Making healthy food and drink choices is something we all
know how to do on a logical and intellectual level. Nowadays we have easy
access to an abundance of healthy-eating advice and information, and healthy
living is a hot topic.
We all know that an apple is a better choice than a bar of
chocolate. We know that our bodies are crying out for a drink of hydrating,
cleansing water and not a chemical-laden can of Diet Coke.
Why, then, can it be so difficult to make the right choice?
Why can it be so difficult to break a bad habit, even when
we know that the benefits of doing so would be immense and probably even life-changing?
The answer to these questions is not that we are lazy or weak
or greedy or undeserving (or whichever negative narrative we have come to
The answer to these questions is programming. We are programmed from the time we are in the womb and this programming goes on for our whole lives.
Our conscious mind accounts for only around 5% of our entire mind. Just 5%! This, of course, means that the other 95% of the time (i.e. almost always) we are functioning from the programmes which have been embedded into our subconscious at some point in our life.
A good analogy for this is learning to drive. It is only a
conscious process when we are actively learning and have to consciously
remember to put the clutch down before we change gear or remember ‘mirror,
signal, manoeuvre’, for example. Once we are competent and experienced drivers,
driving becomes a subconscious process and we often arrive at our destination
and struggle to remember how we got there!
What’s more, the subconscious mind processes information
billions of times more quickly than the conscious mind. So, this fact coupled
with the fact that the subconscious accounts for around 95% of our mind as a
whole should give you some idea of how incredibly powerful the influence of our
subconscious programming is.
This is absolutely fine – in fact, it’s great! – if we are
operating on positive subconscious programmes like ‘I am worthy’ or ‘I deserve to
be happy’ or ‘I love my life’.
Often, however, we are operating on more detrimental
‘I’m not good enough’
‘I don’t deserve to be happy/healthy/attractive’
‘I’m not clever enough’
‘My sister is the pretty one’
‘I can’t do anything right’
‘My mum has always been overweight so I will be too’
‘Food is the only thing that makes me happy’.
And many, many more.
Do any of these sound familiar? Do any of these resonate
with you or make you feel uncomfortable/sad/angry?
Our bodies record every experience we ever have, from our
time in the womb onwards (quite a thought, I know!). So even when we can’t
consciously remember an experience because we were very young (or often because
we have managed quite successfully to push it right to the back of our minds),
our body still holds on to the memory.
Any feelings with a high emotional charge, e.g. inferiority,
guilt, jealousy, failure, etc., stay with us until we take steps to acknowledge
them and clear the relevant emotion from our bodies, minds and energy systems.
Of course, food and emotions are intrinsically linked, hence why we can inadvertently sabotage our attempts at healthy living (or indeed anything else we are attempting to change in our lives).
Eating to fill an emotional void, eating due to loneliness,
powerlessness, boredom, stress…the list goes on.
As incredible as it may seem, we can even choose to hold on
to excess weight at a (deeply!) subconscious level as it can give us a feeling
of protection; it creates a barrier between us and a harsh world. Or perhaps if
we have been badly hurt in a relationship then we can (again, DEEPLY
subconsciously) decide to make ourselves feel less attractive in some way so
that we are less likely to be approached by prospective partners and can
therefore avoid being hurt again.
Huge steps forward can be made when we clear these old,
stuck emotions and outdated subconscious programmes which no longer serve us.
When we are functioning from an emotionally-balanced,
positively-programmed mindset it is significantly easier to opt for the healthy
choice, not only because we are operating from a healthier, more neutral
perspective, but also because we are far more in tune with our bodies and
So, to help yourself along the path to lasting change, as
well as following advice from a qualified Nutritionist, take some time to tune
into yourself and see if you can identify where and/or when these emotions
originate from (you might be surprised).
With a bit of time and effort, it is absolutely possible to clear the negative emotions and programming which are holding us back and to implement balance and positive programming in their place, allowing us to move forward with greater ease and confidence.
Melanie holds the
International Diploma in Integrated Healing, a revolutionary healing system
that which works on the whole being (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual)
to release blocks to health, happiness and true wellbeing. Integrated Healing
combines the best of modern Psychology, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP),
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Physiology, Applied Kinesiology,
Traditional Chinese Medicine, complementary medicine (and many other therapies)
with its own unique methodologies.
Boosting your immune system all year will reduce your risk of catching colds or worse the dreaded flu during the colder months. Flu season peaks in the months of January and February within the UK and can cause serious illness for the young, old and at-risk groups. If you fall into one of these categories it is recommended you receive the flu jag. However, we can take steps to help ourselves by leading a healthy lifestyle by eating a nutrient dense diet, getting plenty of exercise, ensuring adequate sleep and keeping stress levels low.
Here are some of my top tips to help you boost your immune system this winter.
