Hangovers in your 40s

Come round for a home cooked speciality spaghetti bolognese I said. It will be very chilled and lovely I said. We have some gorgeous red wine to accompany our grown up, civilised meal. How this descended into tequila shots at 11pm and toilet bowl hugging for a full 24 hours was entirely my fault and one I regretted as I was left quivering in a hot bath 12 hours later gingerly attempting to nibble a banana in a sad attempt to resurrect my soul. Herewith was my very abrupt and uncomfortable introduction to hangovers in your 40s.

Hanging

I kid you not, it’s been over 10 years since my last stonker of a hangover. I could never really handle alcohol and, to be honest, it’s a blessing in disguise. My body simply rejects it and although unpleasant, it means I’m a cheap date! It can be rather annoying. Once me and my bestie were drinking homemade woo woos on the tube en-route to Road House in Covent Garden circa 1999 when I unceremoniously puked the minute I walked in. We hastily left and that was the end of the night. I’ve since taken to enjoying one glass of something expensive, organic and fabulous.

Feeling somewhat embarrassed at the damage I’d done to my body, I called on expert advice so you guys don’t have to suffer the same indignity. At this point I would like to say a huge thank you to my incredibly supportive husband who, by the way woke up fresh as a daisy, went to the shop to buy me a Lucozade Sport which I sipped with such trepidation. My children were given a real life lesson into the after effects of alcohol that day so at least there’s one positive!

hangovers in your 40s

Ask the experts

Claire Snowdon-Darling is an alternative health expert, presenter and educator. As a menopause and hormones expert, Head of The College of Functional Wellness and founder of kinesiology clinic, Balanced Wellness. I asked her to explain what happens to our bodies during a hangover.

‘There are a few things going on when we are detoxing. Firstly we are dehydrated so making sure you drink lots of water. If you can’t stomach water on it’s own add some mint or cucumber or sometimes having sparkling water helps.

Next the liver is busy breaking down toxins into non-toxic substances (this is called Phase 1 detoxing) then trying to eliminate them (Phase 2 detoxing). To effectively do this the liver requires amino acids AKA protein and sulphur AKA green veg! Carbohydrates won’t help you here even though you are probably craving them. This is when it’s best to plan ahead and have some food ready to go in the morning. Eggs is a good place to start, ideally with something green to go with them like spinach. 

When we drink alcohol we flood our body with carbohydrates that quickly turn to sugar which means our blood sugars spike. What goes up must go down and when the blood sugars plummet we can get all sorts of symptoms such as nausea, feeling shaky and headaches. To avoid this avoid having chips or toast at the end of the night but instead plump for some protein. Yep, that kebab is actually quite a good idea if you avoid the pitta bread and chips. “End of the night protein” can really stop a lot of the symptoms the next day!’

Dr Sarah Yelland is a 40-something mum of twins, health and wellness coach and General Practitioner specialising in Women’s health, Menopause and lifestyle medicine.

Dr Yelland agrees that as she gets older, she’s less able to handle her drink. The intensity and duration of the hangover gets worse too.

The hunt for the hangover remedy

‘Sadly the ‘cure’ shall remain an urban myth- it just doesn’t exist- and I hate to be a party pooper if you are already suffering the effects of the night before, but prevention is definitely better than cure.

Most people thinks hangovers are all about the dehydration but that’s not the whole picture, it’s a little more complex.  When the body metabolises alcohol it produces chemicals and enzymes which stress out our cells, make our blood sugar go wonky, cause inflammation, oxidative stress and pump out hangover causing free radicals that need mopping up. Overwhelm the system and you’ve got your classic head pumping, stomach churning, brain fog of fatigue.

So what can you do?

hangovers in your 40s

Here comes the science bit

Before you go out

  • Eat- food especially carbs & fats will slow your absorption of alcohol- giving your body a chance to keep on top of the alcohol processing, and get rid of the hangover inducing toxins, before it is overwhelmed.

