29 October 2004

Simple solutions to everyday niggles

Instead of going out of your mind when you have a minor problem, use your head. Here are a few simple tricks.

Little things get you down. Like needing to focus on a spreadsheet when a colleague’s having an animated conversation, or trying to stay on a sensible eating plan when the same colleague’s tucking into fries with salt and vinegar. Try these simple tricks.

You need to concentrate, but you’re really tired
Try eating something crunchy. A handful of nuts or even some popcorn will do. The crunching sensation seems to perk up your mind. Also try standing up while you think, rather than sitting at your desk.

You’re feeling agitated and you need to focus on some important stuff
Try this quick, easy and non-weird (in case you were worried) meditation technique, courtesy of the author and naturopath, Barefoot Doctor, writing in the Observer Magazine.

It’ll take a while to learn, but it’s not difficult. Start by learning to sit quietly for about 20 minutes with your eyes half-closed. You needn’t sit cross-legged, as long as you’re comfortable.

Mentally, elongate your spine and broaden your pelvis and shoulders, relax all your muscles and visualise opening all your joints.

Now slow your breathing and make it smooth and silent and keep the length of inhalation and exhalation the same.

Visualise yourself observing your body from a point within your brain. From here you can visualise yourself watching your thoughts rise and dissolve in your brain without becoming involved in them.

Now, as you breathe in, picture each breath as a stream entering through your perineum, travelling up your spinal column to the top of head. Exhaling sends it down the spine and out through the perineum.

“With you imagination, imbue the ascending in-breath with the essence of primordial strength and the descending out-breath the essence of primordial grace,” concludes Barefoot Doctor.

You’re dying for a drink, but you’re trying to cut back
It’s known that one of the ways in which the body becomes addicted to booze is because of the quick buzz delivered by the sugar in it. When the body detects a dip in blood-sugar levels, it craves a quick and easy top-up. In time, the body becomes accustomed to a dose of sugar at certain times of the day.

Even if you’re just a social drinker, once you’re into the habit of say, having a drink after work, it becomes difficult to change that habit.

Dr John Briffa writes in the Observer Magazine that simply eating regular meals can help reduce a desire to drink. He recommends foods like green vegetables, lentils, beans, fish, eggs and meat.

Healthy snacks like fruit and nuts between meals help keep blood-sugar levels constant.

That’s one simple way of avoiding the biochemical imbalance caused by falling blood-sugar levels. Another, says Dr Briffa is nutritional supplements; 400microgams of chromium and 400 mg of magnesium. He says a general vitamin B supplement each day can help reduce cravings.

Glutamine, an amino acid, seems to work: once ingested it’s converted into substances like gamma hydroxybutrate (GHB), which seems to reduce the craving for booze. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor.

You’re craving a cheeseburger and fries, but trying to eat properly
Print out the following message and stick it in your wallet. Read it each time an expensive, clever ad pops up for junk food: fast food may cause brain damage. A study at the University of California’s Brain Injury Research Center found that rats fed a diet rich in fat and sugar appeared to reduce levels of BDNF, a naturally occurring chemical that protects the brain from damage. It also allows you to respond to stimuli. So can Quarterpounders make you stupid? It seems that way. - (William Smook)


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