I hope this doesn’t send you into a panic, but we’re only a week away from Christmas now! For some, this time of year is exciting, for others it’s madness, and for still others it’s both. Holidays can overwhelm us with special sweet treats and the busyness of gift shopping, decoration hanging, and party celebrating, and it’s common for us to throw our healthy habits out the window. I’m not suggesting you skip all the delicious goodies and bah humbug your holiday to-do list, but it is possible to find some balance. I swear it’s true.
My 5 Fave Healthy Habits
I know, it’s the 12 Days of Christmas, so shouldn’t I write about 12 healthy habits? Maybe, but I also still have some holiday to-do’s that aren’t yet checked off, so here are 5. 🙂
Start the day with a healthy meal
Much better than a partridge in a pear tree is a healthy breakfast. You never know how your day is going to progress. Sometimes lunchtime ends up being shoved between chores as you drive from one place to the next. Or you’re scrounging through your desk drawer, hoping you left a package of crackers in there from last week’s soup. Or you’re so tired at the end of the day that you call a bowl of cereal “part of a complete meal.” Well, really, it’s the whole meal, but Tony the Tiger won’t tell on you. So, start the day with a healthy meal.
When I lived in Japan, I found out that a traditional breakfast includes fish, rice, miso soup, a boiled egg, a couple of little pickles, and maybe even a salad. I learned to enjoy that, but still prefer what I think of as “breakfast foods” to make up my breakfast meal. These are my most common choices for a start to my day. This one for warm summer months: see the Breakfast in a Jar recipe. And this one for cold winter months: Ready-in-the-Morning Rice Cooker Oatmeal Recipe. A healthy habit of having breakfast sets the tone for eating healthier for the rest of the day.
Exercise, in some form or another
I used to work for a gym, where I sold memberships and also helped train people on the basic use of the machines and set them up on a starting workout program, if they wanted that. I liked belonging to a gym. But I can understand why it would be less than appealing for many. And why many will not get enough (or any) use of a gym membership, even though the payments continue to be withdrawn. A workout doesn’t need to be a in a gym.
My preferred workouts are yoga classes (so much more than a “workout,” and my husband loves to bug me by asking me how my workout was, when I come back from the yoga studio), Grouse Grinds, snowshoeing (really hope to be able to get up there soon this year!), SUP yoga, a bike ride, or anything else that seems fun. Sometimes my workout is a silly dance as I clean house or procrastinate a chore. But it could also be playing tennis, running and playing with your dog, a brisk walk, tai chi class, dance class, swimming, skating, or even taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator (I love beating people to the top of the stairs when I leave a Skytrain station and they’re all still shoved onto the escalator). A healthy habit of exercise is one that you can sustain, regularly. Even when you’re super busy. Even though you’d rather stay on the couch.
Laugh often, even at yourself
I don’t “lol.” When I realized that LOL doesn’t mean “lots of love,” I realized that I’m going to write out what I mean instead of using cyber shorthand. I will “hahahahaha” if I’m texting or emailing though, depending on how funny I find the particular joke. I know I’ve inherited my dad’s sense of humour. I like “dad jokes.” I like bad puns, dumb play on words, and goofy groaners. I’d rather sing “three french toast” than “three French hens.” You hosers know what I’m talking about. The rest of you are probably not born in Canada or are just much younger than me. If you don’t know this, you can check it out Bob and Doug McKenzie’s 12 Days of Christmas here. If you don’t laugh, don’t blame me though!
I actually thought to name my business “Active Health Acupuncture!” (yes, with the exclamation mark) so that I could shorten it to “AHA!” I even gave semi-serious contemplation to the tagline, “Needles to say, acupuncture works.” Then I thought maybe about this one, “Dr. Carr, better at acupuncture than at tag lines.”
Laughter is a great healthy habit to take on. It burns calories, boosts mood, decreases stress hormones, improves immune function, and even helps relieve pain. So, if you don’t want to laugh at yourself, laugh at me and my ridiculous sense of humour! I have some jokes here on my blog, Seriously, Laughter is Medicine.
No, not a wifi signal. But real, true connection with another living being. The other day I was walking down the street, and the man I passed said, “Good morning.” I almost tripped when he said it, as it’s so unusual in Vancouver! But I did quickly recover and returned the greeting. My grandfather lived his whole life in a small town where he knew practically (or maybe even truly) everyone. When he would visit us in Montreal, he would tip his hat and say, “Bonjour” as we walked by strangers. Since the streets of Montreal are a lot busier than those of his small town, he could get quite busy with hat tipping and friendly hellos. And though people, like me, were first surprised, they almost always smiled and responded. Connection can be deep. Telling your best friend your deepest, darkest secret. It can also be superficial and light. All are important.