Whilst you are out

  • Avoid darker drinks – these contain natural chemicals called Cogeners- these are a cause of inflammation of our blood vessels and for many of us these will make your hangover feel that much worse.
  • Drink soft drinks in between, and preferably not the fizzy variety. Fizz speeds up the absorption of the alcohol- and like I said above, we want to Slow. It. Down..

The morning after

  • Get hydrated- you will definitely be pee’ing a lot more, add that to sickness and even diarrhoea and dehydration will play a part in how rubbish you feel. 
  • Eat breakfast (if you can)- a healthy hearty and balanced breakfast will help not only maintain blood sugar levels- a cause of fatigue and brain drain if they drop low- but also if you can get some colourful fruit and veg, will provide a healthy dose of antioxidants to mop up those nasties.
  • Deal with the inflammation- anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or aspirin will always be one of my go to lifesavers.
  • Settle your stomach- antacids like Rennies, Gaviscon or Nexium (esomeprazole) can help you not only ease symptoms but allow you to eat and drink.
  • Caffeine- okay so this doesn’t really deal with the hangover, you might just feel more alert after a lovely cup.
  • Move- ramping up your metabolism will help to fire up the systems to burn it off (just don’t over do it- remember the systems is already under stress
  • Sleep- sleep is our most restorative state, the body needs time to repair and focus all of its stress blasting systems on the effects of the alcohol metabolites.
hangovers in your 40s

Finally supplements

I know many of us want a “natural” or alternative approach to conventional medicines. Although research on supplements is limited, and the science gets a bit grey,  a few studies suggest the following might help reduce symptoms… and lets be honest after some hangovers every little helps.

  • Zinc
  • B Vitamins
  • Red Ginseng
  • Prickly Pear extract
  • Ginger
  • Borage Oil (from the seeds of starflower)

Let’s be honest the only real way to get away without hangovers is alcohol in moderation, moderation, moderation.’

What are your tried and tested hangover cures? Let us know by commenting below. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!

What is Perimenopause and how do I prepare for it?

So apparently there’s a prequel to the end game that is the Menopause. And no, it mustn’t be mistaken for a Nando’s spice. Welcome ladies to, The Perimenopause. Now I’ve know for a long time that I’m not in Kansas anymore. Things are changing. Subtle things like I can’t eat an entire pack of Haribo like I used to unless I complete a half marathon to work the calories off (disclaimer here, I’ve never actually done a half marathon nor do I ever want to but it sounded apt and dramatic).

As I learn more about what’s to come, I realise the perimenopause is a transition phase and I want to use this time wisely to prepare my body for the next chapter. I’ll switch up those Haribo for Medjool dates licked with peanut butter and sprinkled with flax seeds right? I definitely need advice so I asked Francesca Liparoti, Registered Nutritional Therapist, to provide some insight into what the perimenopause is and some advice on how to prepare.

‘The first step to feeling great in your 40s is to understand what’s actually happening with your body so let’s take a closer look at what’s actually happening with your hormones during perimenopause.

Coming soon to a body like yours

For most women perimenopause starts in their late 30s where they may start to notice a change in their menstrual cycles and periods and perhaps new PMS symptoms and shifts particularly around sleep and mood. Then, as you progress into your 40s the shifts and changes can start to become more pronounced with the biggies being sleep and mood issues and hot flashes. Migraines and headaches are also more common now along with brain fog, and a lot less energy than you had in your 20s!

Perimenopause is a phase of hormonal changes that occurs in the 2 to 12 years before menopause. So, for some women this means they enter into perimenopause around age 38 (and even 35 for some women), but for most women it starts some time in their 40s and it’s definitely begun once they reach their mid-late 40s.

In a nutshell, it’s a time when your hormones are starting to change, as the communication between your brain and ovaries starts to change as your body starts its journey towards menopause. Oestrogen goes on a crazy roller coaster ride while progesterone gradually starts to decline. Some hormone experts call it the second puberty (!!) because oestrogen was erratic when your menstrual cycle first began, then it settled down during your 20s and 30s, and in perimenopause it becomes erratic again.

