The Health Sessions | In-Depth Advice on Coping with Chronic Illness.
I'm a psychologist living with chronic illness. I want to help you feel as energetic, symptom-free and happy as possible, by showing you how to create lasting health habits and by giving you advice on how to cope with (chronic) health problems.
We’ve all experienced days when accomplishing even the simplest of everyday tasks can prove to be a struggle. Chronic illness is commonly associated with discomfort, pain and fatigue. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can present these in addition to mobility and coordination challenges, which can make daily tasks difficult on a regular basis.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), six out of ten adults in the US have a chronic disease, one out of four live with some type of disability, and only .73% of housing units with a resident wheelchair user is actually fully wheelchair accessible. When faced with mobility challenges, the accessibility of a given environment is a major determining factor in how engaged and active you’re able to be. This is especially important in the home, where you should have the most peace of mind.
Luckily, there are some relatively simple steps that can be taken around the house that can help you conserve energy and accomplish tasks more efficiently.
How to Make Your Home More Accessible
Outside and Around the Home
MS can be unpredictable, and symptoms come and go. Flare ups, or exacerbation, vary from person to person, and even from one flare up to another. Common symptoms of an exacerbation can include trouble with balance and severe fatigue.
The ability to comfortably move inside from outside, whether or not you’re experiencing a flare up, is the first step toward enjoying your home. Equally important, is the ability to enjoy any outdoor areas or yards that might surround your place. Edged paths through any yards with firm and level surfaces are ideal for wheelchair or walker traffic, and can keep plants and grass from creating tripping hazards. Often the most significant barrier to people with MS and limited mobility getting into and out of the home is the entrance itself. Installing a ramp is a good way to make an entryway accessible, and there are many different types to choose from, depending on your needs.
Safe and Accessible Inside the Home
Constant fatigue is common for people with MS and many other chronic illnesses. This tiredness can impact all aspects of life, including making getting up to answer the door a major undertaking, sometimes taking long enough for your visitor or delivery person to give up. A “smart doorbell” can offer a greater sense of security in the home, as well as enable you to see and communicate with anyone who comes to your door using your smartphone, when answering the door isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Being mindful of surfaces inside the home is a very important part of making sure your space is as accessible as possible. Hardwood floors, although slicker than carpeted floors, can be easier to navigate with a wheelchair, walker, or cane. On the other hand, if you get around unassisted, but experience balance issues or are sometimes unsteady on your feet, smooth, even carpeting might offer some security and traction without being hazardous or obstructive. Thick rugs are usually good to avoid, as they can slip and slide around, catch wheels, and pose a tripping danger. Replace rugs that slide around easily, especially in bathrooms, with mats with grip to avoid slipping threats.
Making sure your entire house is easy to use can seem challenging. However, with some fairly simple adjustments, life around the home can be made much more chronic illness-friendly. Although the standard width for a doorway is approx 36″, many interior door frames (closets and bathrooms, for example) tend to be on the narrower side. Widening these doorways is a great way to provide accessibility, but can cost up to $1,000, which isn’t practical for everyone.
A far less expensive alternative could be replacing existing door hinges with offset hinges, which allows any door to swing clear of the opening and widens the doorway by two inches, allowing walkers and wheelchairs to pass through freely. Standard, round door knobs can be tricky with chronic dexterity/grip issues or coordination issues, and can easily be replaced with push or pull bars or lever handles, vastly increasing accessibility and comfort.
Chronic illness can make reaching up to search for things and extending to pull them down from high shelves both physically difficult and exhausting. Cabinets throughout the home can be reorganized so that most frequently used items inhabit lower shelves and are constantly within reach.
The same idea can be applied to closets by lowering the bars used for hanging clothes, and using lower shelves for every day articles. Wire or plastic drawers are ideal in closet spaces because they provide visibility as to the contents of each, and are easy to open and close. If mobility is an issue, positioning any dressers within reach of the bed or a bench, and placing them to allow comfortable access to drawers can save energy and frustration when getting in and out of bed and getting dressed.
Bathrooms and Kitchens
Bathrooms can be tricky to make fully accessible depending on whether you rent or own, and how much money you’re able to spend on alterations. Studies demonstrate that over 50% of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) fall in a three to six-month period, and around 30% to 50% fall multiple times. Slip proof flooring or slip proof mats are important, especially in the bathroom, since surfaces tend to get wet. Grab bars and/or rails are essential for stability when getting in and out of the shower or bath, and in the shower to aid with standing for long periods.
A shower bench can also be a lifesaver when things like standing for long periods are difficult. Installing a toilet riser with bars can help to alleviate stress on knees, muscles and joints, and can make getting on and off easier overall. This can cost up to about $50.
In the kitchen, arranging appliances near sinks and counters can make performing tasks easier, as well as shifting commonly used items into lower, easily-accessible cabinets and shelves.
Making your living space can be an investment, but the quality of life improvements are priceless.
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Maybe you’ve read it too: what you do after waking may be the key to a healthy and successful life.
There’s lots of anecdotal evidence that many influential people, from world leaders to CEO’s and movie stars, utilize the early morning hours to set themselves up for success and reach their goals. They’ll eat a hearty breakfast, get their exercise in and meditate before the rest of the world rises.
That sounds fantastic, but a healthy morning routine isn’t always easy to realize when you’ve had a bad night’s sleep and got to get your (uncooperative) kids ready for school.
