar we're familiar with that we wanted to focus on today but its predecessor.  And the natural alternative to sugar.  Honey. 

Turn the clock back to the Middle Ages and most people's diets had very little in the way of sweetness.  Perhaps from seasonal fruits in the summer, or sweeter root vegetables in winter, such as parsnips or carrots. 

For the better off, there may have been an occasional treat of dried fruits, such as raisins, sultanas and dates; or a little local honey.  Not only was honey a valued sweetener but also played an important part in natural medicine.

Honey – hopefully as most people know (!) – is produced from the nectar of flowers by worker bees.  And, in the process, they pollinate a huge number of our staple food crops.  The nectar is carried back to the hive in the worker bees' honey sacs.  Here the water content is reduced by about 50% before the honey is sealed into the cells which make up honeycomb.  The bees then use it as food during the cooler months when flowers – and so nectar – are less plentiful.

Honey contains a huge range of different nutrients in addition to glucose and fructose.  These include Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K as well as magnesium, sulphur, phosphorus, iron, calcium, chlorine, potassium, iodine, sodium, copper and manganese.  It also contains high levels of live enzymes, as well as antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial factors.

As you'd expect, honey is a natural source of energy, but also has a low glycaemic index.  Unlike processed white sugar – which releases glucose quickly into the blood, causing blood sugar levels to rise quickly – honey releases its glucose slowly and steadily into the blood.  This helps maintain a more stable blood sugar in the long term, so making it suitable for diabetics.

Honey has long been used to dress wounds, burns and ulcers; with research repeatedly showing complete recovery without any infections, muscle loss or need for skin grafts.  And this applies to honey generally, not just Manuka honey.  In fact a traditional naturopathic variant of this is to add crushed garlic to the honey; so enhancing honey's own antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial qualities.

Honey can also be used to help soothe coughs, as well as for colds and flu generally.  It can be taken by the spoon to soothe a sore throat, mixed with thyme to aid the expectoration of mucus / catarrh or simply used with lemon as a comforting drink.

A teaspoon of honey in warm milk is another way traditional way in which honey is used, to help promote a good night's sleep.  Interestingly, research has found that this helps raise melatonin levels, the hormone which controls our sleeping and waking cycles.

Honey can be used as a probiotic to help improve digestion or mixed with lemon juice to counteract nausea.  It can also be mixed with baking soda as a skin exfoliator or as hair mask, to moisturise dry or damaged hair.

With its myriad of traditional uses, it's not surprising that honey has been the subject of much medical research, with studies finding it useful in many other ways.  These include in lowering cholesterol, reducing levels of damage caused by free radicals, improving the circulation and reducing the inflammatory agents associated with lung problems such as Asthma and Hayfever.  In addition, the pollens found in local honey can be used to help desensitise people to pollens in their particular area, so helping to reduce Asthma and Hayfever symptoms.

Sadly, over recent years, the popularity of honey has led to large amounts of poor quality honey finding its way on to supermarket shelves.  Much of this is imported, often from China and elsewhere in the Far East, and bears little resemblance to traditional honey. 

Traditional honey is produced locally by small beekeepers and is a raw food.  This means that the honey isn't processed but simply removed from the honeycomb by spinning.  The empty honeycomb is then left near the hive for the bees to reclaim any honey residues.

Larger scale honey production often relies on feeding the bees sugar syrup to boost honey production, so producing larger amounts of poorer quality honey.  Heat is often used to maximise the amount of honey removed from the honeycomb, before it's filtered and pasteurised.  This not only removes many of the phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals but also the pollens, which prevents the honey's origin from being traced.  Inverted sugar solutions and glucose syrups may then be added, so bulking out the honey – or, in some cases, replacing it completely.

Despite all of this, there are some easy ways to tell whether a jar of honey has been traditionally produced or not. 

The thumb test.  Put a drop of honey on your thumb.  If it spreads straight away, it's not pure.  If it stays in a drop, then it's pure.