Happy Hormones

A happy hormonal picture for prevention or good management of the symptoms mentioned here is oestrogen that gently ebbs and flows throughout the month as per the natural menstrual cycle rhythm, ovulation occurring each month and subsequent progesterone production over the following couple of weeks (as a result of having ovulated). However, the hormonal picture during perimenopause is oestrogen rising to almost 3 times higher than ever before at some points in the month then crashing down to a really low level, like a rollercoaster ride, occurring month after month for the duration of perimenopause, while progesterone gradually starts to decline.

Symptoms of the high oestrogen points in this new oestrogen rollercoaster include breast pain, heavy periods, water retention (‘puffiness’), changes in mood and irritability whilst symptoms of DROPPING oestrogen include depression, weight gain (particularly around the middle), migraines, hot flashes, and night sweats.

During perimenopause cycles can still be regular and you are still fertile – although not as fertile as you were in your 20s and 30s – but your menstrual cycle is starting to change. For example, your cycles might be getting longer or shorter, longer or shorter periods, heavier or painful periods, spotting between periods and more and more non-ovulatory cycles.

The Importance of Progesterone

Why does progesterone production decline in perimenopause and what’s the significance of that?

This is due to you having more and more non-ovulatory cycles (cycles where you don’t ovulate), in perimenopause, which basically means you don’t ovulate some or many months. Ovulation was hard to achieve in your regular cycling years and becomes even harder in your 40s. You see, ovulation isn’t only important for fertility, it’s an essential part of a healthy menstrual cycle and hormone balance because it’s the ONLY way you make a good amount of progesterone each month and prevent a hormone imbalance where oestrogen is taking over the show.

Here are some of the wonderful things progesterone does which can help to explain in part why perimenopause brings the symptoms it brings:

  • It’s your anti-anxiety, anti-irritability and calming hormone and it’s vital for your overall sense of wellbeing and good sleep and it increases your capacity to deal with stress.
  • It shelters you from the effects of oestrogen’s ‘yang’ effects such as heavy or painful periods, painful periods and breast pain.
  • It’s a natural diuretic so it prevents water-retention and ‘puffiness’ around the body.
  • It boosts your metabolism & lean muscle mass, which are key for keeping your body fat in check and it supports a healthy thyroid.

The good news is that perimenopause symptoms are temporary and they respond really well to some simple diet and lifestyle interventions.

Rebalance and Thrive

One of the biggest blockers to ovulation is STRESS! So, you CAN support your body to have more ovulatory cycles during perimenopause by incorporating some simple stress management practices into your days and weeks, prioritising self-care, prioritising sleep and cultivating more joy and play!

Nourish your body & hormones now more than ever.

Perimenopause is NOT the time to restrict calories or follow any other restrictive diets. Now it’s more important than ever to support your body by ensuring it’s well-nourished each day with enough calories (energy), optimal amounts of quality protein, fibre & nutrient dense carbohydrates, plenty of different types of good fats especially omega 3 (in the form of DHA & EPA), as well as the smaller but all-important nutrients including but not limited to B12, B6, folate, magnesium, zinc, choline, vitamin A (as retinol), vitamin E and iron.’

Francesca’s Rebalance + Thrive programme starts on Monday 27th September. You can join here.

What have you been doing to prepare for the Menopause? Have you started to have symptoms yet? Talk to us and tell us all about it by commenting below or following us on Instagram here.

I tried naked yoga and here’s what happened

It seems that being naked is having a bit of a moment. From naked yoga, to the rebirth of the nudist beach as well as influencers baring all on Instagram, slowly being naked is starting to not only be something you do whilst in the bath.

I actually grew up in a household where being naked wasn’t a big deal. As weird as it was being confronted with my mum’s drooping boobs and catching sight of my dad’s penis aged 8 on a daily basis, I actually have a lot to thank my parents for. Being naked in front of me was probably one of the best things they ever did for me in terms of my body image and self-acceptance. Thanks to them I never felt that weird about being naked, even in front of other people. I continued this trend in our house, even to this day.