That’s why lots of life coaches tell you to get up one hour earlier so you have time to perform your morning routine. “You have to make sacrifices and put your priorities first if you want to be successful”, they claim. And if they can do it, you can do it too, no excuses.
Well, I disagree.
After a decade of delayed sleep syndrome and painsomnia, followed by years of kids waking up multiple times every single night, sleeping is sacred to me. Even more so, I think that getting enough undisturbed, restful sleep is one of the most important things you can do to feel happy, energetic, productive and ‘successful’ – whatever that means to you. Especially if you suffer from persisting health problems.
So getting up at the crack of dawn to do yoga and sip green juice while the rest of the house is still asleep, is not necessarily my idea of a healthy start of the day. Surely there must be healthy habits you can do that fit more seamlessly into your existing morning routine?
Here are 34 ideas for a healthy morning routine that can be done in 10 minutes or less.
34 Quick Ideas for a Healthy Morning Routine
What you do first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. How can you nourish your body, mind and soul in a way that doesn’t require much time and energy?
Visualize your Ideal Day. In the perfect world, what would you do? How would you like to feel and who would you spend time with? Vividly picturing your ideal day (or morning!) brings clarity to what’s most important to you.
Give yourself a quick body massage in the shower or while moisturizing. You can simply use long strokes on your legs and arms to boost your circulation or use a self massage tool to release tension in your neck and shoulders.
‘Work out’ for one song to get your blood pumping and kickstart your metabolism. Dance in your living room, jump on your treadmill for 3 minutes or do one strength training exercise. If you’re fit, you could try a 7-minute HIIT to get lots of fitness benefits in little time.
Repeat a meaningful mantra. From “I am whole” to ‘Everything I need is within me”, the way you talk to yourself matters. Which powerful message boosts your motivation and determination?
Pack a healthy lunch and snacks. That way you’ll be less tempted to hit the vending machine when the afternoon slump rolls around.
Make time for your family or flat mates. Instead of rushing out the door, take 10 extra minutes to have breakfast together or cuddle in bed.
Drink a glass of (lemon) water first thing in the morning. Over 60 percent of your body is made out of water, so hydrating yourself after a night’s sleep is vital. You can put a water bottle by your bedside as a reminder.
Don’t check your email and/or social media before leaving the house. This is challenging for most people (myself included). But wouldn’t it be much nicer to pay attention to your partner, your food or a soothing activity instead of instantly being wrapped up in to-do lists?
Listen to an inspiring podcast or audio recording during your commute. Your ideas, intentions and opinions are sparked by the input around you. So feed your mind positive and constructive information, especially in the early morning hours.
Breathe in deeply. Oxygen is the most vital source of energy, but thanks to everyday stress, many of us have a shallow breathing pattern. Start your day with an energizing breathing exercise, like Alternate Nostril Breathing or a Breath of Fire.
Eat veggies with your breakfast. Get your daily dose of disease-fighting nutrients before 8AM. Make a green smoothie bowl, add grated carrots to your overnight oats or prep hearty egg muffins you can eat on the go.
Make your bed. According to happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, this simple ritual brings peace, order and a sense of accomplishment to your day.
Sing in the shower. Belting out your favorite tunes has more benefits to your health and happiness than you might think. And singing on key isn’t even required.
Write one Morning Page. Made popular by The Artist Way, Morning Pages are (normally) 3 pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning, but this may take too much of your time. So grab a sheet of paper and jot down whatever comes to mind to clarify your thoughts and get into a flow. If writing a full page of sounds too daunting, use Listography’s engaging prompts to write one list a day or boost your happiness with The Five Minute Journal.
Walk or cycle to work if possible. Human-powered transport is good for your body, your wallet and the environment.
Enjoy the silence. The rest of your day will probably be filled with chatter, noise and input.
Swap your morning cup of coffee for a matcha latte, herbal tea or other coffee alternatives. It’s better to take your shot of caffeine when your cortisol levels are low, around 10AM and 3PM.
Perform a Power Pose. Adopting an expansive posture makes you feel more powerful, prepping you for a big meeting or a scary doctor’s visit. How you carry yourself impacts how you feel.
Read positive news. Research shows that scanning the headlines for just 3 minutes in the morning negatively affects your mood for the rest of the day. So don’t watch the morning news and check out more uplifting news stories instead.
Do one routine activity mindfully. Instead of thoughtlessly brushing your teeth, pay attention to how it feels, the way you’re standing, what it tastes like. Regularly practicing mindfulness can lower your stress levels, improve your mental health and increase your attention span.
Let the light in. Natural daylight is one of the most powerful ways to fine-tune your internal clock and wake you up. So open the curtains first thing in the morning for a productive day.
Identify your 3 Most Important Tasks (MIT’s) for the day. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your to-do list or get off thrown track by other tasks. Writing down your priorities and tackling (one of ) them in the morning will make you feel on top of the world.
Have an easy, nourishing breakfast. A combination of (plant-based) protein, healthy fats and slow carbs – like yoghurt with fruit and nuts – will keep you full until lunchtime.
Stretch in bed. It doesn’t just feel good, but improves your mobility, pain levels and circulation too. So pretend your a cat and reach your arms over your head while stretching your legs downwards before crawling out from under the covers. You get bonus points for rotating your joints or doing a supine twist.