Eat your veggies Keeping your body well-nourished helps with more than just weight control; it also supports your body with energy, digestion, immune function and disease prevention. One of the most significant things you can do to start implementing an immune-boosting diet is to add fresh,whole foodswhen possible. Start with vegetables because they’re one of the foods that are typically missing in most diets (or we just don’t get enough of them) there are so many benefits for your overall health and well-being by consuming at least 5 servings of vegetables each day. Green fruits and vegetables are a nutritional powerhouse and contain lots of the vitamins (including A, C, K and folate) and minerals (even calcium!) we need every day. This includes magnesium and iron, which are highly beneficial for fighting tiredness and energy slumps. Leafy greens like spinach are also a good source of vitamins A, C and K, for strengthening your immunity, supporting your eye health and even helping other vitamins to be absorbed well. An array of green vegetables to choose from include: kale, spinach, cabbage, asparagus, celery, broccoli, cucumber, artichokes, leafy greens (lettuce varieties, collards), peas, and green peppers just to name a few. It’s not just veggies that add more greens to your plate though – don’t forget about your fruits such as green apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi, limes, avocado. Foods from the yellow/orange group are also packed with vitamin C, a natural immune booster. Try pumpkin, oranges, pepper, cantaloupe, mango, squash, sweet potato, papaya, pineapple, carrots and lemon. Stocking up on citrus fruits during the colder months or start the day with a half lemon squeezed in some water each day all year round to boost your immunity.
Eat enough protein Proteins are nutrients that are essential to the building, maintenance and repair of your body tissues such as your skin, internal organs and muscles. They are also the major components of your immune system and hormones. Protein is found in both animal and plant foods such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy products, legumes, grains and some vegetables. Try to include protein at each meal to feel the benefits.
Good Fats Consuming sufficient amounts of fat in the right forms and proper proportions have been shown to offer significant health benefits. Among other things, it can strengthen the immune system. Healthy fats are found in foods such as meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, and oily fish, like salmon. Purchase the highest quality you can if your budget allows.
Other good fat sources include olive oil, coconut oil and avocado (i.e. olive oil as part of salad dressing; coconut oil for cooking, baking and more; and avocado in smoothies or on your sandwich or salad). Remember you only need to eat a little of these to get all the benefits from fat.
Exercise reduces infections Moderate workouts temporarily rev-up the immune system by increasing the aggressiveness or capacity of immune cells. That may explain why people who exercise catch fewer colds.
Reducing stress There is a growing amount of research on the effect of stress on our physical bodies. For example, feeling overly worried can trigger stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline/epinephrine. It can also activate the “fight or flight” part of our nervous systems (called the “sympathetic” nervous system). When these are activated, they can physically suppress our immune systems, and make us more susceptible to infections. Try including 10 minutes of yoga or meditation each day to help reduce stress levels.
Improve the quality of sleepPoor sleep can lower immunity. If you seem to get every cough and cold going, your sleep habits may be to blame. Researchers deliberately exposed people to the common cold virus to see how likely they were to go on to develop a cold. Participants who had been sleeping for less than 7 hours per night had lower immunity and were almost 3 times more likely to be impacted. Even a small sleep debt has been linked to lower immunity.
Wash your hands regularly wash your hands to ensure you are not spreading germs. Germs can live for up to 8 hours on any surface, so getting into the habit of washing your hands after your morning commute particularly if you travel by public transport, after using the bathroom and avoid touching your face as much as possible.
If you are struggling to implement any of these changes to your diet and lifestyle, please book a free consultation callwith me and see how I can support you.
Have you ever felt a “pit” in your stomach, or a change in your appetite when you’re stressed? Have you felt your heart and mind race when you’re afraid? Have you felt calm and tranquil when you’re blissfully enjoying life’s moments?
These are examples of the mind-body connection.
Science has begun to recognise the connection between the mind and the body, and how our thoughts and feelings can directly affect our physical health. These connections have been suspected (even observed) by many patients and healers throughout the centuries.
The “mind” we’re referring to includes the mental states of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.
The mind and heart are thought to form the “psycho-emotional” roots of health and disease.
Here’s the great part; The more we understand the connection between the mind and body, the more we can use it to our advantage to improve our health and our lives. Exciting stuff!
Thoughts and Emotions
It’s been said that negative emotions like anger, fear, guilt, and sadness can contribute to imbalances in our body, and eventually manifest as disease. Sometimes when we feel these emotions, our bodies react with digestive issues, aches and pains, and in other physical ways as well. Have you experienced this before? I know it’s happened to me plenty of times.
This powerful link between our minds and bodies is the fascinating observation that improving one’s mood and outlook can reduce inflammation and even improve cancer survival! Pretty fascinating, right?
The “law of attraction” is a similar concept. It’s about using the power of the mind to transform our thoughts into reality. Have you ever focused your attention on something negative that you’re sure will happen… and it eventually does? Or the opposite; you’re hoping and working toward an amazing goal, focusing your mental energy on it, and you finally reach it? These are referred to as the power of the law of attraction.
Thoughts and emotions carry vibrations throughout our bodies. These vibrations can affect our cells. This is because our cells, hormones, and neurotransmitters are all made from atoms and molecules that are in a constant state of motion. This motion within our mind has a frequency that can influence other frequencies in our bodies.
The Physiology of the Mind-Body Connection
There is a growing amount of research on the effect of stress on our physical bodies. But, how is this feasible? What physical channels are there that can possibly link the mind and the body?