Believe it or not, deep in my core, I’m shy. I used to hide under my desk when I was a kid. When I entered university, I was a year younger than most of my friends, meaning that I couldn’t join them when they went to a bar. One night I had had enough of waiting for them to return, so I decided I’d had enough with being shy. Before I had too much time to think about it, I walked down the dorm hall, ready to find someone else who I could hang out with. I found a smoky room (not a healthy habit!) full of the kind of people that I was afraid of in high school. But I went to the doorway anyway and said hi. Turns out they were super friendly, and though I hate the smell of smoke and probably damaged my lungs just sitting in that room, I made some great friends. If you’re feeling a bit more hermit-like, try connecting with an animal or even a tree. I never consider the name calling of “tree hugger” as an insult. Finding connection is probably one of the most core to our souls healthy habits you can keep.
Act preventively, treating so you don’t get sick
Of course it makes sense to choose the path that leads to where you want to go. But then you also have to actually take steps on that path to help you move in your chosen direction. Knowing that you don’t want to get sick, and that you do want to live healthy so that you can do the things you enjoy and spend time with the people you love, means that you should be taking action to make those things possible.
Lifestyle choices and healthy habits, such as those mentioned above, can certainly help. But sometimes it helps to have a guide who can point you in the right direction. That’s where a health professional can step in. Natural healthcare providers, like registered Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine, often treat symptoms, diseases, and health issues. But we especially want to help prevent illness, and treat symptoms you thought you’d have to live with forever. Like the daily headaches I used to get, the sore back a patient became “used to,” the bloating another patient figured was just part of who she is.
What are your favourite healthy habits?
This isn’t a picture of my old rice cooker, but it did look similar. This one looks fancier though, as it has a “keep” warm function. Mine had just the one switch. “On”
Is it weird that I love my automatic rice cooker? When I started university, my uncle gave me his old rice cooker. The one that he had used in university. It was mustard yellow. So, you know the era it was born. I kept that until just a few years ago. I used it regularly, and it always worked perfectly well.
But then I discovered that I could get a rice cooker that I could set to have rice cooked and ready for any time I specified. And I learned that this wonder device could also cook oatmeal. And apparently bake a cake, but I’ve never tried that.
So, now my 5 cup Zojirushi rice cooker is used every single day, at least once, sometimes twice. Almost always for oatmeal in the morning, ready at 7 a.m. exactly. I feel like I have my own chef every morning. Perhaps I’ll nickname him Zoji. 😉
Here’s what I use for my Morning Rice Cooker Oatmeal Recipe:
Rice Cooker Oatmeal
I think I got the basic recipe with my rice cooker instructions. But I've modified the ingredients to my own taste. And you can do the same.
- 1/3 cup steel cut oats
- 1 cup water
- Small handful of goji berries
- Small handful of raisins
- Small handful of pumpkin seeds or almonds
- Small handful of unsweetened coconut flakes
- *This recipe was created using the rice cooker measuring cup.
- Place steel cut oats, water, and your chosen extra ingredients in the inner cooking pan.
- Place the inner cooking pan in the main body of the rice cooker, plug in the unit, and cook using the “Porridge” setting.
- When the rice cooker turns to Keep Warm, open the lid, and stir. Oh, and I'll mention that mine sings a little ditty when breakfast is ready. 🙂
- Serve warm.
- Using the Timer function and soaking the oats overnight will help soften the texture. Please do not use the Timer function when cooking with milk or other dairy products, as they may spoil.
- I do this every night and time it to be ready in the morning.
- I add almond milk or rice milk or coconut milk in the morning. You could choose to add a tsp of honey or maple syrup.
- This serves 2 people
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
Many of you may be travelling this winter, either for Christmas holidays, New Year’s celebrations, or to get somewhere sunny early in the new year. The last thing you want to do is get sick. One of the first things I organize when I travel is my healthy travel pack. Your list may vary, depending on your particular needs, where you are travelling, length of travel, and how much room you have in your bags, but here are some of my tips.
Cover the Basics for Healthy Travel
While many have a fear of flying, afraid that the plane is going to crash, we all know that that is highly unlikely to happen. You are, however, highly likely to be exposed to a lot of viruses and bacteria that can leave you sick when you arrive at your destination. The first thing I would suggest when it comes to travel is to support your immune system. It’s also key to be proactive for digestive health, as travel can offer up some challenges in this regard. And how about stress and sleep? Even vacations can still stress you out and cause sleep problems.
Immune Health for Healthy Travel
- Hydrate. Planes, in particular, are likely to leave you dehydrated. Though you may have to bother your fellow travellers so you can get up from your plane, train, or bus seat or ask for a driving pit stop, drink plenty of fluids. And no, wine or other alcohol do not count. In fact, don’t drink alcohol on the plane if you want to stay healthy (if you drink because it calms your nerves, read below for tips on that).
- Use an essential oil spritzer. A small (keep in mind liquid restrictions on airplanes) spray bottle with anti-viral essential oils like lavender and tea tree can be used to spritz your face. It’s refreshing, and if you inhale deeply as you spray, you’ll hydrate the mucus membranes of your nasal cavities, keeping them moist and doing their job of trapping infections before they enter your body deeper. Keep in mind that not all your fellow passengers will like this, so you may want to go to the bathroom to do this. Or, some may ask if they can borrow your spray bottle so they can try it themselves (no problem!).
