Mindfulness and how it works in the modern world

maria

Maria,
Clinical Governance Pharmacist at LloydsPharmacy

The world we live in is a fast paced world. Our brains and bodies are becoming wired to be always thinking ahead. With this comes an increase level of stress and anxiety in our lives. A consistent and prolonged state of anxiety can lead to a weakened immune system, depression, high blood pressure, and gastric problems. It is essential that we learn to ‘self- check’ and monitor our levels of anxiety. A certain level of anxiety is normal in our lives. It is our natural ‘fight or flight’ and ensures we accomplish what needs doing. However when these levels go out of synch then we see it impacting our health. Therefore the act of mindfulness is a series of simple techniques and approaches to help us to focus on the present. From this we learn to reduce our levels of stress and overwhelming anticipation. With the launch of our CYHD programme in our 93 stores, we in LloydsPharmacy are very focused on boosting wellbeing and attaining a better lifestyle.

 

How can you practice Mindfulness on a daily basis?

  • Meditation: A very simple technique and one of the most utilised approaches to mindfulness. It can be as simple as a few minutes in the morning or evening depending on your routine. Find a quiet, decluttered space in your home and make yourself feel comfortable. Some people choose to sit on a chair while others prefer to sit on the ground with their legs crossed and arms rested. Gently close your eyes and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You may notice your breath is quite shallow. Therefore to allow you to breathe more deeply and hence relax, hold your breath for approximately 5 seconds and then exhale. Once you have become more relaxed return to your normal breath pattern. Become aware of how you are feeling in your overall body. Are some areas of your body tight and tense? Allow yourself to acknowledge how you are feeling. Your thoughts begin to wander, that is completely fine. Let your mind wander. Listen to the sound of your environment and allow yourself to take sense of your environment. Again acknowledge this moment. Some people may like to stay in this state for 10 – 15 minutes, others longer. Once you feel you are ready, then gently soften your gaze, open your eyes and focus on where you are. Assess how you are feeling now after the session. Many people feel a greater sense of calm and their bodies, both physically and mentally, are more relaxed. This meditative approach can be done daily or weekly depending on what you feel works best for you. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Some people bespoke their meditation to incorporate gentle music in the background, the burning of essential oils such as lavender or adding in gentle yoga sequences. Again see what works best for you.

 

  • Gratitude Journal: The concept of journaling is something we are all familiar with. It has been found that recording what we are grateful for allows us to appreciate the present, reduce stress levels and increase our levels of happiness. Again there is no right or wrong way to journal. Some people like to record two or three points maybe twice a week of what they are grateful for. Many find it therapeutic reviewing what they have recorded over time.

 

  • Online resources: There are many mindfulness apps that can guide you in your practice. ‘Headspace’ is an excellent app that you can download on your phone. It has many guided exercises that allow you as a beginner to get started. Other apps include the ‘smiling mind’ which has exercises for children and young adults, as well as the app ‘conscious, to name just a few.

Above are just a few pointers in directing you to including mindfulness in your daily routine. As you will see, the approach is personal to the individual. Even just by focussing on our breathing, recording our thoughts and taking time to acknowledge our presence can help in adding balance to our busy lives. To finish a quote I really like, ‘mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and the experience’ (Jon Kabatt Zin) and as we all know, we must be friends with ourselves first and foremost.

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No more excuses; introduce ‘fitness’ into your life!

Ross Loughran 5/11/2016Pic : Lorraine O'Sullivan

Ross, Pharmacy Technician, Rowlagh

Change your health direction. What does it mean to you? To me, as a pharmacy technician and a personal trainer, it means changing your outlook on fitness, and not just physical fitness, but also your mental wellbeing. It’s about making positive little steps and changes to ensure you improve your overall fitness. From a personal point of view, this is what I did. I underwent that change 5 years ago. Making that shift towards positive healthy habits and I’m all the better for it.

