The latest from our Heart and Soul
There is nothing better than a great belly laugh. How many times have you heard someone say that? Well, there may be some truth in that statement. Research has shown the benefits of laughter range from strengthening the immune system to reducing food cravings, even to increasing a person’s threshold for pain. More importantly it can also have stress relieving benefits. Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones in the body. On the flip side, it increases the level of health enhancing hormones like endorphins and neurotransmitters. Laughter also provides a physical and emotional release. And of course, a good hearty belly laugh gives you an internal workout; it exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed.
So, again, it seems there is nothing better than a great belly laugh.
Albert Nerenberg is a film maker and laughologist and sees the potential in a great belly laugh. “There is some research that shows that regular laughter may lower blood pressure and act as a hedge against heart disease.” There is another aspect of laughter that Nerenberg finds fascinating, it is the idea that you have some choice about the kind go mood that you are in. Laughter can change your mood instantly. Nerenberg says there still more work to be done on the research side of it but he says it could have something to do with laughter helping to metabolize stress hormones. “The idea here is that you can culture good moods and positive outlooks by practicing them. This is new. Because most of us think we get stuck with our mood. It may be that we have options” says Nerenberg.
So laugher is good for us. But there’s a catch. You need to laugh a lot, which is not easy. Laughter by nature is a social behaviour, you need to be around other people who want to laugh. So that can be a serious catch. Nerenberg says that’s why the new laughter club phenomenon is a serious breakthrough. Laughter Clubs are based on a concept by an Indian doctor named Madan Kataria. The idea is to essentially eliminate jokes and humour, so that you get unbridled laughter and then you practice laughter as an exercise. “It sounds strange but it really works. People sometimes laugh for two hours straight. What’s amazing about laugher clubs is that babies can join. I brought my daughter regularly from the age of 6 months and she loved it. There are few things that infants can do at an equal level as adults, but laughing is one of them” says Nerenber. He says there are actually many different ways to get more laughter, including laughter yoga, laughercize, the laughter party for example.
Wendy Woods of Watershed Training Solutions is a laughter yoga instructor and runs a Toronto laughter club. She says the benefits of laughter and laughter yoga help in everyday life, especially for Moms. “It’s another tool that allows us to approach life a little lighter.” Woods believes we know intuitively the benefits of laughter. “We can hardly wait to get together with friends who make us laugh. We know intuitively that laughter is a great thing but it’s taking it from a subconscious level, a reactive level, and bringing it to something proactive, so now it becomes a skill that we use”, says Woods. And that’s where laughter yoga comes into play. It teaches you how to use laughter as a tool. Wood says it is based on the concept of laughing for no reason, you start out faking the laughter and because it’s in a group and laughter is so contagious, real laughter kicks in.
Woods believes laughter is a key to happiness, health and a lighter, less stressful life. It’s about finding that childlike playfulness. Woods says parents should look to their children for inspiration, in more ways than one. Children laugh on average 400 times a day, compare that to an adults average 15 laughs a day.
Nerenberg agrees. He says children are natural laughers. They can bring us back to the natural laughter in us. All babies in every civilization on earth begin laughing at approximately two months. It shows how important and basic laughter is. Until very recently, Nerenberg says. doctors were in the business of downplaying the positive bonding signals that newborns give us. For example, a mother would marvel at seeing her baby smile for the first time and the doctor would declare: “It’s just gas.” In fact, he says when 4D scanning came out, they discovered the fetuses in the womb may begin smiling as early as 12 weeks.
The laughter of mothers itself may be crucial. It turns out that smiling and laughter is key to bonding with your baby.. A recent study at Yale University, showed that the brains of mothers actually grow when they begin bonding with their babies. The primary agent of newborn bonding is smiling and laughter. “So obviously, the answer is you should try laugh and smile as much as you can with your kids. Kids are incredibly disposed towards laughing, something we sometimes forget” says Nerenberg.