The water test.  Fill a glass of water and add one tablespoon of the honey to the water.  Pure honey will stay in a lump and settle at the bottom of the glass.  Honey adulterated in any way will start to dissolve in the water.

The shelf life test.  Pure honey crystallises over time or if the lid is left off.  Adulterated honey will remain looking like a syrup, however long it's stored.

Price.  Yes, we know it's a cliché, but it's true.

Labelling.  "Blended honey" or "Produce of several countries" are other giveaways.

While we all know about the joys of honey of toast, there are so many other ways to use – and enjoy – it  Honey can easily be substituted for sugar, so keeping the sweetness we all value, but in a way that doesn't damage our health. 

So why not make a jar of locally produced honey a staple of your kitchen, as well as part of your first aid supplies?  Not only will you be helping yourself, but your local bees and small scale beekeepers too. 

As always, the choice is yours.


Jul 12
Good Intentions


This week we thought we'd keep our blog post short and sweet and pose a question that, in most cases, has tricked everyone into giving the wrong answer.  Ourselves included (!). 

So, without further ado, here it is:

Five birds are sitting on a fence.  Two decide to fly south.  How many are left?

Most people say three.

Actually, all five are left.  You see deciding to fly south isn't the same as doing it (!).

If a bird really wants to go somewhere it has to make sure it's pointed in the right direction before jumping off the fence, flapping its wings and keeping going it until it gets there.  Simple really.

And so it is with most things.  Good intentions aren't enough.

It's not what we want, say or think that makes things happen.  It's what we do.

How often do we think about doing something – or write it on our "to do" list – and yet it doesn't seem to get done?  In fact "to do" lists would be better described as "good intentions" lists for many people (!).

While we can always come up with many reasons, excuses and justifications for not doing something; in the end it's quite simple.  We either do it or we don't.

So the question is what do you want to do?

And, more importantly, what's stopping you from pointing in that direction, jumping off the fence and flapping your wings?

"The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention."  John Burroughs, Author.

As always the choice is yours.


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Jul 05
Are you a Special Snowflake? Expectation versus Entitlement


If we're completely honest we'd never come across the expression "Special Snowflake" until very recently.  And "yes", we know what some of you are probably thinking, there really is no hope for us!  However synchronicity has played its part yet again, as it perfectly ties in with what we wanted to talk about today.

So, for those of you who are equally behind the times (!), here's what the online dictionary has to say about "Special Snowflakes":

"A person with supposedly unique characteristic or attributes that entitle them to privileged treatment or particular consideration."

Special Snowflake originates from the early 21st century idea, that every snowflake is distinct from every other one, in terms of the arrangement of the ice crystals of which is it composed.

Like us you can probably think of several people – of varying ages – to which this description could be applied (!).  However, in this case it's aimed at those leaving full time education around the millennium, often referred to as the "Millennials." 

With all the hype in the run up to the millennium – remember all the fuss about Y2K and whether computers would work after midnight on the first day of the new millennium? – it's not surprising that this age group were expected to shape the new millennium. 

And shape it they have, but not without ruffling a few feathers in the process.  Questioning – and often completely overturning – many of the old accepted norms.  Predictably the response to this was for them to be labelled as "lazy, entitled and narcissistic".  Daring to believe they could have it all – and, even worse in many eyes – on their own terms. 

Which brings us back to expectation versus entitlement.

So what is the difference between expectation and entitlement? 

Expectation is best described as a strong belief that something will happen or be the case. 

"I knew that I could achieve x." 

Or, just as often, "I knew that I could never achieve x."

"I knew that y would happen." 

Or, "I knew that y would happen (even though it's the last thing I wanted to happen)."

As a quick aside, this is a great example of the large part our beliefs play in shaping what happens in our lives.  Expectations can be both positive and negative.  Be careful what you wish for – or think about…

By contrast, entitlement is all about the right to have something.  It's underpinned by the belief that you're special in some way and so deserve special privileges or treatment; regardless of your particular needs or efforts.

"I'm entitled to a particular job / house / car (because of who / what I am)." 

As we've already mentioned, this particular mindset can be found in any generation (!) not just the Millennials.  So why has this been aimed at them in particular?

