Winter is approaching bringing with it the usual ailments such as coughs, colds, bronchitis, ‘flu and of course the threat of CoVid-19. People with some of these conditions can be supported well with homeopathic medicines but a good diet will help to boost your immune system in the first place to help reduce your tendency to these problems.
However there is another ailment that is quite common at this time of year called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.S.). Homeopaths are often often consulted about this problem. Perhaps you suffer with this yourself?
Do you get those down feelings as soon as the clocks go back? Well you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 people in the UK suffer from the winter blues (approximately 6 million people).
The two most common factors associated with winter blues are: having less energy (wanting to hibernate) and just feeling low or depressed (can’t be bothered). Other issues, such as increased stress (especially leading up to Christmas) and increased bombardment from cold and flu infections, can all play a part.
There are two likely reasons for feeling blue in the winter:
1. Less exposure to sunlight causes brain levels of serotonin – the ‘happy’ transmitter – to fall (light stimulates the brain to produce serotonin).
2. You might not be eating so well (less fresh salads/fruit etc) and so not getting enough mood boosting nutrients.
As well as homeopathic remedies there are some simple nutritional recommendations that you can help yourself with which could really make the difference to how you feel.
So from a nutrition point of view we need to eat foods for high energy – foods that give the best ‘miles per gallon’. These foods are unprocessed, organic, nutrient-rich whole foods such as apples, pears and berries and all vegetables, Whole grains (oats, brown rice, wholemeal bread), beans and lentils are equally important. If half your diet consists of these whole foods, you are on the right track for natural energy. Avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, biscuits, cakes and white rice.
To improve mood we need to look at foods that increase levels of serotonin, the brain’s ‘happy’ neurotransmitter. A protein called tryptophan is converted in the body to serotonin, so we need to increase our intake of foods rich in tryptophan. This can be found in foods such as fish, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, avocadoes and bananas. Also, eating foods rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids (found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, and also in seeds) is thought to stave off depression as it acts on serotonin function in the brain.
If the thought of eating lots of vegetables, fruits and whole foods seems difficult in the winter, think of making lots of warming soups, casseroles, hot berry desserts. Also, use what’s in season – all those root vegetables, carrots, swedes, celeriac, turnips, leeks and onions. Try combining a selection with some vegetable stock and brown lentils to make a wholesome soup or casserole (add fresh/dried herbs for extra flavouring); and follow it with a delicious apple and berry crumble. Comfort food can be nutritious and can help you get out of the winter blues!
Make sure also that you get outside into natural daylight as much as possible – it doesn’t need to be a bright sunny day either. Some people find it beneficial to buy a special light box which they sit by for a specified length of time a day and which transmit powerful full-spectrum light to boost serotonin levels. A cheaper option is to invest in a full-spectrum light bulb to work by. They are more efficient than ordinary light bulbs, so are cheaper to run, but provide a good working light and some benefits of natural daylight.
Exercise plays another important part in our mood so a walk for 20 minutes daily will boost your mood and keep you fit. Here’s to a happy and healthy winter!
Yoga and meditation are also mood boosters and I can give you a one to one lesson via Zoom to gently get you started. I’m a qualified meditation teacher (DPNM). Read more here.
Drop me an email on clare.wassermann@gmail to see whether I can help you.
This COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest opportunities for mankind to transform and heal what it is doing to itself and the planet.
COVID-19 is so called because it is a mutation of the coronavirus which generated in 2019. Coronavirus has been around for millions of years and this is just a mutation. Geneticists will tell you that there are certain mutations that we do not have an explanation for and this is one. There is an explanation of course but we don’t know it yet. 90% of mutations are linked to some kind of stress in their environment. The environment I’m talking about is the biosphere of existence, not just human existence but every form of existence. This includes existence of plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, proteins, viruses, etc. This is the microbiome of our planet which is expressing itself as a biological organisms experiencing life as we know it. There is a direct link between this entangled biome of existence and what is happening in the world right now.
Accepting this argument we can see the ecosystem is inflamed in climate change, war, terrorism, extinction of species, forest fires and poison in the food chain in the form of antibiotics, chemicals, pesticides etc. This is all inflammatory. 30% of the world’s microbiome has disappeared and this is particularly bad in cities. Our biosphere is inflamed.
We know that COVID-19 particularly attacks people who are elderly, have chronic illnesses eg diabetes, heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disease already. These are connected to chronic inflammation. There is a lot of data which shows that not only does COVID-19 affect people with these illnesses but also with chronic low-grade mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
We are seeing that if a person has a chronic disease compounded by this acute disease we see very acute inflammation and this leads to a cytokine storm which is a feature which leads to death or at the very least organ failure problems, severe lung problems and serious blood clotting.