Practice body brushing. This ancient wellness ritual stimulates your blood and lymph circulation and supports the natural detoxification of your body.
Got a garden? Try planting your bare feet in the grass for a simple grounding exercise. Although the evidence around earthing is controversial, connecting with nature in any way is healthy and mindful.
Learn something new. Build your vocabulary, learn a new foreign word or play a brain game to keep your brain sharp and creative.
Take your supplements and/or set out your prescribed medication for the day. That may sound logical, but therapy compliance is a more common problem than you may realize.
End your morning shower with one minute of cold water. Ok, it doesn’t sound appealing, but cold water therapy has been known to speed up your metabolism and reduce inflammation.
Light a candle and mindfully watch the flame for a minute to start your day intentionally and mindfully.
Try foam rolling. Studies suggest that foam rolling loosens tight muscles and warms them up.
Say a prayer, read one religious passage or study one of the ‘spiritual laws of success’ to start your day with meaning and purpose. Because like Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
Have something to look forward to. What’s better than waking up knowing there’s a little extra time to read an exciting book, drink a chai latte in the sun or listen to uplifting songs?
Sunshine is your number one source of vitamin D, a vitamin needed to keep your bones strong, support your immune system and protect your mental health. Too much sun exposure, however, damages your skin, putting your at risk for skin cancer.
At the same time, sunscreen lotions are currently under scrutiny, because some of the chemical active ingredients they contain may be harmful to your health and the environment.
How can you get the benefits of sunshine and still protect your skin?
Why sun exposure is both good and bad for you
Remember the days when people would rub themselves in oil (not the SPF kind) to get the perfect tan? Public health campaigns have made most of us aware of that sunburns increase your risk of melanoma, a dangerous kind of skin cancer. So nowadays, we diligently apply sunscreen when we go to the beach or spend the day outside.
However, at the same time, there’s an increasing number of people who suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that your body produces when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Because only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D, sunshine is its most important source. When you’re deficient in vitamin D, you can develop rickets, osteoporosis and hormonal problems. Low blood levels of vitamin D can also lead to muscle weakness, cognitive impairment, heart disease and cancer.
So while sunburn hurts your health, moderate non-burning sun exposure has many benefits for your body and mind. What’s more, safely exposing yourself to sunlight can even reduce your risk of melanoma.
The problem is that we spend most of our waking hours indoors – in the office, gym, shopping mall, at home, behind screens. On vacation or during sunny weekends however, we love to go outside and catch as much sunshine as possible. But when you go from sun avoidance to full exposure, your skin doesn’t gradually build a tolerance for ultraviolet radiation. Instead, your indoor skin will burn more easily when it’s suddenly exposed to strong UV rays. That’s why occasional sunbathing is linked to a greater risk of melanoma than regularly spending time outdoors all-year round.
Knowing all this, what is the best way to safely enjoy the summer sun? Recommendations vary, depending on where you live, the color of your skin and your age, but here are some general guidelines.
6 Ways to Safely Enjoy the Summer Sun
1. Time your sunbathing wisely
To produce enough vitamin D, you should expose your skin to sunlight without sunscreen for 10-20 minutes, at least three times a week. If you have darker skin, you may need a little more time in the sun to get healthy blood levels of vitamin D.
After that, apply good-quality sunscreen with high SPF or avoid intense sun exposure. Depending on where you live, the sun’s high in the sky between 10am and 3pm. It’s best to stay mostly in the shade during these peak hours to avoid sunburn.
2. Spend more time outdoors, all-year round
Allow your skin to gradually get used to UV radiation by spending more time outdoors throughout the seasons – and not just on hot summer days. This also helps you get your daily dose of vitamin D. It isn’t always easy to get outside on busy days, especially if you live in an urban area or you’re stuck at home with illness. But go for a short stroll, eat your lunch outside or head into nature on the weekends. The benefits for your health and happiness are worth it.
3. Cover up
Wear lightweight clothes and a cute hat to avoid sunburn and premature aging of your skin. Consider buying UV-protective clothes for young kids who love playing outside. And don’t forget to protect your eyes! The Mayo Clinic recommends sunglasses that block 99% of both UVA and UVB rays.
4. Research the best sunscreen lotion for you
It’s hard to give universal advice on which brands to use, since regulation regarding sunscreen and the ingredients used differ from continent to continent. This article from goop explains which chemicals found in sun lotions are safe, and lists the best-scoring sunscreens in the US. You can also take a look at natural face sunscreens that use minerals to protect your skin.
Still got some leftover sunscreen from last summer? Check the expiry date to see if it’s still effective.
5. Apply your sunscreen right
Life isn’t always predictable. But whenever you can, it’s best to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before heading into the sun. That way, the lotion has time to form a uniform coating on your skin, protecting every body part. Also make sure you put on a relatively thick layer of sunscreen. Don’t forget easily overlooked body parts like your hair line, ears, back of your knees and your feet.
Finally, reapply your sunscreen every two hours and/or after swimming. Yes, that goes for the “all-day” and “water-resistant” lotions too! Sunscreen rubs and washes off throughout the day.
6. Eat your sun protection
UV rays generate free radicals in the body, molecules that damage cells. Thankfully, antioxidants in berries, leafy greens, carrots and dark chocolate help fight these free radicals. For example, lycopene found in tomatoes has been shown to protect against skin damage. So eat a wide variety of colourful fruits and vegetables and stock up on antioxidant-rich spices to protect your skin from the inside out. Or drink your ‘sunblock’ with a goji ginger lemonade!