People tend to come up with all sorts of excuses not to exercise… a popular myth out there at the moment is ‘if I’m sick, I can’t work out’ and yes, in some cases this is the truth. I’d never accept a client if they hadn’t got the all clear from a doctor. BUT fitness starts at home. By this I mean, what’s on your plate. It’s about making those small changes. Any commitment too big will never last. Start small… swap your cereal for oats. Swap that chocolate bar for a banana. Do something enough, it becomes a habit. Do it long enough, it becomes part of your life. The same can be said for exercise. Start small… take that flight of stairs to the next level, walk to the shops instead of driving.

Look at the simple habit of sitting down, yes we all do it, BUT even the action of sitting down is part of a very popular gym move; a move that works all muscles of the leg by sitting down and standing up, a move that has one of the highest calorie burning stats of any resistance move… the squat. Try this, before sitting down in front of the TV, go to sit but stop RIGHT before your bum touches the cushion. Then stand. That’s one rep. No barbell, just your own body weight. Repeat it 10 to 12 times. That’s a set. Something so simple but then you’ll have earned that seat. You’ll have raised your endorphins, making you feel good and you’ll have boosted your metabolism, getting the most out of your food. It’s making these changes that help improve fitness. Not just your body but also your mind.

Make 2018 the year of the small but mighty changes!

Good health’s not just for January, it’s for life!

Laura Dowling

Laura, Supervising Pharmacist Manager, Stillorgan

New year, new you! …. Screams every second Facebook post and magazine article that I have read over the past couple of weeks. The post-Christmas bulge and general feeling of guilt after a month (or more!) of over indulgence during the silly season generally encourages people to jump on the health bandwagon. Dry January, gym memberships and dieting can all contribute to a healthier lifestyle but a proper understanding of nutrition and portion sizes can lead to a healthier you for life.

Here at LloydsPharmacy we can help you to achieve your health goals with nutrition and exercise advice as well as taking regular measurements of your weight, waist circumference and upper arm. We can guide you through our eight week programme with enthusiasm and understanding. But our aim is to ultimately arm you with the tools that will help you to carry on with your new, healthy lifestyle for the months and years beyond our programme.

We will encourage you to set realistic goals when it comes to weight loss. Most calorie restrictive diets flounder after five weeks as calorie restriction in the long term is very unachievable. Life just tends to get in the way! Nights out, weddings and parties often end up with our patients falling off the weight loss wagon. Sometimes people just find it too difficult to get back on it again and they are plagued with feelings of guilt and self-loathing which in turn can lead to more overeating.

I always give my patients the following tips:

  • Meal planning and preparation with lots of vegetables, whole grains and lean meats is so important. It prevents you from overeating the wrong kids of foods when you are very hungry.
  • Experiment with new recipes: herbs and spices add delicious flavours to food, chickpeas are nourishing, very versatile, cheap and so easy to add to recipes.
  • Alcohol provides empty calories that does not satiate and often causes overeating, so limit your alcohol consumption.
  • Correct weight loss involves 80% diet and 20% exercise. Pounding away in the gym is of little benefit if your diet is not healthy and portion controlled.
  • Portion size is so important. The correct portion size for rice, pasta and potatoes is the cooked amount that would fit in the palm of your hand. This is considerably less than the large platefuls of pasta that we have become used to eating. You can bulk up your plate with fresh veggies and salads to satiate your appetite and fill your belly!
  • Increase your activity levels. Get your heart rate going and break a sweat! For some this can be as simple as a 20 minute brisk walk every day. You will achieve your weight loss goal quicker and healthier if you do this.
  • Focus on inches lost rather than kilograms/ pounds lost.

The ‘feel good’ factor of living a healthier life should not be underestimated.  A healthy lifestyle can lead to elevated mood, increased energy levels and libido. Clothes will fit you better and you will look much better too. The health benefits are numerous:  lower blood pressure, less likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, lower cholesterol, lower incidences of depression and anxiety… the list goes on.