Direct links between the mind and body include the nerves and biochemical compounds (i.e. hormones, neurotransmitters, etc.). Both of these travel between the brain and the body sending messages in all directions.
Different mental states influence our physical health for the better or worse. For example, feeling overly worried can trigger stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline/epinephrine. It can also activate the “fight or flight” part of our nervous systems (called the “sympathetic” nervous system). When these are activated, they can physically suppress our immune systems, and make us more susceptible to infections. They can affect our heartbeat and breathing. Over the long run, they are thought to worsen heart and other health issues.
In fact, scientists have mapped out different areas in our brains and bodies that are activated when people experience different emotions.
One study showed that people who repress emotions are more likely to have an imbalance in the stress hormone cortisol than people who express their emotions. It’s thought that long-term psychological stress can even increase our risk of cancer and heart disease.
Emotions can indirectly affect our physical bodies as well. Oftentimes, how we feel affects the way we behave – whether we turn to or away from healthy foods, exercise, and sleep. Over the long-run, these habits and behaviours can take a toll on our physical health. These work in the other direction as well, whereby after we eat, exercise, and/or sleep, we feel different emotions than we did beforehand.
Think about what you do when you’re feeling stressed or sad. Do you turn to (and devour) sweets and maybe skip your workout, for example? It’s also possible that you lose your appetite during times of stress. Do you find it easier to stay on track with your food choices and exercise routine when you’re happy and content? These are examples of the mind-body connection too.
Mind-Body Practices for Optimum Health
There are many practices we can take on to help foster calmer minds, inner peace, and lead to a higher level of physical health and wellness.
Mind-Body Practices – Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation helps to focus the attention on the present moment. It’s an ancient practice that can help calm the mind and relax the body.
Meditation is also used to reduce fatigue, lower feelings of stress, help improve mood and sleep, and help cope with pain and illness. It can help to focus attention and increase self-awareness.
Modern neuroscience has associated the meditative state with changes in the electrical function of the brain.
Meditation is considered a safe practice for healthy people. If you have physical limitations, then there may be some movement-based practices that should be avoided.
To begin non-movement based meditating, there are many free videos, audios, and apps available that can guide you through meditation. Three great apps (available on iOs and Android) include Head Space, Calm, and The Mindfulness app. My personal fave is Head Space, but check out different ones to see what you like best.
“Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realising that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.”
~ Pema Chodron
Mind-Body Practices – Yoga
Yoga combines the use of physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. It is sometimes used to help reduce pain and improve moods.
Yoga is considered safe in healthy people when practised appropriately. Some people should avoid certain poses, so working with an experienced instructor who can suggest safe modifications is recommended. If you’re brand new to yoga, it can feel a bit intimidating, so one option is to start with a yoga DVD (Amazon.com has a good selection) or check out streaming online yoga classes. Just search “streaming yoga classes” and you’ll find a bunch. My favourite isYoga With Adriene.
“Yoga is about clearing away whatever is in us that prevents our living in the most full and whole way. With yoga, we become aware of how and where we are restricted — in body, mind, and heart — and how gradually to open and release these blockages. As these blockages are cleared, our energy is freed. We start to feel more harmonious, more at one with ourselves. Our lives begin to flow — or we begin to flow more into our lives.”
~ Cybele Tomlinson
Mind-Body Practices – Tai Chi
Tai chi is a centuries-old mind-body practice that involves specific gentle movements with mental focus and breathing.
Research shows that practising tai chi improves balance and stability, and can reduce the risk of falls. It can also help with pain, fatigue, and moods. You can look for tai chi classes in your area, purchase DVD’s or check out streaming videos.
“Tai chi does not mean oriental wisdom or something exotic. It is the wisdom of your own senses, your own mind and body together as one process.”
~ Chungliang Al Huang
Mind-Body Practices – Acupuncture
Acupuncture comes from traditional Chinese medicine. It’s a technique that uses thin needles strategically inserted into the skin at specific points on the body.
It is used to help with many types of pain.
Acupuncture is generally considered safe when a well-trained experienced practitioner uses sterile needles.
“Broadly speaking, acupuncture has three primary effects:
It relieves pain.
It reduces inflammation.
It restores homeostasis.” ~ Chris Kresser
Mind-Body Practice – Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is a very popular mind-body practice. Massage therapists work on muscle and other soft tissues to help you to relax and feel better.
There is some evidence that it can help with certain types of pain, as well as reduce fatigue and stress, promote relaxation, and improve moods.
Massage therapy seems to be a safe practice when performed by a trained practitioner.
The way you think and feel can help to feed health or disease. Your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions can affect your body directly (through nerves and hormones) and indirectly (by influencing habits and behaviours).
Some of the common health concerns that many people use mind-body practices are fatigue, stress, pain, and moods.
There are many different mind-body practices including, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and massage therapy.
What can you start implementing today?
I love helping my clients figure out ways to reduce stress and help them recognise the mind-body connection and how it may affect their overall health and happiness.
It’s always best to speak with your healthcare provider before beginning any type of health practice. When choosing a practitioner to guide you through a mind-body practice, ensure they are qualified and experienced and can make any modifications necessary to support your current state of health.
Wishing you health and happiness,