In our busy lives, sometimes we can forget the real importance of laughter in our daily lives. There is real value in laughing for our emotional and mental health and children can help parents learn to harness the healing effects of laughing. And there are simple things Moms and Dads can do to laugh a little more everyday. “The first suggestion I would give is just let yourself laugh with your kids. You don’t need a special technique or to join a laughter club. Just laugh. Laugh with your kids. It’s a win-win situation for everyone” says Nerenberg.
We get very removed from that childlike playfulness, that innocence, when we move about in our busy lives. When we are in that mode and we are laughting and in pure joy we are in the present, we are not focues on any other stressors in our life, any worries. Its a great place to be. We feel good, happy, at peace and that can help us shed off those stressful feelings.
Nerenberg believes we are just at the beginning of the laughter movement. Madan Kataria only made his laughter club discovery in 1995. So there is still a long way to go he believes. “I think there is a growing problem with depression in our society for reasons medical science doesn’t explain well.” Nerenberg believes it may be hard to be happy without emotional fitness and he thinks practiced laughter could just be a small part of finding your emotional fitness. There is something to be said for what goes around, comes around. Positive behaviours are contagious. We could very well be entering an age where people are encouraged to laugh long, hard and proud because it produces medical and social benefits.
So ultimately the message is to laugh. Laugh often. Laugh with your full heart. Laugh with your children. Laugh because it makes you feel good, mind, body and spirit.
For more information on Albert Nerenberg and Laughology check out the links, http://www.laughology.info and http://www.laughterparty.net.
For more on laughter yoga or to find a class, check out Wendy Woods’ website at http://www.watershedtraining.ca.
Christy has spent about 15 years in the news business. When she isn't working the news, Christy is writing freelance for serveral parenting magazines and websites. You can find Christy on twitter most days, facebook every once in a while and also on her blog.
Start Your Day with Tea
Make a switch from your normal coffee to a nice cup of tea. You can choose black or green tea, both have polyphenols and flavonoids which fight off free radicals.
Barley and Oats Put You Ahead of the Game
Both barley and oats have beta glucans which has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. They are also high in vitamins A, C, and E which all add up to a healthier you.
- Strawberry Barley Scones with Maple Cream
- Roasted Pumpkin and Pearl Barley Risotto
- Barley and Bean Soup
- Miso barley risotto with Tempeh and Tofu
- Slow Cooker Apple Pie Oatmeal
- Pecan Oatmeal Waffles
- Baked Oatmeal
No Time for a Hot Breakfast? Grab A Yogurt
Your schedule (or your child’s mood) might not always allow for making a hot breakfast. Yogurt has good bacteria that has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that up you white blood cell count. Make sure to buy yogurt with live cultures. On a dairy-free diet? Try some of the new yogurts that are based on soy or coconut milk.
This is the only ingredient in this article that you don’t want to cook. Heat kills the friendly bacteria before they can work their magic on you.
- Chickpea and Spinach Salad with Yogurt Dressing
- Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip
- Orange Yogurt
- Maple and Cardamom Spiced Pears with Pecans
Vitamin C to the Rescue
Orange and Grapefruit are wonderful ways to get some vitamin C and flavonoids into you and your kids. Both increase immune system. Simply cut them into wedges that are manageable even for little hands. These are perfect snacks to put in a lunch box and you can store the pre-cut wedges in the fridge for a ready to go snack.
- Broiled Grapefruit with Brown Sugar and Ginger
- Grapefruit and Avocado Salad
- Fennel and Orange Salad
- Citrus & Pomegranate Salad with Rose Water-Vanilla Syrup
Hate citrus fruit? Add in some green peppers instead, they are also full of vitamin C.
Eat Your Mushrooms
You may not realize it but mushrooms are a powerhouse of nutrition. They contain beta glucans, selenium, riboflavin and niacin all of which contributes to a healthy immune system and help prevent infections. Include shitake and maitake mushroom in addition to button and portabella.