Vitamin and mineral supplements can really help you to achieve your goals too, especially in the first few weeks of the program. They can boost your energy levels (Revive Active, Quinton Cell Nutrition, Oxylent), decrease your sugar cravings (Miss Fit Crave, Pharma Nord Chromium) and help to increase your overall feeling of wellbeing. A good Vitamin D supplement can also help with mood elevation as we definitely do not get enough sun in this dreary part of the world, especially during these cold and dark winter months.

I will end by reassuring you that everyone falls off the wagon at some stage. At LloydsPharmacy we are here to help you to get back up onto it. We don’t judge, we just offer sound advice and empathetic encouragement. Good luck!

Laura Dowling is the Supervising Pharmacist Manager at LloydsPharmacy in Stillorgan Shopping centre.  She is a health and wellbeing enthusiast and mum to three young boys.

What is ‘Change Your Health Direction’?

Lisa Walsh Headshot Corporate

Lisa Walsh
Life Coach and Training Specialist for LloydsPharmacy

Change Your Health Direction (CYHD) is a FREE 8-week programme offering you the opportunity to visit your local LloydsPharmacy, where one of our trained in-store coaches will speak with you on a weekly basis about your health goals. Our instore health advisory services include smoking control support, blood pressure and BMI checks, weight management diary, lifestyle and health coaching sessions. 

The New Year is a wonderful opportunity for us all to align our health goals and lifestyle habits to keep us on track with everyday healthy living and wellbeing practices. Rather than taking something away from your life as a resolution, I love to ‘take on’. This year I am taking on healthy habits that will improve my lifestyle and wellbeing.

So I am super excited to be part of the ‘Change Your Health Direction’ 8 week programme. What I adore about CYHD is that it gives me 8 weeks to monitor the healthy habits I wish to commit to with the support of a Health Coach in my local LloydsPharmacy and it’s for FREE! Yes, I can have a one-to one mini consultation session with the CYHD coach on a weekly basis all for free!

After the Christmas eating, TV watching and couch cuddling, I am ready to increase my exercise levels again, monitor my immune system, care for my skin more and focus on eating a balanced nutritious diet.  The first step is to meet with my LloydsPharmacy Health Coach and set realistic achievable goals. I can’t wait to ‘take on’ the CYHD programme.

Small changes can make a big difference. Whatever change you choose to ‘take on’ your LloydsPharmacy Health Coach is there to support you as you introduce healthier habits into your lifestyle.

Happy New Year to you all and best of luck with whatever you choose to “take on” for 2018.

 

GRILLED SEA BASS WITH SALSA VERDE, NEW POTATOES &TOMATOES

This dish reminds me of summer holidays on the Med bursting with flavour from nutrient dense herbs, garlic, capers and an assortment of antioxidant-rich tomatoes. Jersey royal new potatoes which have a distinct, sweet flavour, and whilst many diet camps have shunned the white potato in favour of sweet potatoes, white potatoes are in fact a better source of essential minerals such as iron, magnesium and potassium, as well as being a great source of vitamin C and fibre.  Fish is a lovely light alternative to meat on warm summer evenings and I particularly love Sea Bass.  It’s an excellent source of protein, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids whilst being light and low in calories.

Serves 2 | Prep & Cooking Time: 30 min | Rating: Moderate

Nutrition: approx. 435 calories per serving. Source of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, iron, magnesium

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 large handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 large handful of fresh basil
  • 1 large handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 1 heaped tbsp capers
  • 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp Bragg apple cider vinegar (available in LloydsPharmacies nationwide)
  • 4 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil plus 1/3 tbsp for frying
  • 2 fillets sea bass approximately 180g raw weight (or other white fish like sea bream, hake or cod)
  • 175g Jersey Royal new potatoes
  • 150g assorted tomatoes plus 1 large beef tomato
  • Sea salt flakes and finely ground black pepper