Our take on this would be that this is due to them questioning – and then completely overturning – one of the core beliefs of the older generation.  That you have to suffer now to get something better in the future.  To be miserable now in the hope of being happy at some later date.  And that somehow this is an acceptable price to pay for a brighter tomorrow.

An easy example of this in action would be the Millennials approach to work.  No longer accepting that you have to go in at the bottom and do a completely mindless job for years to earn the right to do something a little better in the future. 

Why can't you, they say, start with a more meaningful job while learning the ropes? 

Why can't you be promoted on merit and abilities – even if you're years younger than your colleagues – and do things in a different way to the norm? 

Why can't you be more right brain – and creative – in your approach to work rather than the more traditional logical and left brained approach?

With this new belief being diametrically opposed to the prevailing one – that paying your dues was almost like a rite of passage – it's little wonder that so many people have got hot under the collar about this new approach.  The logic goes that because they started at the bottom counting paperclips for years before getting something a little better so must you. 

However, if you take a step back and look at it from the Millennials point of view, one simple factor is being overlooked.  One that's been present during their entire lifetime, repeatedly transforming it in very short periods of time. 

And that's the ever improving technology and its ability to automate – and so make obsolete – many of the tedious and mind numbing jobs offered to those entering the job market for the first time.  It allows entry levels jobs to become more meaningful and more interesting, while still learning the ropes.

Looked at this way, it soon becomes obvious that – ironically – the problem is one of communication rather than Millennials expecting to be Special Snowflakes.  Their different worldview – and beliefs – have been taken as one of entitlement.  Instead all they were doing was simply pointing out that a new approach was needed.  That it wasn't necessary to suffer in some way to achieve the desired end result.

In the right hands, expectation is a powerful tool.  It gives clarity as to what you actually want – the dreaded goal setting the majority of people shy away from –allowing you to start taking steps in the direction you actually desire.  Setting your sails, rather than being at the mercy of the tides and currents.  And once you're clear on where you want to end up, it's amazing how often serendipity steps in; bringing just the right people and events to speed you on your way.

By contrast entitlement always leaves a bad taste in the mouth – for all concerned – whatever their age and justification.  If you're in any doubt, you need look no further than the spoilt child in adult form we all come across from time to time.  And there's little worse than that…

As always, the choice is yours.

It's always great to hear from you, so just click here to add your comments to our facebook page. 

Jun 28
50 ways to improve your energy levels and raise your spirits


As promised last week, this week we're going to give you 50 ways to improve your energy levels and raise your spirits. These are among the many ideas we give clients and have stood the test of time.  Some are quick and simple, others take a little longer, but all have benefits well beyond the issues we're focusing on today.

Our advice, as always, is to choose one to start with and practice it until it becomes an automatic part of your life.  Then add another.  And another.  That's how change happens, one small step at a time.  So, without further ado, here we go:

Out and about

One.  Spend some time outside every day.  Not will you feel better for some fresh air and natural light, but it also helps reset your natural rhythms, body clock and hormones.

Two.  A daily walk, lasting as little as 20 minutes, helps to burn off stress hormones so you'll instantly feel calmer and happier.  Improved fitness also means that you'll have more energy and be able to better handle any stresses that come your way.

Three.  Even better get some sunshine too.  Sunlight not only boosts serotonin production – hurrah (!) – but Vitamin D levels too.  And, as an added bonus, don't forget how much better you feel with a bit of a tan.  J

Four.  Find a form of exercise you enjoy and do it regularly.  It doesn't matter what it is, as any exercise increases serotonin levels and so your spirits.  As an aside, it's been found that doing any form of exercise you enjoy has much greater benefits than doing one you hate doing; but is more strenuous.  So, for all those people who hate going to the gym but still drag themselves there, why not find something you actually enjoy doing instead?

Food, mmm…

Five.  If you fancy a curry, turmeric has also been found to increase serotonin levels in the brain.  It also reduces blood pressure.

