Pimped-up Coleslaw!

Do you love a dollop of coleslaw with your salad? I do! But I find that it can get a bit ‘samey’ after a while so here’s a few ideas to pimp it up, make it even more tasty, and of course, the more raw ingredients you put in it, the more you’re nourishing your amazing trillions of cells that make up your unique bodies and minds!

Not only that, but ditching those nasty supermarket tasteless tubs will save you buying one more piece of single-use plastic. I do use shop-bought mayo and mustard but they both come in glass jars and I choose ones with the least chemicals in them. Once you have the ingredients, it works out so much cheaper too and will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Here’s what I use, make it your own!

Grate together a quarter or half of a pointy or crinkly cabbage (who cares which!), 2 to 3 carrots and a small bulb of fennel in a large bowl.

Add a quarter of red onion (finely diced), a small bunch of chopped, fresh chives and a few chopped pickled capers or gherkins.

Stir in around a tablespoon (or more if you like it really creamy) of mayonnaise and a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard. Add a pinch of white pepper, pink sea salt and cayenne pepper if you want to add some heat/lemon juice if you want to add ‘tangyness’.

Sprinkle with a few more herbs, such as the feathery fennel or mint. Remember that herbs and spices are not just for flavouring but are concentrated nutrients with a range of health benefits, such as chives for heart health, fennel for bone strength and repair, and mint for digestion and mental function. You won’t get that from Tesco’s finest!

Enjoy:)

Life with a Saber-toothed Tiger.

Here in the Western World, we pride ourselves on the freedoms we enjoy. The rights, the choices and the material wealth we have is often seen as ‘progress’. And of course it is.

And yet, the price many of us are now paying for our fast-moving, busy lives filled with doing, achieving, succeeding and acquiring, our 24/7 communication and information overload….is all too often, chronic stress.

As humans, we are designed for short bursts of acute stress. In fact, we wouldn’t have survived as a species without stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol kicking in when under threat from the likes of a saber-toothed tiger. But in between ‘attacks’, we’re supposed to be at rest, allowing a different balance of hormones to be released, allowing minds and bodies to recover, sleep, eat, digest, and so repair and renew the trillions of cells that make up each unique person.

Today’s ‘saber-toothed tigers’ are those life events that happen to us all at some point; the trauma’s, changes and grief we experience are often beyond our control. And it’s a healthy reaction to feel a range of emotions and be in a state of stress… for a while.

We also choose to be in situations of ‘fight or flight’, such as delivering a speech to a room full of people, going for a job interview or competing in a sports event. The stress response helps us to cope with these, giving us energy, clarity, focus and strength, as if that saber-toothed tiger was just behind the next rock.

However, we now a have new cat on the block. When the constant pressure of work and home-life are mixed with environmental toxins and the information overload of social media, the ‘perceived threats’ don’t go away, and we enter into a state of chronic stress. Instead of energy, clarity, focus and strength, we experience the opposite and those trillions of cells cannot rest and recover, digest nutrients, renew and repair, therefore cannot provide us with a functioning immune system, The result, in the long-run, is disease.

We may be (currently) living longer, but we are living sicker. In the West, we are more obese, more medicated and have more diseases and disorders than ever before. We are no longer dying of saber-toothed tiger attacks, but from lifestyle-related conditions such as stroke, heart disease and cancer. And stress is linked to all of these.

So now, more than ever before, we need to become aware of how we feel, what we are thinking and what ‘state’ we are in so that we can take action to reduce those ‘stressors’ inside and outside of us and give our minds and bodies a chance to be in balance and wellbeing.

Here are some simple ways to help you return to balance and allow those cells to work effectively, grow and repair