- Mushroom Bruschetta
- White Truffled Grilled Cheese
- Wild Mushroom Soup
- Warm Maitake Pasta with Citrus Soy Dressing
- Spinach and Shitake Mushroom Soup with Crispy Baked Tofu Croutons Recipe
- Polenta with chard and mushrooms
Color Lunch (or Dinner) Orange
Carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash are some of my favorite foods. They are cheap and plentiful through the winter too. It’s an amazing bonus that they are also chock full vitamin A and the antioxidant beta-carotene which boost T-cell count and fights free radicals.
- Butternut Squash and Leek Latkes
- Quinoa, Squash & Leek Pilaf with Runny Eggs
- Moroccan Carrot Soup
- Veggie Mash
- Purple Sweet Potato Chiffon Cake
- Sweet Potato Chips
Don’t Forget to Add Some Green
From a simple spinach salad that contains folate that helps your body create new cells to a simple steamed broccoli which is full of phytonutrients, vitamin A and E, they are all perfect additions to any dinner.
- Detox Green Soup
- Spinach Manicotti
- Boiled Spinach with Soy and Sesame
- General’s Broccoli and Tofu
- Warm Millet and Broccoli
- Broccoli Soup with Sauteed Mushrooms
Pressing the feet to get a baby? Reflexology is a treatment working certain points on the feet which correspond with the body. So why on earth are there so many stories around on the internet of women who claim that this therapy helped them get pregnant?
As a maternity reflexologist here are the three reasons I think it works:
Rebalancing the body
Reflexology works by stimulating reflex points on the feet that correspond to parts of the body. The maternity reflexologist is specially trained to work the relevant reflexes and the supporting systems. For example, it is obvious to work areas relating to the reproductive system but it is also important to work the nervous system as this supports the body in creating the right environment for conception.
An hour long reflexology session is like heaven on earth. As a practicing holistic therapist I can 100% say that it is the most relaxing and most powerful treatment I provide. Of course massage is fantastic, and hot stone massage another level again, but reflexology is in another league entirely. The difference is that the benefits are multi-dimensional and they last. In mine and my clients’ experience the most surprising benefit is a change of perspective – feeling calmer, generally happier and more in control. A bit like the opposite to PMT! And that I believe is due to the way reflexology rebalances the hormones within the system. Anyone who has regular reflexology treatments and then stops very quickly realises how much better they felt having the treatments.
During the actual treatment the focus is on allowing the client to totally relax using massage and pressure point techniques to the foot and lower leg. During my sessions we focus on relaxing breaths and positive visualisations during the treatment. I often liken the effect of the reflexology treatment to hypnotherapy, due to the speed my clients go from chatty and animated to being unable to form words and slipping into an almost meditative state. Breathing slows, blood pressure drops, tension eases and the body’s innate healing ability is given space to work. Compare this to a stressed, anxious, overworked woman flitting from home to work to the shops, whilst remembering every date, birthday, appointment and mentally planning the evening meal and so on. Often, when trying to conceive, there will be a lot of negative, repetitive thought patterns taking place. Reflexology is ‘enforced relaxation’ and breaks the cycle.
Of course all women who are trying to conceive are at different stages in their journey. However often simply acknowledging that they are ready for a baby, and they feel it is time to take positive steps to help themselves achieve that is very powerful indeed. They send a signal to themselves that they are taking control, rather than waiting for doctor’s appointments or tests or assessments in a passive role in their own health. The very act of taking an hour for yourself, making space in a busy life and receiving physical and emotional support from a therapist can make all the difference.
Of course there are no double blind clinical trials that support reflexology as an aid to fertility – how could there be? The incredible, magical, random act of conception can only be medicalised in a laboratory but holistic therapy has a real, undisputable part to play. Women who have reflexology to aid conception feel more relaxed, more in control and feel they have more perspective on a very stressful process in their lives. I can confidently say that as fact from my own experience. I would never claim any of my clients get pregnant solely through reflexology, I mean they have to have sex as well, but I can confidently say that I have seen many, many women who were trying to get pregnant who then went on and conceived after only a few sessions of reflexology. Co-incidence? Maybe. I’ll still take it though – I have the best, most satisfying job in the world. Nothing quite beats getting that text off a client that says ‘I’m Pregnant’.