Six.  Seafood, particularly oily fish, contain high levels of Vitamin D and Omega 3 oils which help improve the efficiency of neurons – the wiring (!) – in the brain.

Seven.  Other foods that help boost serotonin levels include nuts, seeds and good quality animal protein.  These all contain tryptophan which is needed to make serotonin.

Eight.  If you enjoy a chocolate "fix" replace the sugar laden milk chocolate bars with a good quality dark chocolate bar.  As an added bonus, you'll find that you want less of it as the more intense taste – and lower sugar levels – turn off your cravings more quickly.

Nine.  Eat little and often during the day – grazing – to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable.  This prevents the "peaks and troughs" which lead to comfort eating. 

Ten.  Adopt the KISS approach to food – keep it simple stupid.  Base all your meals round fruit, vegetables and salad that are in season, ideally from your garden or local farm shop.  Eat raw food and salad every day to maximise the nutrients obtained from them.  Always steam foods, rather than boiling.  Avoid processed and pre prepared foods, that way you know exactly what you're eating.

Eleven.  Eating small amounts of protein regularly during the day also helps maintain energy levels.  This includes the traditional forms of protein as well as nuts, seeds and bananas.  Protein is the body's long term fuel and eating it regularly helps stop you reaching for those naughty sweet and sugary foods as your blood sugar dips.  Carrying a banana or a bag of nuts / seeds with you is the easiest way to prevent comfort eating later in the day.

Twelve.  Acidophilus not only balances your "internal flora and fauna" – we love that expression (!) – but improves the digestion and nutrition received from food.  It also helps to prevent the build up of Candida in the Digestive System, which is linked to low energy levels and mood.

Thirteen.  Make the microwave a thing of the past.  Not only does it destroy the nutritional content of food but it also produces radiation.  Ironically this is at its strongest just in front of the door – which is where people tend to stand while they're waiting for their food to cook.  Ah!

Drinks and easy detoxing

Fourteen.  Drink more water (!).  How can that possibly make me happier or raise my energy levels, we hear you say.  Well, it's all about being hydrated – and the brain is 80% water after all – as well as helping to flush the body of toxins, so helping you feel happier in yourself.

Fifteen.  If you want to do a detox simply take Milk Thistle tincture twice a day for a month.  How difficult is that?  Traditionally a detox is done in the spring and autumn, in preparation for the change of season from winter to summer and back again.  This is one of the tinctures we hold so, if you'd like to do a detox, let us know!

Sixteen.  Herbal teas can be used to help detox and include nettle, mint and parsley.  Just one word of warning, don't drink them just before going to bed, unless you want to get out to the loo in the middle of the night.  Don't say we didn't tell you!

Seventeen.  Green tea is calming, as well as being high in antioxidants, helping prevent damage by free radicals, including to your precious "grey matter."

Eighteen.  A sauna or steam bath is another great way to do a detox and is guaranteed to make you feel relaxed, as well as giving a boost of energy. 

Having a great day

Nineteen.  Give – and so receive – a hug (!).  And you can always give yourself a hug if no one else is available – two footed or four footed (!).

Twenty.  Or what about holding someone's hand for a minute or two while you chat to them?  Older people, particularly those on their own, really appreciate it – and you'll feel good too.

Twenty One.  And don't forget all the good vibes you get from doing something for someone else without expecting something in return.  It doesn't need to be big or complicated and you'll be amazed how often someone else then does something nice for you.  J

Twenty Two.  Spend time with those you love and who raise your spirits.  Even a few minutes with them can make a huge difference to how you both feel.

Twenty Three.  Set clear boundaries.  Don't be afraid to use the "No" word.  If you need a reminder, just ask us for our "No" sheet, which can also be used as a gentle hint for those around you!

Twenty Four.  And, equally, keep those "heart sinkers" – and we all know who they are (!) – at arm's length.  If you're in any doubt, use the "pocket of change" exercise to work out who falls into this category.  Although, if you're not sure, then you've already answered the question for yourself (!).