How do you take care of your skin on sunny days?
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There’s an overwhelming amount of advice available about how to reduce pain. But how exactly do you deal with pain that won’t go away?
Millions of people around the world suffer from pain that continues beyond the expected period of healing. When you experience chronic pain, your body is in a constant state of fight-or-flight. This on-going stress damages your body and even changes the neural circuits in your brain. Chronic pain can also lead to depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders and avoidant behavior, which in turn worsen your existing pain.
Everyone copes with pain differently, but some ways are more effective and constructive than others. When it comes to chronic pain, there’s one group of strategies you may easily overlook: how to manage pain with your mind.
“It’s all in your mind”
Feeling pain involves both your body and your mind. When you hit your toe or touch something hot, your nervous system sends warning signals to your brain, urging it to take action. Depending on the type of pain, different regions in your brain light up and pain-reducing chemicals like endorphins are being released into your bloodstream.
But when the pain continues for weeks, months or even years, your brain may become rewired to perceive pain signals even after the cause of the pain is gone.
What’s more, pain doesn’t just cause a physical sensation. It also evokes an emotional reaction, like feeling angry, upset or fearful, and triggers thoughts like “what’s happening to me?” and “will this pain ever go away?”.
The fact that pain has a psychological component does not mean you’re imagining it, making it up or are overreacting.
It simply means that both the pathways in your brain as well as your thoughts, beliefs and emotions about pain also play a role in the continuation of chronic pain. And that makes your mind one more entry point to start managing your pain levels.
5 Ways That Mind Tricks Help You Cope with Physical Pain
Being mentally engaged takes your mind off the pain.
Performing mental techniques can override the pain signals to your brain.
Psychological strategies can help prevent a negative cycle of pain sensations, unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.
Mind-body techniques relieve tension in body, which in turn lessens your pain.
Emotion-focused coping strategies can stop anxiety and depression from developing.
If that sounds helpful, take a look at 8 psychological strategies can you use whenever you are in pain.
8 Mental Techniques You Can Use to Cope with Chronic Pain
1. Positive distraction
Your working memory can only process a limited amount of input at once. In the case of chronic pain, that can be a good thing. Because when you focus your attention on happy thoughts or fun activities, there’s less capacity available to handle pain signals.
However, as anyone suffering from chronic pain knows, the reverse is also true. Being in pain makes it more difficult to concentrate on other things. Learning a new skill or solving complex problems can be too much to ask for when your body’s aching. So choose positive distractions that require just the right amount of brain power, like playing games or reading a short story.
2. Listening to music
We’ve all experienced how listening to your favorite tunes can make you feel better. But did you know that music also affects your ability to handle pain? A controlled study showed that listening to music twice a day helped patients with chronic pain to significantly reduce self-reported pain and their intake of medication. What’s more, music listening is associated with lower stress levels, less anxiety and depression, and more perceived control over pain.
Scientists aren’t sure yet how music exerts its effects, but in the meantime, you can safely prescribe yourself a playlist with upbeat and relaxing songs to help cope with chronic pain.
3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It’s the most commonly used psychological technique to manage pain: cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that successfully reduces pain and emotional distress by identifying and correcting unhelpful pain-related thought patterns and behaviors. For example, pain catastrophizing – excessive worrying about pain and your inability to deal with it – leads to greater dysfunction in daily life, even when you take pain and depression levels into account.
Naturally, it’s best to do CBT under professional supervision. However, you can try to examine your automatic negative thoughts and beliefs about pain yourself, and challenge them. That doesn’t mean you’re denying the intensity, severity or the source of your pain. You’re simply creating more helpful thought patterns to improve your pain levels and daily functioning.
For more information about using cognitive behavior therapy to cope with chronic pain, please contact your doctor to learn about treatment options in your area.
4. Progressive muscle relaxation
When we’re stressed and in pain, we automatically tense our muscles, preparing us for action. But tight muscles actually experience pain more intensely than relaxed muscles. Even worse, tension in one part of your body, for example your neck, can cause pain in other parts, like your head, shoulders and back.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a mind-body technique that focuses on releasing tension from your body. By systematically tensing and then relaxing every muscle group, you’ll feel more comfortable. This deep state of relaxation may also improve your tolerance of pain.
You can perform progressive muscle relaxation whenever you’re hurting, but it can be particularly useful to practice it before bed to help beat ‘painsomnia’.
5. Hold hands
Sometimes pain relief is just a touch away. According to research, holding your partner’s hand can decrease your pain levels. That’s probably because touching allows a couple’s heart rate and breathing to sync up, creating a pain-relieving effect.
But don’t worry if you’re aching and there’s nobody nearby. Another study showed that looking at a photo of someone you love also makes pain more manageable. Simply feeling supported helps to reduce your perceived pain.
6. Breathing through the pain
We’ve all seen movie scenes of women in labour ‘puffing’ away the pain. But did you know that the way you breathe also influences pain processing in everyday life? Deep belly breathing activates your body’s natural relaxation response, releases stress and calms your mind. Slow diaphragmatic breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve, a nerve that’s recognized for relieving pain.
Here are some exercises that can help you breathe through the pain:
What does your pain feel like? Is it throbbing, burning or stabbing? Do you experience pins and needles? Is the pain localized or does it radiate to other body parts?