First, I want to point out something important: I'm neither old, nor married. So, the following tips and tricks from my toolbox of sickness management should possibly be called 'young bachelorette's recipes'. I'm just saying.
Now, for the gloating: I get a cold once or twice a year and its worst symptoms last a day or two, with some generally annoying symptoms for 36 hours before and after the worst part. When I get the garden-variety flu, by the time that I've finally registered that it's not the common cold, it's moving out of my system. But. I'm quite susceptible to infections, so what I lack in viruses, I make up for in bacterium. And, even as recently as two years ago, I would get a cold or the flu (or both) every six to ten weeks - nearly as frequently as my then-two-year old daughter did.
I'm not an immunological goddess and neither is my daughter, a four-year old preschooler who has had less than five days of sickness in all of 2010, but we do get off pretty lucky. Want know what I do differently?
- Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup. With lots of black pepper and cayenne. Not the Cup-A-Noodles kind, but the 'makes a big pot of neon yellow broth' kind. Make it as spicy as you can stand it. Sweat while slurping. Drink orange juice, and water between bowls, or tea for sore throats (and caffeine).
- Don't take pain relievers to reduce a fever unless the fever is of concern. Fever? Is what you can consider your body trying to burn off invading sickness. It's not bad for you, unless it's very high for prolonged periods.
- Tea with brown sugar, warm, almost cold, is my preference over hot honey-sweetened tea. Maybe that's just a personal thing, but it goes down better, to me.
- A hot bath with 3-4 mint tea bags floating around can be a good pain reliever, sweat-inducer and relaxation-aide, before bedtime. I like to add a little oatmeal in, too.
- When I used to drink, I swore by an evening of Screwdrivers upon the first sign of a sore throat. Maybe I just wanted vodka and orange juice, but it seemed to work like a charm. Now that I've given up, I...
- Hit the pharmacy, where I pick up lozenges with Zinc, Vitamin C and Echinacea in them. I only take a couple a day because the aim is not to flood my body with the minerals, so much as to allow them to supplement my natural immunity.
- For my daughter, I plug a vaporizer into her bedroom's outlet, so the eucalyptus can help to keep her stuffy-free and she can get a good night's rest.
- I also elevate her upper body at bedtime, by putting an extra pillow under her mattress.
- For the two of us, the first concrete cold symptoms (like achiness, coughing or runny noses) get a mega-dose of the minty bath treatment follow-up directly with the 'minty feet treatment': Massage a menthol salve (like Vicks' Vaporub) all over and into the bottom of the patient's feet (getting it really warmed up so that the vapours release) and then cover them with socks overnight. I'm sure its success is based in reflexology, or something scientific I know nothing about, but It Works.
- I try to avoid taking pain relievers and decongestants. I know they work wonderfully on some symptoms - and there's stuff to do in the morning, or afternoon, or evening, so I want to feel better - but it can become easy to rely on their seemingly curative magic and I have faith that, for the most part, my body knows what it's doing.
When my daughter and I get sick, I follow some basic principals: medication is generally meant to treat symptoms, not cure them, and those symptoms exist for a reason; pain is how our bodies talk to us when we're sick, and we should listen to it; rest is important, but not above all else. Also? Don't get your surrounding circle sick, lest it potentially jump back into your home, mutated into a new, related virus. Do you have any of your own cold-and-flu habits hidden up your sleeve? Share them with the rest of the group in the comments!
One last point: if your family doesn't vaccinate, avoiding areas known to contain the more severe illness can be quite important. For example, if there is a measles outbreak in your city, consider avoiding downtown and possibly taking your kids out of school until it passes. There's a difference between accepting natural immunological function (or having faith) and knowingly putting your children at risk. Just like most parents generally wouldn't let their baby play with the kiddo who has chicken pox, consider the same for your non-vaccinated older children.