Twenty Five.  Having a good laugh is a great way to boost your levels of serotonin, so why not dig out your favourite comedy show for a rerun?  They may be corny but nothing beats a dose of "Blackadder" or "'Allo 'Allo" (!).

Twenty Six.  Have a regular massage or other "hands on" therapy.  Not only will it give you a chance to relax and have some time out but helps reduce levels of stress hormones too.

Relaxation and time out

Twenty Seven.  Meditation, visualisation and relaxation techniques all help reduce levels of stress hormones as well as improving energy levels and your mood.  As with exercise, as little as 20 minutes a day can make a huge difference to your health over the longer term.

Twenty Eight.  Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and Chi Gong combine gentle exercise with relaxation and have lots of benefits.  As does swimming or walking.  They're also great for the non sporty among us!  J

Twenty Nine.  Find – or rediscover (!) – something you love doing and completely absorbs your attention.  It doesn't matter what it is – or what anyone else thinks about it (!) – so long as you enjoy doing it.  Not only is it a great antidote to stress, but doing something you love instantly raises your spirits and improves you energy levels.

Thirty.  A regular soak in the bath is a great way to relax and unwind at the end of the day.  Adding Sea Salt or Epsom Salts – both of which are high in magnesium – will also soothe the Nervous System and help with a good night's sleep.  As an aside, magnesium helps prevent cramps too.

Technology (remember it's your servant, there to make your life easier, NOT your master.  And, yes, we know this is a radical thought for many people (!))

Thirty One.  Turn off your phone.  Not only is it a great time waster and distraction, but it's linked to increased feelings of anxiety and depression.  It also prevents you from focussing on whatever you're trying to do – or those you're spending time with.  Remember, as we've said many times before, being busy isn't the same as being productive.  J

Thirty Two.  Similarly – and you're probably not going to like this one – avoid social media for the same reason.  If this isn't an addiction you're ready to break, then limit checking it to a few minutes twice a day.  Spend your time with real people who make you feel good instead.

Thirty Three.  At the very least, turn off wi fi when you're not using it.  Going back to old fashioned cable – which you turn off when it's not being used – is much better for many reasons.  Not only will it stop you from using it at all hours of the day and night (!) but wi fi – like other electric equipment – broadcasts at a similar frequency to the Nervous System affecting concentration, memory, mood, sleep and energy levels.

Other modern addictions (!)

Thirty Four.  Another addiction that you may want to break is to television.  Not only to the news and all the other "doom and gloom" but soap operas and other mindless programmes.  If it doesn't make you laugh or feel happy, give it a miss.  Television is a huge distraction and time waster.

Thirty Five.  And, finally, give the newspapers the heave ho too.  Not only is most of the content negative, but they also increase feelings of fear and anxiety.

Getting better sleep

Thirty Six.  Go to bed at the same – or similar – time each night.  This helps to set your body clock and research has found that a regular routine encourages a better quality – and more consistent – sleep.

Thirty Seven.  While on the subject of sleep, the old wives tale – an hour's sleep before midnight is worth two afterwards – has also been borne out by research.

Thirty Eight.  Make sure your bedroom is well ventilated and cool.  Overheating is associated with poor quality and broken sleep.  In fact we've recently come across research saying that the best way to get a good night's sleep is "au naturel (!)."

Thirty Nine.  Turn off any electric / electronic gizmos in your bedroom before you go to sleep as they broadcast at a similar frequency to the Nervous System and interfere with sleep.

Easy energy and mood boosters

Forty.  An under active thyroid is a common cause of low moods and energy.  An easy way to see if this is an issue for you is the Basal Temperature Test, which simply involves taking your temperature first thing in the morning.  Even better the solution is easy, taking Lugol's Iodine every morning to balance and boost thyroid function.  However do bear in mind that not all Lugol's Iodine available on the internet is the same.  To find out more about the Basal Temperature Test and the form of Lugol's Iodine to use, please contact us.

Forty One.  A tincture to help to balance hormones generally – and so help energy levels as well as mood (!) – is Siberian Ginseng, particularly for women. 