  • Become more aware of how you feel, your heart rate, your thoughts when you are in different places, with different people, reading emails, social media, the news etc. If you feel anxious, stressed or uncomfortable, if your mind or heart is racing or your thoughts are critical, demanding or judgmental, take a deep breath and if possible, remove yourself from the situation, even for a moment, to acknowledge how you are and give yourself the time and space to calm down, re-think, see things differently and make decisions that are from a calmer state.
  • Take regular breaks in the fresh air, whatever the weather, and find a place where you can be around nature, even if it’s just a small patch of green. There’s plenty of research to show that, as we have evolved to be around the natural environment, we respond to ‘sensing’ nature by releasing serotonin and other feel-good, calming chemicals. Just 20 minutes away from ‘being busy’ in the office or wherever, will give your body the boost it needs to be more effective and productive, think more clearly, make better decisions and respond more positively to others. And the effects can last up to seven hours.
  • Keep hydrated with clean water. Every cell needs water to function properly and dehydration creates internal stress on them and we experience symptoms of poor concentration and memory, irritability, headaches and fatigue and these start to ramp up the stress levels. Caffeine and energy drinks may appear to give you a boost in the short term, but dehydrate you quite quickly so are counter-productive, giving you spikes and crashes in energy, concentration and mood.
  • Have a lunch break. It’s not a luxury, it’s necessary for you to function better in the second half of the day. That doesn’t mean eating whilst doing your emails, having a meeting or checking social media either. If any of these create even low-level stress (and they usually do), you won’t digest your food properly and this can lead to bloating, IBS and poor absorption of nutrients – so you won’t even get the best out of a healthy salad! These conditions cause inflammation, which creates more internal stress. So, make time for even half an hour of peace at lunch time or be around people that you enjoy being with, have a laugh or talk drivel – it doesn’t matter as long as it allows you to ‘switch off’ and relax.

I used to pride myself on being busy, all the time. In fact, I thought I was Super Woman. I wasn’t – and years of chronic stress lead to serious illness and ‘burn out’. I now realise that this culture of ‘busy, bust, busy’ is not a good thing. We can achieve more and feel more fulfilled when we take better care of ourselves and a more balanced approach. Sometimes, less is more. Take a leaf out of the life of our domestic cats – after the high energy antics of chasing mice and birds, they rest, sleep, eat and find that warm, sunny spot at the bottom of the garden or in front of the fire and nothing will shift them! They know what’s good for them and act on it. And so can we. For me now, that feels like real progress.

Mental Health Awareness Week. My 10 top tips.

‘I can’t change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination’ Jimmy Dean

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and so I thought I would give you my top tips that I use to relieve stress, anxiety and low mood, to stop my mind from racing and to interrupt and change those negative thoughts that seem to play on a loop in my mind. On my quest to improve my own mental health, I have learned so much through NLP, mentors, scientists and spiritual leaders and hundreds of self-development books, talks, workshops, retreats and conferences and from my own intuition. I now know I have the power to change my mental state by acting on those learning experiences, and you can too.

Why does it matter? Sometimes things happen in life that lead to feelings of sadness, anger, hurt etc and it is a good thing to acknowledge and go with these feelings. However, when we get ‘stuck’ with them, they can lead to mental illness. Long term stress is not only exhausting, it downgrades the immune system and can lead to serious physical illness. These conditions also affect our relationships, work, decision making and quality of life, in all areas.

So here’s my top tips, in no particular order:

  1. Practice gratitude. When you wake up in the morning, think of three things you are grateful for. They can be as simple as the fact that you are alive or the feel of the sheet on your skin. Gratitude in the morning interrupts the habit of thinking negative thoughts at the start of your day. Practiced every day, you will change the neural pathways in your brain, which trigger the chemicals that create your feelings. Keeping a journal is another way of practicing gratitude. Whatever works for you.
  2. Meditate. Whether it’s a guided meditation, music, visualisation or whatever works for you, taking at least 30 minutes in the morning or evening to just ‘be’, quietens the mind chatter, reduces stress and helps you to feel calmer, more relaxed, sleep better and think clearer. Before I meditated, I believed I didn’t have the time. Now I get up an hour earlier to do it…and I sleep better at night so I’m less tired.
  3. Move more. I decided not to put exercise as that can be a turn-off for some! Also, everyone is different and it’s important to get a balance of movement that helps you feel calm, excited, invigorated, relaxed and so on. Whether it’s gym work, running, walking, dancing, swimming, gardening, yoga, tai chi or whatever, it all helps. The worst thing you can do if you’re feeling down or stressed is sit and brood on it. As humans, we’re meant to move. Listen to your body and notice what it needs.
  4. Be in nature. Finding a green space to walk in, listening to birdsong, noticing nature, feeling the breeze on your skin for just 15 minutes a day triggers the release of chemicals such as dopamine that lifts mood, creates calmness and lowers anxiety. These effects can last for up to seven hours. Exposing your skin to the sun for short periods (without burning of course!) also gives you much needed vitamin D, responsible for helping to combat depression.
  5. Eat Well. Food really is medicine. Re-connect with food that nourishes your body. Sugar and processed foods do not give your body anything useful and they actually affect moods. Refined or ‘added’ sugar and many of the the chemicals in processed foods have been linked to depression, moods swings, anxiety, brain fog, poor concentration and hormone imbalance. Instead, choose to eat more mood boosting foods such as vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.
  6. Look at your life balance – what do you need more of/less of in your life? When did you last feel totally relaxed and calm? When did you last have fun, feel joy? What gave you these feelings? Fold a piece of paper in half. On one side write the things you want more of, on the other the things you want less of and plan this into your week. Replacing the ‘less ofs’ with the ‘more ofs’ means it won’t impact too much on your time.
  7. Mirror work for self-love. This is very powerful and can feel really uncomfortable at first but the more you practice it, the easier it will become and the benefits to your mental wellbeing are huge. Look yourself in the eye in the mirror and say a mantra that works for you and is about you. Simple ones work best for me, like ‘I love you, I forgive you’ are a start. Notice how you feel when you say them. The more uncomfortable you feel, the more I would do them as it indicates you don’t yet believe them. This is not self-indulgent. If we love ourselves, we improve our relationships with others.
  8. Connect with those that make you feel good. We are social creatures and that means we have a need to connect with other people and even pets. Have you ever noticed how some people leave you feeling drained, down or frustrated? And others make you feel at ease, happy, special and so on. We all have energy fields around us and when we are with others we share that energy. Choose to spend more time with those that give off higher vibrational energies that create positive feelings. Practicing these tips will raise your own energy vibrations too.
  9. Practice good sleep hygiene. Screen time, caffeine, alcohol, being to hot, stressed etc. lead to poor quality and quantity of sleep. Sleep is when your body repairs itself, makes new cells and sorts out your mind. Creating a sleep routine acn really help. An hour before bed begin to wind down, relax and switch off. I don’t drink caffeine after midday anymore and drink herbal teas known to promote sleep before I go to bed. You could use this time to journal, meditate, read and enjoy intimate moments with your loved ones.
  10. And finally, ignore well-meaning people in your life that tell you what you ‘should’ be doing. This is about what’s right for you. I’ve been careful to suggest and not dictate my tips in this post! By noticing how things make you feel, you will find your own ways. I have read, seen and listened to so many self-help ‘guru’s in my time. Some resonate with me, inspire me and others don’t. Choose those that work for and inspire you to make the changes you need in your own life.

Tropical Moments and Buckwheat Breakfast.

Hot flushes, night sweats, poor concentration and low moods are just four of many symptoms that most women experience before, during and after the menopause. For some, they are just a minor nuisance, for others, they can be really debilitating and last for years.

The menopause is a natural phase of life, a transition from the fertile years. Puberty in reverse. So why is it sometimes really awful? The problem is, we in the West no longer live life as nature intended. Our lives are so full, so fast and often very stressful. Add to that the toxic load our bodies have to deal with, from environmental pollution to the food we eat, alcohol we drink and lack of exercise we get, it’s no wonder we feel pretty terrible at times! Add to this the negative pattern of thoughts and feelings made worse by our diminishing self confidence and loss of sex drive, we’ve inadvertently created a perfect storm of hormonal chaos!

So…here’s the good news!!! There is so much we women can do to ease menopausal symptoms by using this time of life to really nurture and care for our bodies while our hormones are in a state of flux. It’s time to rest, give yourself the opportunity to sleep as well as you can, tell your loved ones, colleagues and managers what your are experiencing and what you need from them. Exercise by listening to your body, don’t overdo or under-do it.

And now’s the time to nourish your body with the foods that will both provide you with the right nutrients as well as help to balance your hormones. One of the best ways to do this is to eat more phytoestrogens. These are foods that contain a form of plant based oestrogen, supporting your hormones. They also contain lots of fibre to help you get rid of the excess ‘bad’ oestrogen your body no longer needs. Phytoestrogens are found in most beans, lentils, other pulses and whole grains. They are also concentrated in seeds, particularly linseeds (flaxseeds).