Studies are showing that there are many interventions which can be taken to decrease one’s risk of inflammation which can be measured by analysing cytokine levels in the blood. These techniques are generally body mind practises such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness and breathing. We can decrease the likelihood of becoming sick from the cytokine storm of COVID-19 by incorporating six pillars of well-being even if you get the disease.
The six pillars are sleep, meditation, movement, emotion, nutrition and grounding (also related to circadian, seasonal, tidal and lunar rhythms).
Obviously all the normal precautions need to be taken such as physical distancing, wearing masks and hygiene. We need, though, to address the simultaneous pandemic which we have as well which is the pandemic of stress. Our sympathetic nervous systems are often in overdrive and we need to counteract this because it causes stress and inflammation, a perfect ground for cytokine storm damage. So we need to find ways to reduce this in our nervous systems which will be a preventative and far more useful than finding a vaccine.
If we find a vaccine it will possibly save many lives for one or two years but then there will be another mutation so we need to find other solutions. The solution lies in looking holistically at what kind of stress is affecting our biosphere and what is causing inflammation of the entire microbiome.
We need to look at the bigger picture. Racial injustice, economic injustice, war, terrorism, poisons in the food chain, mass migration, climate change, extreme nationalism, selfish attitudes, hyper capitalism and diminishing our planet’s reserves. We need creative solutions to the problem of this pandemic. This does not just lie with scientists. We need creative people.
Also we do tend to use violent metaphors to describe our current solutions for example war on drugs, war on crime, war on climate change, the fight against disease the battle with all sorts of things. There are in fact no violent solutions to any problems. Creative solutions come when there is “emergence.” At the moment we are ready for a new emergence, the time is right now.
Social scientists say that emergence happens when there is maximum diversity of opinion, talent and training. We need microcosm of philosophers, scientists, artists, poets, trainers and most of all educators. We need maximum diversity of talent and opinion, emotional and spiritual bonding and nutrition. And then we need good leadership techniques. We also need open and transparent systems, including access to the Commons and all the information and talent within that. All of this needs to be open to feedback. We need shared vision. A shared vision of course is healthier, more just, more inclusive and more joyful. The Covid crisis has given us the opportunity to help ourselves as we are contained in our houses. The eco-system is already repairing itself as we have seen with an increase in bees, clearer skies, less pollution – climate change is showing itself to be reversible. Nature is telling us not to be so arrogant when we come back to our lives. We are risking our extinction right now by messing too much with the entangled microbiome and altering its genetic development with our greedy actions.
We are also being told that an oil free economy is possible. It is being shown by the fact for oil prices are now below zero. There is no need for it – we have healthier technologies.
We are developing methods of communication which have come about especially since the crisis which are showing that we can come together having online and offline discussions about all the things I have mentioned above and we need to look towards a world government perhaps to address and deal with all of these things which are reversible. We have never been more connected and never had such potential for change.
The old paradigms need to change right now. We need to take the opportunity here and now before we become extinct again (the last extinction was 65 million years ago) – we need to look at the science of EMERGENCE. We need a more peaceful, joyful, happier sustainable world – everyone wants this for ourselves and our descendants. We need a change in the distributed economies – all in is question now. This conversation has to result in solid goals and quickly. We need to stretch more than we can reach, make everything measurable, make sure that we all are on the same frequency, shared vision, make a record of our progress and set a time limit. The time limit needs to be five years to re-imagine, resurrect and reinvent the world.
We can take care of our own selves too and this is key. Use the notion each day of cultivating a joyful energetic body, a compassionate heart, a clear reflective mind and lightness of being. Lightness of being leads to flow state and peak experiences – athletes, musicians, poets and spiritual seekers are using all sorts of research and methods to attain this. Peak experiences are attained when the ego is out of the way ridding one of resistance, anticipation and anxiety just a vision and intention. If everyone has these four intentions and allow every choice they make to reinforce these intentions we could create a critical mass of people who would change what happens in the wider world towards the aforementioned goals and a new civilisation.
We can also look at these four personal questions – what do I want? For myself and my family, for my community, my country and the world. What is my purpose? (most people think they are here to make a living and they sacrifice life for this!) Who am I? This must look beyond labels of identity such as by nationality, job and conventional social norms. What is beneath the skin? (Genetically 100% of us come from Africa – the current label you have is just from epigenetic modification). What am I grateful for? As soon as you ask this question of yourself there are physiological changes. Inflammatory markers go down, there is gene change on just asking this last question before even answering it! Ask yourself these questions with the right intention and the journey has begun. You don’t need to force anything – the resulting actions will be good as long as we don’t get distracted. Now is a good time, in this pause, to look at these questions.