Sensory splitting is a mental technique that helps you divide your pain into different components, like the type of pain, intensity, location and duration. By splitting pain in several sensations that change over time, you’re less likely to be absorbed by worries about pain. And less stress means less pain.
8. Visualization and guided imagery
Imagine yourself sitting on a quiet beach, with your feet in the sand and a breeze through your hair. Feels pretty calming right?
Visualization and guided imagery can be powerful tools to unwind. Even more so, painting a vivid picture may redirect your thoughts away from the pain. Because visualizing peaceful scenes relaxes both your body and mind, it works well to target the vicious cycle of pain, stress and anxiety.
So the next time you’re in pain, engage all your senses to imagine a place you find relaxing, whether that’s a cabin in the woods or a tropical beach. If you have trouble staying focused, try a guided imagery app to help you.
Which mental techniques do you (unconsciously) use to cope with chronic pain?
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Yoga. You’ve probably heard that word many times. Particularly if you’re a fitness enthusiast or a yogi. But have you ever considered combining yoga’s mindfulness with the comfort of water?
Combining yoga with water is also known as aqua yoga. This outdoor exercise can be an exciting way to shake things up in your workout regimen.
As claimed by a fitness expert from Vivotion, aqua yoga is one of the popular trends that combines the benefits of yoga with something we love to do, like yoga with our dogs, mermaid yoga or trampoline yoga, just to name a few. Summer is fast approaching, and this is the perfect time to plunge yourself into the pool or any natural body of water that is safe to swim in and start your aqua yoga routine. Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a novice to this kind of exercise, you might be amazed by what this outdoor exercise can do to your health and body when you start taking your aqua yoga class.
Below, we have listed the fantastic benefits of aqua yoga, plus the types of aqua yoga poses you can perform.
The Surprising Benefits of Aqua Yoga
1. It improves your balance
Imagine doing master balancing poses such as eagle pose or half moon pose without the feeling of tripping over at any moment. Sounds amazing, right? Performing balancing poses in water can actually be pleasing and not frustrating at all. In fact, it’s way more comfortable and relaxed. It can also help you build your confidence if you wish to try it on dry land next time.
2. It helps to relieve pain
Like most types of water exercise, aqua yoga is a low impact exercise and gentle to the body, making it an ideal workout for people with joint paint. That said, this will help them improve not only their strength but also their flexibility and range of motion. This water exercise is also beneficial for people with difficulty balancing, those with arthritis, during or after pregnancy, and post-surgery.
3. It focuses on alignment
Taking all the effort out of having to hold your body weight up in the water is probably one of the best things about aqua yoga. Instead, you can place your awareness on maintaining your proper form and alignment.
For instance, performing Virabhadrasana III – which requires balance and strength- can be difficult and awkward to do as you have to hold yourself up while extending your leg out. However, if you’re doing it in the water, it means that you float and you can focus more on other pose components such as hip alignment, core engagement and arms extended. This aqua yoga pose is perfect for strengthening the core of your body.
4. Discover new challenges
Aqua yoga helps you not only to make specific poses a lot easier but also presents new challenges for others. When it comes to poses such as side planks, pyramid or triangle, the gravity automatically becomes our friend.
However, when it comes to shallow water, you might experience getting the trouble of staying put in such poses like these. With that, you may be needing the use of your hands to tread the water and engage your core more so you can maintain the pose.
5. Find peace under water
If you’re looking for ways to find peace underwater, then it’s the right time for you to enroll for an aqua yoga classes. This is a brilliant way not only to calm your mind but also to meditate for a few moments until your body feels the need to come up for air. You can perform cross-legged position or even half lotus pose as you allow yourself to (safely!) sink. Don’t forget to take a deep breath before doing so!
Once you’re down there, just soak in the tranquillity of the water, embracing the quiet calmness of being fully submerged. Ah, what a life!
7 Aqua Yoga Poses You Can Perform
It’s time to go back to basics by practicing yoga and meditation at the same time in the water. Below are the seven aqua yoga poses you can add to your routine.
1. Vriksasana (Tree Pose)
You can start your aqua yoga routine with the Vriksasana along with a deep inhale. When doing this posture, you have to stand with one foot up and diagonally planted on the other. Then, bring your hands together in a prayer position above your head.
On land, this is a difficult pose to do, but if you are starting your yoga journey, try to take note of how much easier it is to balance in this pose.
2. Warrior II
What’s good about this pose is it helps strengthen your legs, ankles, the groins, chest, lungs, and shoulders. It also helps stimulate your abdominal organs and increase your stamina. Not only that, but this pose is also ideal for those with backaches as it helps to relieve it, primarily through the second trimester of pregnancy.
When doing this exercise, start by bending into your right leg and stretching your arms wide open. Then, connect to the earth by grounding through your feet. Once you’ve felt the surface beneath the water, you can plant yourself in.
3. Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose)
In performing the big toe pose, you will need to use water noodles or one side of the swimming pool to lean on. Stand with a straight spine and extend one arm towards the wall or noodle. Then, bend the outer leg and raise your knee to the level of the chest before grabbing your toe and straightening the leg.
You can repeat this pose on the other leg while keeping your back straight and feeling the water supporting your balance.