- Take an immune support supplement with you. I take Japanese red reishi capsules and an anti-viral natural herbal throat spray. I also often take vitamin C or Panax ginseng powder to mix into my water.
- Take anti-bacterial wipes and/or hand sanitizer. I don’t like the conventional ones like Purell (hate the smell and find it drying), preferring instead ones like EO’s lavender hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your face. This one takes practice. You may not realize it, but many of you will touch your nose, mouth, eyes, and ears several times in a day, each time possibly transferring bacteria to those entry points of your body. Use your forearm, sleeve, or tissue if your face is itchy or whatever. This funny video gives you another option for your sneeze: Sneeze into the back of your knee.
Digestive Health for Healthy Travel
- Take a digestive enzyme blend. One of the things I love about travelling, is the chance to try new foods. But sometimes the body takes some time to get used to a change in diet. Plus, many of us over-indulge. I always bring digestive enzyme capsules in my purse, at the ready for culinary adventures.
- Bring ginger. I like ginger candy chews to help with motion sickness and nausea or vomiting from other cause (ugh, many of us have been down that road before).
- Be careful. Of course you know that if you are travelling to a place that is known for the equivalent of Montezuma’s Revenge (not just in Mexico), you’ll want to avoid drinking non-bottled or non-boiled water, ice, and even some raw fruits and vegetables. If you can peel them, you are much safer. I also bring grapefruit seed extract (Nutribiotic) so I can wash fruit I want to enjoy, but can’t fully trust.
- Take probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria that support a healthy digestive and immune system. The research on probiotics (and our “microbiome”) is growing exponentially. Look for one that’s shelf-stable (doesn’t need to be refrigerated), if you don’t have a fridge to store them.
- Bring anti-nausea wrist bands. If there’s any chance of someone in your travel party getting nauseous from motion sickness, throw these inexpensive and small wrist bands into your bag.
Managing Stress and Sleep Issues for Healthy Travel
- Make time for sleep. I know that getting ready to take a break from work can mean overtime before and after holidays. But, do your best to still get enough sleep. If you don’t sleep well, your immune system, digestive system, and everything else will not work as well. You’ll be more stressed too.
- Stress manage. Of course you may not be able to avoid all things stressful, but you can be prepared. If you are afraid of flying, get yourself geared up. My husband does not like to fly. But distraction (he never travels without his MP3 player and good headphones), breathing techniques, and explanations (“What’s that noise?!” “That’s the landing gear coming down.”) all help. There are also many natural remedies to help calm the nervous system. Passion flower (e.g.Pascoflair tablets) and Rescue Remedy drops or lozenges are examples. And, if something stronger is needed, I bring Gravol, in case he needs to be knocked out (though it doesn’t always work).
- Breathe. Of course you breathe. But do you really, really breathe? I mean, do you breathe deeply and slowly and with awareness? If you want to be calm when you are stressed, practice calm when you are not too stressed.
- Consider an adrenal support protocol. If stress is your M.O., talk to someone about adrenal support supplements. Acupuncture can also help manage stress with its release of endorphins and chance to reset and restore the body and mind.
- Use sleep supplements, if needed. I know that jet lag, a different bed, hectic travel, a change in routine, and even just being super excited about travelling can all make sleep more difficult. I bring a sleep tincture (with valerian, passion flower, lemon balm, and oats) and/or melatonin. If I don’t need it, no worries. But if I do, I’m grateful to have it handy!
And of course, try to eat healthy and get exercise.
If you’re travelling to a different time zone, check out my blog on jet lag acupressure.
May you enjoy your healthy travel time. Let me know your favourite travel tips. And favourite places to travel (I love to add to my travel wish list!).
Did you know that a simple turmeric tea can help you stave off a number of diseases and treat a large number of symptoms and diseases? Turmeric has long been recognized for its powerful medicinal benefits by Traditional Chinese Medicine and Aryuvedic medicine, but more recently is also being studied by western researchers for its ability to treat a wide variety of health issues. One of the root causes of many health issues is chronic inflammation.
Turmeric, as a result, has been shown to help treat and manage Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, arthritis, dementia, colorectal cancer, surgery recovery, and much, much more.
Is this part of the reason why Okinawans have a well-known reputation for longevity?
Ukoncha (ウコン茶?, “turmeric tea“) is a kind of turmeric tea which originates from Okinawa, in southern Japan. Ukoncha is made of the rhizomes of turmeric
While I prescribe standardized, concentrated turmeric in capsule form for treatment, you can certainly also benefit both preventively and as treatment by having a regular turmeric tea. Super easy to prepare in advance, you can keep it on hand so all you have to do is add water.
Turmeric Tea Recipe
Turmeric Honey Tea
An anti-inflammatory daily use tea
- 1/3 cup good quality raw honey
- 2-3 tsp powdered turmeric
- lemon (optional)
- Mix the honey and turmeric and keep it in a jar.
- When you want a tea, stir a heaping teaspoon of the turmeric/honey mix into 1 cup of hot water. Add " a good amount" of fresh ground pepper to enhance the absorption of the turmeric and improve its health benefits. Optional to squeeze in lemon, to taste.
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/