Method:

  1. To make the salsa verde, de-stem the herbs and finely chop along with the garlic and capers on a large chopping board. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar and slowly add 4 tbsp of olive oil, mixing well. Taste and season with a pinch of sea salt flakes and finely ground black pepper. Transfer to an airtight jar or serving bowl. (This salsa verde recipe makes up to four servings, so the extra can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days).
  2. Slice the new potatoes into halves and steam or boil for 8 minutes until tender and then remove from the heat.
  3. Arrange the tomatoes onto a large roasting tray with the potatoes and carefully lay the two sea bass fillets on top, skin side up.
  4. Season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a 1/3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Place under a grill on a medium-high heat and grill for about 10-12 minutes until the fish is cooked and the skin starting to crisp.
  5. Remove from the grill and serve with a tablespoon of salsa verde spooned onto the top of each sea bass fillet. Enjoy!

Created by: Pamela Ryan Qualified Nutritionist*

Website: www.thehealthonist.com

Instagram: @the_healthonist

* Pamela Ryan (Dip.NT, NTOI) is a Qualified Nutritional Therapist recognised by the Nutritional Therapists of Ireland (NTOI), the professional association supporting qualified nutritional therapists. All NTOI members study biomedicine and nutrition for a minimum of 3 years at a recognised college, are trained in clinical practice and must comply with NTOI requirements for Continuous Professional Development (CPD). Nutritional Therapy is an evidence-based approach to maximising health through individually formulated nutrition and lifestyle strategies. Pamela continues to attend training and lectures on a regular basis through various bodies including The Institute of Functional Medicine and The Institute of Health Sciences. These trainings help her to gain increased expertise in the ever advancing field of nutrition.

Changing My Health Direction

Change Your Health Direction is so much more than just simple weight loss or switching from smoking cigarettes to chewing gum. It’s about literally changing the direction in how you view health and how you’re going to get to where you want to be.

 
My journey started 5 years ago. Realistically it started YEARS before. I was always heavy. I started ‘gymming’ when I was 16 but nothing proper. I fell into the trap of ‘I’m going to the gym so I’m going to eat what I want’. This game was played for years until I saw the pictures go up of the New Years party we had reeling in 2013. I looked a state. Drunk. Grossly overweight. I’d a holiday coming up in September so wanted to use that as my focus. I got in touch with an Irish Personal Trainer who was just starting out, and who was looking to break into the online client business, so after a conversation, he took me on for a 12 programme. His name is Darren Farrell, and I haven’t looked back.

ross

Ross – Pharmacist Technician

He supplied me with workouts, nutrition and all the motivation. The pic on the right was me 12 weeks later in a water park. Going from 96kg-74kg, I’d so much more confidence, but much more drive. 5 years later, I’m a practicing Personal Trainer, putting people through their own fitness journeys while still working in LloydsPharmacy. I want people to start their journey with me, but small steps. Look at introducing supplements. Vit C, multivitamin, Omega 3s, probiotics… All these help. I can vouch for these products. I still use them. They’re just a part of my life after taking that step to include them.

 
Each person has it in themselves to be the change they want to be. Each person just needs to believe in that change.
 

Call into any of our 94 stores nationwide to sign up to our FREE 8 week Change Your Health Direction Programme today!

Let us help you control those Bad Behaviours!

donal blog image

Donal – Pharmacist Aylesbury

The more i read from the latest research articles the more it seems that the old sayings we’ve heard repeated again and again about food, sleep and exercise are true. We should go to bed early, eat natural foods and exercise every day.

But often in the media we see people who break these rules idolised and celebrated. People who work around the clock, who party through the night, people who binge and diet in repeated cycles. These behaviours are enticing and misleading. Often we believe we can accomplish something greater, meet deadlines by pushing through walls of fatigue, or that we can make up for bad eating behaviours afterwards by upping our exercise regimen.