Reflective meditation is good now – mindful awareness of relationships, attitude, the ecosystem and mindful awareness of awareness itself.
If we do not work this way as individuals the future is not good.
Personal transformation and social transformation go together. This leads to planetary transformation – the science is there.
Do contact me if you would like training in meditation to aid your health and happiness. This is currently happening online as a one to one experience or in a small group.
What is the autonomic nervous system and how can you activate it to bring about homeostasis and healing? There are hundreds of ways to do this – I can share some of these with you.
The autonomic nervous system is, in neuroscience, frequently referred to as the involuntary nervous system.
The voluntary nervous system allows us to move our hands, legs and perform self-directed actions like speaking, running, moving etc. using conscious will. It is controlled by the motor cortex in the brain. The motor cortex for right handers is on the left side and on the right for left-handed people.
The autonomic, involuntary system – it can be controlled to a degree so it’s not an entirely involuntary system as I will show – in most people behaves in a consciously uncontrolled way.
The involuntary system is a division of our peripheral nervous system which is beyond the cortex of the brain supplying nerves to various parts of the body including the smooth muscles. These are the muscles in our viscera influencing the internal organs of our body.
It acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions such as heart rate and digestion, respiratory rate, pupil response in the eye, urination etc. Within the brain this system is regulated by parts of the limbic system; the hypothalamus, the pituitary and many other systems which connect our emotions to our bodily function.
The autonomic system is thought to have three divisions. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight or flight response, which acts under threat, resulting in high blood pressure, speeding up of the heart, sweating, shutting down of digestion and diverting blood to the muscles of the extremities – fight, flight or freeze response. This is very useful in certain situations but if we perceive threat all the time, even a persistent, low grade perception of threat, or indeed more, as is happening right now, we go into sympathetic overdrive which raises the blood pressure etc. and brings about inflammation, raises cortisol levels which suppress immune function, raises adrenal levels in the circulation causing inflammation in the body. In general this sympathetic nervous system overdrive weakens our immune system, making us more susceptible to disease.
The second part of the autonomic system is called the parasympathetic nervous system. Predominantly the most important nerve in this system is the vagus nerve. It has branches to all the organs of our body.
In yogic tradition it is felt to be a healing nerve.
The parasympathetic nervous system gets activated when we are in deep relaxation and through various helpful breathing techniques and is responsible for decreasing activity in our body and giving us more resilience and flexibility. If the parasympathetic nervous system is activated you decrease inflammation, enable heart rate variability, you increase the depth of your breathing, breathing rate slows down and homeostasis and self-regulation kick in.
The highest activation of the parasympathetic nervous system occurs with deepening of the breath and also stillness in the mind.
The experiences we have are sensations, images, feelings, thoughts (interpretation of sensations) and sense perceptions. These are entangled, they all influence each other. They also influence our autonomic nervous system.
If you want to immediately activate the parasympathetic system you need to quieten the mind. The quiet mind is the healing mind. You need to deepen the breathing and there are other techniques too.
The third part of the autonomic nervous system which is being talked about now – it is referred to as the enteric nervous system – the nervous system which is present in your gut, your digestive system and your colon etc. It is part of our visceral system and influenced by the microbiome i.e. the bacterial genes that live in our gut. These genes are very influenced by diet and emotions.
Your diet can influence the activity of your autonomic nervous system, can cause inflammation and also trigger the healing response mentioned earlier by shifting the microbiome from being inflammatory to non-inflammatory.
So, even though the autonomic nervous system is beyond our awareness mostly it is influenced by our emotions. Emotions can trigger the healing response or immunal compromise.
The simplest way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system , the vegus nerve, self-regulation and healing response activation through breathing is often called the yogic breath. An easy form of pranayama, as it is called, involves lying on the floor or a mat.
Lie down and relax your body with your hands slightly away from your sides. Allow yourself to be comfortable. The right hand goes on the abdomen just above the naval, and the left hand over the centre of the chest. Observe your natural breath.
Now focus on abdominal breathing. Breathe through the nose. Feel as though you are drawing the energy and breath in and out through the naval. The right hand will move up with inhalation and down with exhalation. The left hand remains almost still. Do not expand the chest. Inhale whilst expanding the abdomen comfortably without expanding the rib-cage much. At the end of the inhalation the diaphragm will be compressing the abdomen and the naval will be expanded upward. At the end of the exhalation the abdomen will be contracted and the naval will be compressed downward toward the spine.
Do this for a few minutes. Afterwards bring the awareness to the physical body as a whole and then to your surroundings before gently rolling over to rest and gently sitting up.
This will have activated your parasympathetic nervous system and invoked the calm response which will strengthen your immune system.
Yoga and meditation are both key practices for health at all times but particularly now in the Covid-19 pandemic.