So here’s my version of Deliciously Ella’s buckwheat bowl recipe. Mine is creamy, chocolatey, orangey and gorgeous, with no added sugar, lots of phytoestrogens, fibre, vitamins and minerals. So it’s also good for your heart, blood, bones, muscles, immune system and provides you with slow release energy to kick-start your day. What’s not to love!?

Soak 150g of buckwheat overnight in cold water, then rinse until the water runs clear. Blend two thirds of it with a peeled orange, a handful of blueberries or other berries, around 75ml of almond or oat milk, a good tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 – 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds and two teaspoons of cacao powder (raw cocoa). Add the final third of buckwhaet to add crunch and enjoy! I don’t really measure any ingredients so play around with this to get the consistency you prefer. I’d love to know if you like this so please comment and share!

Nanna’s Beliefs.

Last year I had to do a presentation for my NLP Train the Trainer course. Inspired by another mind-blowing book I had just read, The Biology of Belief By Professor Bruce Lipton, I decided to focus on beliefs and how powerful they can be, in creating thoughts, that generate feelings, that lead to actions and reactions…that reinforce our beliefs. Bruce Lipton’s research shows how strongly held beliefs can not only affect our body’s trillions of cells, but actually change our DNA. I told you it was mind-blowing!

Anyway, as with all good NLP presentations, I began with a story. It happens to be true, although whether you believe it or not, is of course, up to you.

I was very lucky to have two amazingly warm and wonderful Nannas in my life. The lovely lady above is my Nanna Gladys. and the story is about her. Now, as Nanna Gladys got older, she would repeatedly get phone calls, letters and messages from her GP’s surgery, asking her to make an appointment with the nurse to have a flu jab. Nanna’s response was always the same. ‘No thank you, I don’t need it. I don’t get the flu’. As each new winter season came about, the requests got more demanding. ‘You must have the flu jab, at your age, flu could be dangerous, even fatal’, would be the plea from nurses, receptionists and GPs alike.

Now Nanna, like Rosa Parks when she sat on that bus and refused to get up and give her seat to white folk, was a tiny, polite, quiet, unassuming lady. She didn’t want to make a fuss, she just didn’t believe she needed the flu jab.

You see, Nanna had a secret weapon.

At the first sign of a sniffle, sneeze, headache or any other minor aliment she felt was ‘coming on’, she would take a ‘Beechman’s powder’ before bed, knowing she would wake the next morning as right as ninepence. Now for those too young to know, Beechman’s (she often got her words a bit muddled, you know what she meant!), used to come in powder form, in little paper packets (I know, sounds dodgy but go with me on this). Nanna would take the powder with a little cold milk like a magical elixir, on a teaspoon, with a knowing smile.

My beautiful Nanna Gladys lived for 101 years. She never took statins or blood pressure pills. She looked after the old folk in her neighbourhood until she was well into her 80’s and lived independently until after her 100th birthday. She rarely got colds…she never had a flu jab. And she never got the flu.

Beliefs. Powerful things.

#biologyofbelief #mindbodyconnection #mindset

Science and Mysticism From Dr Joe

Last weekend I took the train to Edinburgh to take part in Dr Joe Dispenza’s progressive workshop. I have to be honest, I knew nothing about this neuroscientist/ chiropractor/researcher/lecturer and expert on the brain, mind and human potential until 6 months ago when a friend introduced him into my life and persuaded me to go to this event. I knew that it would involve meditation, something I had not yet embraced on my journey to wellness. And something I knew would benefit me greatly.

I believe that things come into my life at the time I choose to be ready for them and that was certainly the case with this workshop. Dr Joe not only knows his stuff, he’s engaging, funny, passionate and compassionate. The weekend included teaching the science behind what happens to the brain when we think and what happens to the body when we feel and how repeating patterns of unhelpful habits of thinking and feeling lead to disease and how we can break these habits through his form of meditation. For a science geek like me who wants to know ‘how’, it was fascinating.

Almost half of the time was spent meditating and for someone who had barely managed 10 minutes prior to this event, the hour-long deep meditations sessions were a challenge at first, however, once I stopped ‘trying’ to do it right, I was able to put my body to sleep, stop my analysing brain and experience a peaceful state of nothing, at least in moments.