4. Navasana (Boat Pose)
To perform the boat pose in the water, you will need two water noodles. First, place each of them lengthwise on your right and left side. Then, start doing the Navasana pose by grabbing each noodle with your both hands and pressing them down gently into the water. As the noodles sink slowly, engage your core muscles and allow your legs to float in front of you. You can feel the water supporting your legs but use your core to hold the position longer.
5. Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose)
If you wish to strengthen your legs and stretch out your hip flexors, groin, chest, legs, and shoulders while you’re floating in the water, the Natarajasana pose can be your best bet! When doing this exercise, breathe deeply and shift your weight to your front foot. Then stand to balance while letting the back of your leg float effortlessly in the water coming into the half moon pose.
6. Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
Savasana can be one of the most challenging poses of your practice, especially when you’re doing it in the water! It is considered as the total relaxation pose, though, it might be hard for you to do it alone so make sure to ask for your yoga instructor’s help. To do this, simply release the savasana pose and come to rest on the surface of the water.
7. Namaste (Prayer Pose)
Now we’re down to our last pose! To seal your aqua yoga session, give gratitude through your heart to the water.
It’s never a bad thing to incorporate a relaxing activity with yoga once in a while —or even forever. Who knows, it might be more beneficial and calming than the original version. In this case, aqua yoga promotes flexibility, relaxation, and deep breathing with buoyancy and water resistance. You will surely not regret a try!
Author Bio: Isabel Speckman is a North Carolina-based freelance writer and work-from-home mother of three. In her 10 years as a professional writer, she’s worked in proposal management, grant writing, and content creation. Her writing skills may be confirmed independently. Personally, she’s passionate about teaching her family how to stay safe, secure and action-ready in the event of a disaster or emergency.
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It’s one of the first foods that comes to mind when you think of healthy eating: salads.
And for good reason. Leafy greens – the base of most salads – are low in calories but abundant in vitamins, minerals, fibers and disease-fighting antioxidants. Watercress, chard, spinach and Romaine lettuce all rank in the top 10 of the most nutrient-dense foods. What’s more, dark leafy greens like kale and collards contain chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants that’s responsible for absorbing energy from sunlight. Chlorophyll is known for its blood-building properties, helps you liver detoxify and speeds up wound healing. Not bad for a humble plant, right?
But thankfully, the era of salads consisting mostly of iceberg lettuce with cucumber and tomato is long gone. Nowadays, we love power salads packed with (plant-based) protein, whole grains, a healthy dressing and crunchy toppings.
With the weather warming up, there’s no better time to swap your good old sandwich for a vibrantly fresh salad for lunch. Take a look at these 10 lunch salads to-go that will keep you full until dinner time. Which one will you bring to work – or the park!- with you?
From biblical tales to action hero movies, courage is a virtue that’s universally admired. Many stories portray the courageous knights, explorers and freedom fighters as people who are fearless and bold.
But in reality, courage doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. On the contrary: without fear, there is no courage.
Courage is about feeling the fear yet deciding to act anyway. Not in a reckless way, but thoughtfully taking necessary risks. More than just physical bravery, courage is also about keeping your head held high when life gets tough. It’s about standing up for what’s right, even if you might get hurt. As Brené Brown has shown us, there lies true courage in daring to be vulnerable.
Thankfully, courage isn’t something you’re born with or not – it’s a skill that can be cultivated. Do you want to be braver? Take a look at these 12 courage quotes.
There’s no better feeling than feeling healthy. Being healthy is not only beneficial for us physically, but mentally as well. Even though we all make an effort to live a healthy lifestyle, there’s always room to be more proactive. Here are 4 meaningful investments you can make in order to live the healthy and safe lifestyle you desire.
Make Smart Food Swaps
A healthy diet can be one of the hardest things to maintain. With temptation all around us, sticking to a strict diet can feel next to impossible. Instead of feeling like a yo-yo dieter, there are simple swaps that can make it a lot easier to stick to being healthy. One of the most common changes can be what you’re drinking. If you’re a fan of carbonation and just can’t give up soda, the next time you’re about to grab a soda, grab a sparkling water or seltzer instead. You’ll have to stay mindful of the possible additives and calories, but the carbonation and popularly used fruity flavors will give you the same amount of satisfaction.
Pasta is no doubt one of the most liked foods, but when you try to limit your carb intake, eating pasta isn’t exactly the wisest choice. Luckily, there are tons of options available that are vegetable-based and drastically lower in the number of carbohydrates. Eating zucchini noodles, otherwise known as zoodles, and spaghetti squash are both healthier alternatives that will give you a full feeling while also limiting your carb intake. But by no means do you have to make zoodles or these healthier options from scratch. Alongside regular pasta options, most stores carry vegetable-based boxed options such as chickpea pasta, red lentil pasta, and edamame pasta, making your healthy eating journey as easy as possible.
While many people may not associate beauty with feeling healthy, there are actually quite a bit of connections. Beauty products are based on what you’re applying to your body and there are health benefits whether it’s the lotion you use to hydrate your skin, or the makeup up you use on a daily basis. With harmful chemicals still being found in widely used beauty products such as parabens, triclosan, and sulfates, it’s worth it to do your research and avoid applying these chemicals to your body.
The next time you’re running low on deodorant, skip products with parabens, triclosan and phthalates, and instead find deodorant containing baking soda, cornstarch and arrowroot powder. The same goes for hair color. Oftentimes, you’ll find hair dye options containing sulfates and parabens. In order to get the safest color possible, stick to an all natural hair dye like this one instead.