I  will often hear people relate and discuss behaviours such as late night snacking, insatiable appetites and craving snacks, remarking on them as inexplicable and unavoidable. Night binging can leave a person with low energy levels the next day. People who regularly do this often have high insulin levels which can lead to diabetes and they find it difficult to exercise from fatigue and lack of sleep. Without knowing how our bodies work it can be difficult to understand where these cravings come from. Being now in my thirties some of these bad habits have already caught up with me and I see the effects of poor diet and snacking in my energy levels and some of my blood tests. Not a good scenario to be in at such a “young” age. LOL.

What I have found helpful in trying to control my own bad behaviours is an understanding of what exactly is going on in my body to drive these unhealthy habits I seem drawn to constantly repeat. In this blog I will briefly discuss one aspect of the body’s many mechanisms that control appetite, weight fluctuations and as researchers are currently finding out potentially a lot more.

Ghrelin is an appetite stimulating hormone released from the empty stomach. It signals our brain to encourage anticipatory and goal-directed behaviours. This basically means it makes us look out for our next meal, make us think about food and it affects what we crave in terms of sugar, fat, protein and carbohydrates. On its own ghrelin seems to direct us toward a more nutritious meal than we might choose without its influence. This might sound familiar if you think of what you crave when you are really hungry. Usually the ice cream, chocolate or biscuit treat (my personal favourites!) doesn’t seem sufficient and we actually want a heart slap up meal with more nutritious ingredients. This is actually a good effect of the hormone.

However studies have shown that as ghrelin levels rise, the amount of eating it encourages rises dramatically. This makes sense in the natural world. The longer the period between eating the more our body is going to want to stock up on energy the next time food is available. However this effect is contributing to our modern day obesity problem. We have such busy lives that people are often jumping from the bed out the door skipping what the old maxim calls the most important meal of the day. Breakfast. Breaking the fast.

As we sleep our bodies are stilling whirring away with countless processes like a laptop on standby. In fact the energy our body would use if we were to simply lie on the couch all day accounts for up to 60 to 70% of the energy we spend each day even when we move around and work as normal. That is why it is so important to supply your body with a source of healthy energy soon after waking up in the morning. Otherwise the body will demand an even greater meal off you later in the day.

Studies have shown that  ghrelin, the hunger hormone, will not be suppressed without a proper breakfast. People who skip breakfast think they are cutting out part of their day’s calorie intake but it is proven that those people eat more for lunch, dinner AND supper partly due to higher ghrelin levels the skipped breakfast causes.

Also sleep deprivation has been shown to increase cortisol (our stress hormone) and in doing so mimic starvation and hunger. Both stress and cortisol increase our hunger hormone ghrelin which increases our cravings and likelihood to overeat. Poor sleep is another of the factors linked to increasing obesity in Ireland.

There are several ways we can affect our ghrelin levels. One large egg provides varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin yet regular consumption of eggs is still met with uncertainty. In the 1970s excess cholesterol in our blood was linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Many scientists assumed that eating high-cholesterol foods like butter, red meat and eggs must then be bad for our health. In fact sugar, trans fats or excessive saturated fat is more harmful to use and produces more cholesterol in our blood that dietary cholesterol.

In a study comparing eating eggs for breakfast versus a bowl of healthy oatmeal on the symptoms of heart disease (a change in the cholesterol and lipid balance in the body) there was not a huge difference between the two. The eggs did raise cholesterol levels somewhat compared to the oatmeal but not in an unhealthy amount and the sugar levels, liver function and fat levels in the body were the same. The eggs did seem to keep the person eating them fuller for a longer time than the porridge. I have tried alternating both porridge and a boiled egg into my breakfast regime and from my experience I can see how an egg can help space out meals across a day and prevent the urge to snack in between. But the benefits of porridge on health are also proven so if anything I would recommend fitting both into your morning diet if possible.