So I get it Dr Joe. I get how living in a constant state of stress for many years had ‘down-graded’ my immune system, leading to me being ill. I get that stress from my environment through toxic food, chemicals and people had lead to an imbalance of hormones. I get that believing I’m not good enough, feelings of fear and anger lead to the release of stress hormones and my poor immune system couldn’t cope.
I get why I’m feeling happier and healthier since making changes to my life, starting during my cancer treatment. And now Dr Joe, I understand the importance of finding order in the chaos of the mind, how this can bring about healing and infinite possibilities. I get that this is the same message the mystics and prophets have been giving us for thousands of years and I love the fact that science and mysticism are now speaking the same language.

I’m excited to begin this new chapter in my continued journey of wellbeing and self development and I look forward to sharing these learnings with others. Thank you Dr Joe for a truly inspiring, fascinating and mind-blowing weekend.

Lentil Soup for the Soul

It’s a common belief that eating a healthy diet is more expensive. It’s simply not true. What is expensive is eating convenience, processed food labelled as ‘healthy’.

In the mid 90’s, I was a busy working, single Mum and often found it was a real challenge to find enough money for the weekly shop.
This soup was a life-saver. My son says he was brought up on it. And that’s got to be a good thing! I still love it. It’s tasty, hearty, nutritious.

Red lentils are rich in iron, folate, heart-protecting polyphenols and a good meat-free source of protein. And of course, the veg and herbs are full of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients.

The traditional recipe is great in the winter months, with seasonal veg and those lovely woody herbs. It can be made in bulk and frozen too.

Ingredients (all approx. just give it a try)

A tablespoon of olive oil

1 medium onion

2-3 carrots

2 sticks of celery

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic

125g dried red split lentils

1.5 litres veg stock

A good handful of chopped, woody herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme.
Salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.

Method

Chop and slice the veg, grate the garlic, remove the woody stalks from the herbs and finely chop. Leave the bay leaves whole.

Heat the oil very gently in a large pan and add the onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves, place a lid on and sweat gently until onions are soft and translucent (about 5 mins).

Grate in the garlic and stir for a minute before adding the lentils and stirring all together.Add the veg stock, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and add the chopped herbs.

Simmer gently for at least 20 minutes until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Season to taste and serve.
This soup is very versatile. You can add any wilting veg at the bottom of the fridge. Root or ‘woody’ veg needs to be sweated down. Leafy veg like kale can be chopped and added just before serving.




The Joy of Ginger Tea!

In 2017, my 84 year old Dad fell into a lake and almost drowned. The result was that he inhaled dirty water and ended up in hospital for several weeks with pneumonia. He was given strong IV antibiotics that were dealing with the infection but making him violently sick. The doctors tried a range of anti-sickness medication, but nothing worked.

That is until I took him some home-made ginger tea. My Dad has a very sweet tooth so he wasn’t keen to try it at first. However, his desire to stop vomiting overcame him and he began drinking it. The feeling of nausea started to go almost immediately, and the sickness stopped.

There is plenty of research to back up this story too. Root Ginger is the best thing for settling the stomach after sickness bugs, medication such as antibiotics and chemotherapy, morning sickness, travel sickness, and any other nausea-related condition.

The benefits don’t end there either. It’s also good for bloating,  lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and improves circulation and it helps with the absorption of nutrients. It’s anti-inflammatory properties can reduce joint pain and menstrual cramps.

To get the most out of this delicious spice, forget expensively packaged teabags. Root ginger is cheap to buy and tea is easy and quick to make, and well worth the little bit of effort needed!

fastest-most-efficient-way-peel-fresh-ginger-root-no-knives-peelers-required.w1456Take a piece of ginger the size of a thumb nail (or less if you don’t want it strong) and peel it using the inside of a teaspoon.

Slice thickly straight into a cup or grate into a tea strainer and place over the cup.

Pour over boiling water and leave for a few minutes to infuse. Remove the strainer or spoon out the slices.

Add a slice of lemon to give it a citrus flavour, a pinch of turmeric powder or cinnamon to give it a warm, spicy taste.

 

Alison Harris