Did you know that some lipsticks include lead in their product? Considering no one wants to apply lead or parabens to their bodies, it’s ideal to find natural lipstick products that are healthy and still give you a pop of color. You’ll find through your search that there are plenty of healthier options available for all common makeup items.
Being active is so important, not only for your physical health but for your mental health as well. One of the easiest ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle is through staying active. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym in order to have an active lifestyle. There are all kinds of ways you can keep active that are, wait for it, fun! With things like aerial yoga, rock climbing, and swimming, there are countless ways to embrace a fun healthy kind of physical activity. With warmer weather finally here, keeping active will be so much easier. Whether it’s just taking a half-hour walk after work or going for a relaxing bike ride, spending time outdoors and being active is a great way to keep a healthy and active lifestyle going.
Try Alternative Medicinal Methods
Even though taking a pill is the easiest way to help get rid of sickness like a cold, there are more natural ways you can beat the sniffles that don’t include putting drugs into your body. The most popular forms of alternative medicine are through the use of herbal medicine and acupuncture. Herbal medicine is a helpful alternative that has been used to help relieve stress, arthritis, headaches and many other conditions. The options of how you want to take herbal medicine could be through tea, powders or tablets. Many of the healing herbs used are common household items such as garlic, turmeric, ginger and ginseng.
Acupuncture is a traditional remedy that has been known to help relieve symptoms and conditions such as body pain, nausea and depression. The goal of acupuncture is to promote natural self-healing by stimulating acupoints. This remedy has proven to be highly effective by many people. So the next time you’re feeling under the weather, consider making an appointment with an acupuncturist instead.
Whether it’s making smarter food choices, choosing safer beauty products, being active, or trying alternative medicine, staying mindful of the choices that you make will help you achieve a healthier lifestyle in the long run.
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Life gets all of us down sometimes. And that’s perfectly normal – you shouldn’t push your sadness, anxiety or loneliness away. But it isn’t helpful to get stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts, feelings and behavior either.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to instantly boost your mood. You might be tempted to drown your sorrows by eating junk food, having one more glass of wine or obsessively checking your phone. Those actions might brighten your mood for a moment, but they’ll only make you feel even worse afterwards.
To really get out of your funk, take a look at these 45 ways to cheer yourself up when you’re down (that don’t involve ice cream).
Call a friend to catch up.
Do something spontaneous and different. Camp out in the living room, try an exotic new cuisine or watch a speak preview in the movie theater. Being surprised – even by yourself – activates the pleasure centre in your brain.
Make yourself some hot chocolate. A warm mug of cocoa doesn’t just taste comforting, the chocolate also contains chemicals that release feel-good hormones.
Take a nap. Everything looks rosier after getting some sleep.
Let go of things that weigh you down, from people who drain you to limiting beliefs.
Sing! Studies revealed that the musical vibrations moving through your body releases the happiness chemicals endorphins and oxytocin.
Who can resist the cute looks of puppies and kittens?
Learn something new. Novelty increases dopamine levels in your brain, motivating you to search for a reward. Master the basics of French or Italian, soak up the wisdom from the world’s greatest philosophers, pick up an art history book or work on your programming skills.
Bring out your inner kid and blow bubbles, build a fort or dig up your old Lego. Play has more transformative power than you might think.
Make a list of all your accomplishments, big or small. Remind yourself which qualities you’ve used in the past to achieve your goals.
Be kind and generous to someone else. It may surprise you, but brain-imaging research shows that giving to others is as rewarding as receiving. So do good and feel good at the same time by performing acts of kindness.
Play your favorite upbeat songs and dance along!
Go for a walk around the block. Moving your body is a proven way to boost your mood. Maybe you could even buy flowers or a magazine to cheer yourself up?
Bake healthy thumbprint cookies. The smell in your kitchen alone will take you back to happier times.
Take a power pose. Unconsciously, your posture influences how you feel. So instead of slouching, stand tall and walk with your head up high.
Did you know that spending time in the woods has major perks for your health and happiness? Try squeezing in some ‘nature time’ every day to boost your mood.
Create a vision board of who you want to be and the life you want to lead. (But only if visualizing your goals and dreams motivates you – it shouldn’t make you more sad or frustrated!)
Fly a kite. Imagine your worries and sadness drift away like the clouds in the sky.
Do you hate the sound of your alarm clock? Start your morning on a better note by leaving the curtains slightly open or using a Wake-Up Light to feel more refreshed.
If you struggle with your self image or other uncertainties, create a compliment jar to read on bad days.
Express yourself creatively. Paint, write poetry, knit a comforting blanket or document your daily life in photographs. Art therapy provides distraction, relieves stress and improves you mental health.
Browse your cookbooks and come up with a weekly meal plan or a festive menu.
Smile! We smile because we’re happy – but the reverse is also true. The act of putting a smile on your face, even if you don’t feel cheerful, can boost your mood.
Make lists of all the cool things you hope to do one day and start planning to make it happen.
Write postcards to your friends.
You know how an intense workout gives you a ‘high’? That’s because exercising triggers the release of endorphins – natural painkillers and feel-good chemicals- in your body.
Go analogue for a day. Yes, you’ll miss your favorite shows, updates from friends and interesting podcasts. But you might also reconnect with activities you used to enjoy, like playing board games and doing crafts.