Being a daily porridge devourer I want to explain how it can benefit you. When food enters the stomach it lowers your ghrelin but it doesn’t stop you from eating. The signal for satiety and to stop eating is actually located twenty two feet or almost seven meters into the intestine! Naturally it takes time for food to travel this far. The Japanese have a saying which is “eat until you are 80% full” which is basically allowing your food time to reach this point. Alternatively trying to eat with chopsticks will get you there! The best way to get food moving faster through the intestine is through fiber.

Ever notice how a plate of pasta or chips and cheeseburgers doesn’t always make you feel full? This is because fast food and processed cereals have had their fibre stripped away to improve taste and shelf life. They sit into your stomach instead of moving into the intestine where they should be signalling the brain that the stomach is full. Anything that speeds food transit through the gut will make you feel fuller faster and reduce hunger and the amount eaten. The insoluble fiber in porridge does this. Its soluble fiber also helps by forming a sticky gel that delays stomach emptying which makes you feel fuller faster. Processed foods and cereals contain little of these or have it artificially added back in which doesn’t seem to work as well as when it is in its original form.

There was a study I found interesting on how water, milk, a yogurt drink and fruit juice drunk either before or with a meal would affect appetite, satiety (feeling full after eating) and the amount of food eaten. Milk reduced the overall  food intake and appetite while increasing the satiety (feeling full after meal) compared to a sweetened yogurt or fruit drink. But in all cases drinking water meant the overall calorie intake was less before and after the meal. One esteemed dietician in America suggested keeping to milk, water and tea only as the beverages of choice and leaving the rest out of our diets. Sugary beverages and even fruit juice are thought to be unnecessary additions to our diet that we might be better avoiding. Fruit it appears is best eaten whole rather than juiced or pulverised into a smoothie. Also I will add in here that fructose which is known simply as sugar when it comes to talking about our modern processed foods does not affect ghrelin release unlike other carbohydrates and proteins which lower ghrelin levels. So sweets and sugary drinks in the morning will not reduce the amount of food you are likely to consume later for lunch and dinner compared to the egg and porridge discussed earlier.

Is it better to spread out calorie intake over a period rather than breaking the day into say three solid meal times? One study used liquid meals of protein, fat and carbohydrates taken in a single go versus splitting it up into five smaller portions taken every half hour to examine this idea. No difference was found in how the food was burnt off meaning that splitting meals up across the day has little effect on avoiding hunger later in the day or keeping up your energy. In fact where the food was consumed in a single go the people reported great and longer lasting fullness.

We often hear about losing weight by different approaches (intermittent or irregular dieting versus continuous dieting). A study tried to determine the effect of this on the body’s systems and discovered little difference in how the body was reacting to the weight loss. The people who achieved the same weight loss by dieting on and off seemed to be under no greater or lesser drive by their bodies to regain weight than those who had dieted in a more consistent manner. To me this study shows the power of habit. Studies have shown that consistent dieting has a greater chance of success but this study shows there is no biological measurement (in terms of hunger hormone, insulin levels) to account for it. Making lifestyle changes your everyday practice is the way to sustain weight loss because the likelihood that all lost weight will be regained is simply the reflection of how likely you are to return to old habits if you haven’t been practicing new ones.

So in summary breakfast is still the main meal of the day. Don’t skip it and try to have healthy oats and maybe an egg as a large part of it, though don’t forget your daily intake of whole fruit. We in LloydsPharmacy are here to support you in attaining a healthy lifestyle and so we can advise you on your diet, help motivate you and supply a range of products that will boost the positive changes you make in your daily life. Chromium is supposed to aid in reducing cravings by enhancing insulin function and effect in the body. Our pharmacies can supply this in more than one brand (Sona or Pharmanord). Products such as Miss Fit Skinny Tea and XLS Medical have proven popular among customers who are making healthy changes in their diets. We have Change Your Health Direction experts in each store so please pop in and tell us how you are doing and ask us how we can help.