Forty Two.  St John's Wort / Hypericum – often known as the "sunshine herb" – helps balance neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin.  However it can lead to sensitivity to the sun as well as interacting with some conventional medications.  For these reasons is should not be bought off the shelf without first checking that it's suitable for you.

Forty Three.  Alternatives to St Johns' Wort include Passiflora and Avena Sativa, which both have similar effects but without the restrictions.  In addition, Avena Sativa is high in B Vitamins and other minerals required by the Nervous System.

Forty Four.  Talking of vitamins, Vitamin B Complex – a mix of all the B Vitamins – is well known for helping improve energy levels by supporting the Adrenal Glands.  Vitamin B Complex can be safely taken over the longer term.

Forty Five.  Lavender essential oil is well known for its relaxing properties and can be used in the bath, on your pillow or in a burner.  Other relaxing essential oils include chamomile, jasmine and geranium.

Forty Six.  Essential oils to give your energy a boost – and so not best used at night (!) – include rosemary, lemon and ginger.

Energy drains you can easily overlook

Forty Seven.  If you have any ongoing health concerns, don't put your head in the sand and ignore them.  As with any ongoing stress they can slowly run down energy levels, often before you've realised what's going on.  It's never too late to do something about them and small steps can often make a big difference over the longer term.

Forty Eight.  Similarly, if you're taking medication on an ongoing basis make sure it's reviewed regularly and consider other approaches.

Forty Nine.  We know this is a big one, but it's a huge energy drain as well as mood damper (!).  If you hate your job / home / significant other dare to think the unthinkable.  Take time out to imagine what it is you really want – which is often much simple than you think.  And if you can't work out what you do want it's very simple.  Exactly the opposite of what you currently have!  You'll be amazed how often things change simply by you considering the options and how much better you'll feel by doing this, whether you make any changes or not.

Fifty.  Let's finish on a positive note.   Remember that life is here to be enjoyed.  Have fun, laugh out loud and be kind to all those you meet.  And, you'll get the same in return.  Life really is that simple.  It's just us humans that make it complicated.

As always, the choice is yours.

It's always great to hear from you, so just click here to add your comments to our facebook page. 

Jun 21
Depression, is it simply down to brain chemistry?


Over recent years the number of people diagnosed with Depression has rocketed, as have those taking antidepressant medication over the long term, particularly children.  Earlier this year the World Health Organisation went so far as to label Depression as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.  It estimated that Depression now affects 322 million people worldwide, an increase of more than 18% over the decade to 2015. 

To us these were truly shocking figures.  And a sign that something is seriously wrong.  Not only with the conventional approach to treating Depression – which is failing to help those affected – but in the way we live our lives. 

So what on earth is going on?  And, more importantly, what can be done to address it?

The conventional explanation for Depression is that it's the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.  That levels of serotonin – the so called "feel good" hormone – are too low, leading to feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in life.  This is the reason that the majority of antidepressants are aimed at raising serotonin levels – usually by preventing it from being broken down – and so, the logic goes, treating Depression.

Unfortunately there is a major problem with this logic.  The theory linking low serotonin levels with Depression is just that, a theory.  There is no method by which a person's serotonin levels can be tested.  Well there is but only after they have died – and very shortly afterwards, as serotonin is broken down very quickly.

This means that Depression can only be diagnosed using a list of psychological symptoms.  Not only are these quite general – and so could apply to many different conditions – but are based on what the Doctor / Psychiatrist observes on that particular day.  In other words, a large amount of subjectivity is involved.

To illustrate how this works in practice, here are a selection of the symptoms used to diagnose Depression:

  • Continuous low mood or sadness
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Having low self esteem
  • Feeling tearful
  • Feeling guilt ridden
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • Having no motivation or interest in things
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
  • Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
  • Low sex drive
  • Disturbed sleep

When you take the time to look at these symptoms, it immediately becomes obvious how general they are.  And how we've all experienced them at some time or other. 

By continuing to base the treatment of Depression on the serotonin theory and a very general set of symptoms, this prevents other possible causes from being considered.  And, more importantly, alternative approaches to help those concerned. 