Hug your kids, partner or pet.
Open your curtains and let the natural daylight in. This triggers the production of serotonin and fine tunes your biological clock.
Create a Pinterest board with quotes and images that cheer you up.
Give your morning routine a makeover. The things you do after getting up in the morning set the tone for the day ahead. Instead of snoozing your alarm and drowsily scrolling through your email, why not do something for 6 minutes that nourishes your mind, body and soul?
Keep a happy journal. Each morning, write down your positive intentions for the day and at night, reflect on what made you happy.
Finish a project that’s been on your to-do list for ages. You’ll be relieved to finally put it out of your mind, plus, accomplishing a task gives you a dopamine boost.
Going through a tough period? Create your own coping box to help you get through bad days.
What do you do to cheer yourself up when you’re down?
This blog post contains affiliate links to resources I thought you might find helpful, at no extra cost to you. All opinions are my own.
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Chronic illness is often associated with long-term discomfort and pain. This long term pain can change a person’s mood and disposition and increase their risk of anxiety and depression. Exercise is one of the simplest ways to improve your quality of life if you suffer from a chronic illness. This is because exercise not only strengthens the body but also improves mood. Having a chronic illness does not necessarily mean that you need to lead a sedentary lifestyle – in fact, you will benefit more from daily exercise than most people.
Take a look at these 7 tips to stay fit when you have a chronic illness.
1. Start slow
Chronic conditions are often associated with chronic pain which may have prevented you from exercising in the past. When starting a new fitness routine, start slow as this will give your muscles time to slowly adjust to your workout. This will lower the risk of injury and pain. Start with something as simple as a 5-min walk each morning and evening. After a couple of weeks, you can increase this to 10 minutes a day. Once you are comfortable in your new routine, add range-of-motion exercises such as shoulder rotations, arm lifts and leg lifts to your exercise plan.
2. Only do what is comfortable
You’ve probably heard of the ‘no pain, no gain’ rule – this certainly does not apply to you! When you have a chronic illness, your body is already under a considerable amount of stress, so your exercise routine should focus on getting healthy and fit but at a slower pace. If you suffer from a chronic condition such as arthritis or osteoporosis, you can start with swimming or water aerobics as this will take the pressure off your joints. Similarly, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can benefit from aerobic exercises such as using a stationary cycle. Studies show that 92% of COPD patients reported an increase in daily activity after 18 weeks of using a stationary cycle.
3. Set your own pace
When you decide to start a new fitness routine, you might be tempted to follow a fixed workout plan. This is a bad idea! Pushing yourself beyond your limits could result in injury which could lead to you giving up on your fitness plans. Set your own pace by listening to your body and accepting that you may need to go at a slower pace than other people but that you will reach your fitness goals as long as you stick to your daily exercise routine. Remind yourself that even a small increase in daily activity will result in big improvements over time.
4. Have shorter workout sessions
Experts recommend that we get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. This means that you would need 25 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day for 6 days a week. You can break this up into 2 sessions of 12.5 minutes each as this will put less stress on your system. People who suffer from chronic heart conditions including high blood pressure and arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms) will benefit from shorter workout sessions, as it does not place too much stress on the cardiovascular system.
5. Don’t aim for physical perfection
Many people feel motivated to exercise because they want six-pack abs, but don’t make this mistake. Aim to get healthy and fit – the visible results are just the bonus and not the goal! When you have a chronic condition, being fit and healthy will lower your risk of health complications and improve your quality of life. Studies show that people who have a healthy body weight but lead a sedentary lifestyle are at a higher risk for health problems as compared to overweight individuals who exercise.
6. Choose low-impact aerobic exercises
Aerobic exercise (cardio) is becoming increasingly popular as several recent studies revealed that it offers a wide range of health benefits from improving cardiovascular health to reducing chronic pain and strengthening the immune system. Studies also show that aerobic exercise is particularly beneficial for people with chronic illnesses. For instance, researchers found that just 1 week of aerobic training can improve insulin sensitivity in diabetes patients.
Similarly, researchers found that arthritis patients who engaged in aerobic training experienced improved muscle strength and decreased joint pain. Low-impact aerobic exercise such as swimming or riding a stationary bike will help to improve your health and fitness levels with minimal stress on your body.
7. Take adequate precautions
It is important to exercise and get fit but when you have a chronic illness, you need to take steps to safeguard your health. For example, if you have diabetes, you might need to check your blood sugar level before you start your workout since physical activity lowers blood sugar. Similarly, if you have arthritis, osteoporosis or any other chronic condition that affects your joints, you can have a warm shower before your workout as the heat will help to relieve your muscle and joint pain and relax your muscles.
Exercise can help to treat physical health issues such as cardiovascular disease as well as mental health issues such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. If you suffer from any of these mental health issues, make sure that you talk to your doctor before you start any exercise routine. People with chronic illnesses often think that exercising will increase their discomfort and pain, but studies show that regular physical activity can help to reduce chronic disease pain.
Author bio: Anita Fernandes is a journalist and a writer by profession. She has been writing extensively on health and wellness related topics for a little over a decade now. Besides her professional interests, she loves a game of basketball or a good hike in her free time to fuel her spirits. “Health is wealth” is one motto of life which she lives by as well as advocates to every reader, who comes across her blogs.
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