Become educated about how to treat symptoms of common illnesses that other children are vaccinated against, and when to seek medical help, just in case your child does get sick.
I humbly request that if you don't vaccinate, you disclose this fully with all medical, educational and child care staff that your family comes into contact with, in addition to close friends and family. And just so you know, I'm not pointing any blaming fingers in the direction of non-vaccinating parents with this text - I am a non-vaccinating parent who makes effort to keep our risks as low as possible, and to be completely transparent about our non-vaccinated statuses.
I love baby massage – I did it. I teach it, I made a DVD about it. I tweet, blog and facebook about it. But I still found it hard to do all the time when my children were babies. Sometimes it feel like yet another thing you should be doing – in between the baby swimming, baby signing and baby brain-training.
But why do I love it so much? Because of the effect it has on mums rather than the great benefits it has on babies. Because the baby is calmer, more settled, sleep better and have less upsetting symptoms of colic life is generally happier and calmer – and mums feel much more in control and bonded with their baby’s. Research has even shown a reduction in Post Natal Depression symptoms. It is a gift to parents the world over!
So – here are five ways to sneak in a little baby massage every day.
- Nappy Time!
You KNOW there are enough of these in the day and you have the added bonus of having bare legs to work with (unless you are a professional like me and manage to whip one off and one on whilst keeping trousers, socks and shoes off on your knee).
Keep a little oil in your chaning bag/change table/down the side of the sofa and massage both legs in a pull down motion, gently warming the legs and the oil up. Rub small circles and gently stretch and wobble the legs a little. Massage the feet – circles across the top and thumb strokes from heel to toe on the bottom. Spend some time on the middle section of the sole of the foot – this relates to the digestive sytem, which relates to wind, colic, constipation etc. Wiggle the toes in turn – go on – sing this little piggy! Bicycle the legs slowly and then both legs at once.
Finish the nappy change and you will have done a little bit of massage already!
- Soothing to sleep
Many of you will be doing daily infant massage already – the gentle rubbing of the back through the vest, stroking the head, holding their little hands. The little habits you get into when you are trying to get them off to sleep. I used to stroke just at the tip of the girls’ noses, just between their eyes until they drifted off. Don’t think I would get away with doing that on them now!
- No need for nakedness!
Sometimes the thought of getting down on the floor, undressing your baby (especially when they are tiny), getting the oil and both of you getting all greasy is a little, well, exhausting. So do a little massage in the morning when they are still in their sleep suits – gently rub their tummies in a clockwise direction, clap the soles of their feet together, bicycle the legs and play some little games.
- Pick the right time
If you DO want to sit and do the full routine, then the best way to make it fit into your routine is to pick the right time – common convention says that after the bath is a good time – but frankly I beg to differ.
Of course, if you have a placid, easy going baby go for it – make massage part of the bedtime routine and you will create a habit that will probably last for years (although not once they go off to university) – however if you have a starving hungry, tired and festered baby at 7pm, plus husband to feed (how terribly 1950’s of me), other kids to get sorted and a million other things to do – massage is just not going to work.
Rather than say/think ‘my baby doesn’t like massage’ try to work out when IS a good time. Think about when they are happy, content, not tired, asleep or hungry. I know, I know, with newborns those periods are so miniscule they actually barely exist but certainly with older babies those times are more frequent. A common ‘good’ time for babies is mid morning and this way you get the benefits of a more settled nap AND a good sleep that night.
- Get someone else to do it
Why not delegate the baby massage routine to dad while you nip up for a nice long bath. If you have a DVD or download for him to follow you can leave your baby in safe hands and go and enjoy some me time.
Her website www.newstorktimes.co.uk provides digital tutorials that take parents step-by-step through baby massage routines to help them reduce pain and discomfort and increase parent-child bonding. She even has a free colic & wind help video which you can download straight away.