So let's now consider Depression from a different perspective and have another look at the list of symptoms to see if there's a common theme running through them. 

To us, having seen many clients with this label, it jumps straight out.  Perhaps to you it's less obvious.

All the symptoms are indicators of low energy levels on an ongoing basis.  Or, put another way, a lack of fuel in the tank. 

We all know what it's like to be tired for a day or two.  Perhaps after a busy time at home – or work – or during those times when it seems to be "one thing after another."  Or after an illness.  How easily you can end up being teary, helpless and irritable.  And, as an aside, can you see how easily you could have been labelled as "depressed" had you seen your Doctor at that time?

By looking at things from this perspective a completely different set of possible causes are uncovered.  Some obviously deplete energy levels on an ongoing basis, others are less so.

Let's start with the possible psychological cause.  Big life changing events and grief in all its forms.  The loss of a loved one, breakup of a marriage or long term relationship, major financial problems, loss of a job. 

Then there are the less obvious ones.  The birth of a child or children leaving home.  "Big birthdays".  Retirement.  Nursing / caring for a loved one on an on going basis.

And what about the ongoing stresses and strains of modern life, which are different for all of us and affect us all in different ways.  We'll leave you to come up with your own particular list (!).  The important thing to remember is that they gradually merge into the background, becoming "the norm" so we hardly notice them anymore.  Often it's not until someone else points them out that we notice the load we're carrying on a daily basis.

Switching our focus to more physical causes, there are thyroid – or other hormonal – imbalances such as adrenal exhaustion or after childbirth, "Post Natal Depression".

Or what about ongoing – chronic – health conditions?  Sadly the numbers of those with chronic health conditions has soared in recent years.  Often this involves pain and restricted movement too.  Not only is any chronic condition physically draining, but mentally exhausting as well.

Then there's one of our pet subjects (!), the western diet with its reliance on sugars / carbohydrates, unnatural fats and processed foods.  All of these contribute to poor nutritional levels and so low energy levels.  Put simply, if your body isn't getting the resources it needs, then you're not going to have good energy levels and be full of the joys of spring.  The warning bells have already been sounded by the return of Ricketts and Scurvy – to name but two – but is anyone listening?

Sedentary lifestyles, coupled with a lack of time outside in natural light and fresh air – you'll probably have heard about the link between a lack of Vitamin D and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – have both been shown to negatively impact on overall health, our natural rhythms and energy levels.

The toxic nature of modern life is becoming an increasing concern – and anyone who's had a hangover will know exactly what toxicity feels like (!).  Pollution of the air we breathe, food we eat and water we drink.  E Smog in its many different forms, all of which have been shown to affect brain function and mood.  Not forgetting any medications taken – both over the counter and on prescription – whether now or many years ago.

And here's something you may not have considered.  The lack of purpose so many people seem to have in their lives.  True, there are always the financial reasons to do what we do, but do these put a spring in your step and song in your heart?  Probably not. 

To enjoy life to its full we all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  One that makes us happy and fulfilled.  Doing something you hate doing just for the pay packet at the end of the month – or, even worse, the hope of a happy retirement at some distant date – isn't conducive to a happy or rewarding life.  Just a thought.

Added to this is the increasing anonymity of the modern world.  It's ironic that more and more people are feeling lonely and isolated, despite there being more ways to communicate than ever before.  Face to face communication – and time spent with those we care for – are priceless and can never be replaced by the latest gizmo; whatever the experts may tell you.

With so many different ways that our energy levels can be depleted on an ongoing basis – often without us ever realising it – is it any wonder that so called Depression is becoming an increasing problem?  Or that the emphasis on the "fix all" serotonin theory just doesn't work?  A new approach is long overdue. 

So, next week, we'll be giving you lots of ways – 50 to be precise (!) – to improve your energy levels and raise your spirits.  They are some of the many ideas we give clients and have stood the test of time.  They can easily be made part of your normal routine and, even better, have lots of other health benefits too.

As always, the choice is yours.

It's always great to hear from you, so just click here to add your comments to our facebook page. 

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