But even still, when The Naked Yoga Effect by Doria Gani landed in my hands, my daughter part-balked and part-sniggered at me with disbelief that I was entertaining the idea of doing yoga…..naked.

What’s the big deal – I thought – doing naked yoga in my own home? I wondered whether doing yoga naked could really feel that different. After all, a sun salutation is a sun salutation, naked or not…..or is it?

The Naked Yoga Effect

Doria Gani wrote The Naked Yoga effect having overcome a critical illness (cancer), having experienced first hand the liberating effects of practising yoga naked. It was the day after my dad had told me that he had a mutation in his BRCA1 gene widely known to be a cause of various cancers including breast cancer. I had a fifty percent chance of having inherited the gene and would also need to be tested. I was feeling ill at ease in myself having already had to have my entire thyroid removed due to the existence of pre-cancerous cells over a decade ago. I needed to feel free from the mental prison I was currently trapped in.

My experience of naked yoga

And so I grabbed my copy of The Naked Yoga effect, and flipped over to The Beginner’s Yoga Guide. I stripped off all my clothes there and then with purpose – relishing in the moment. That act alone felt so unbelievably freeing.

I instantly felt the difference as I moved through the sun salutation sequences. It felt amazing to not have a single piece of material on my body – feeling the gentle air against my skin. I felt more in tune with my body – and indeed myself – during a yoga practice than I had ever been.

I didn’t mind seeing my breasts swinging down underneath me, or seeing the folds of my tummy from my vantage point. For I was doing something mighty and I could see every single bit of it – every single movement and muscle working away without anything blocking my view.

I think part of the reason naked yoga feels so empowering is that you are doing something you might ordinarily do, in a way you wouldn’t ordinarily do it. So it’s not something completely new and hairy scary, but the fact that you are doing it completely bare makes you incredibly aware and mindful of everything. It also puts you gently out of your comfort zone. It’s a beautiful feeling! Just you, and yoga without any barriers, annoying bits of material or limitations. I honestly never realised that being naked could be such an inspiring and positive act.

Is naked yoga for you?

If you want to feel more comfortable in your skin, practice self-kindness, reconnect with yourself after some form of personal struggle, feel stronger and more confident, more positive or be more mindful that take off your clothes, and get on your yoga matt….because you’ve got nothing to lose apart from the clothes you are wearing.

What’s next?

I loved the feeling of having this special, private practice all to myself. Would I do it in a group class? Well, never say never, but for now, I’m happy to practice naked yoga just by myself. Just me, my body, and I.

Do you think you could give naked yoga a try? Do leave a comment below and connect with us on Instagram here to keep the conversation going.

How to keep calm and carry on in your 40s

Being in your 40s can be a funny old time. On the one hand you can feel mentally fierce and fabulous, on the other hand your body starts letting you know its age, and you are teetering on the brink of hormonal calamity otherwise known as the menopause. But hey! who are we to let all of that stop us from living our best life in your 40s?

But the thing is, in your 40s, you can no longer take for granted all the things you had done previously – especially when it comes to health (both mental and physical). The fact of the matter is, whether you like it or not, you are on a one way ticket towards perimenopause – a whole can of worms hormonally – as you edge close to the menopause (more on that in our upcoming article!).

Here, Kate Chaytor-Norris author of I Wish My Doctor Had Told Me This shares her top ten tip for keeping calm and carrying on in your 40s:

Be calm

Do anything that makes you feel calm – this helps the adrenal glands to work optimally – if we are running lots of stress, they then cannot take over the job of producing sex hormones to maintain a balance. 

Balance your blood sugar levels

This is so that the adrenals do not have to produce stress hormones when they are swinging up and down.  Try to avoid refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta rice etc) to reduce your sugar intake as much as possible and make sure that you have some source of protein with every meal or snack.

Breathe

This is probably the single most important thing that we can do for our health – breathing deep down into the diaphragm (fill the balloon in your abdomen) and practise exhaling more slowly.  This calms the body and so that everything works better.  If you extend the out breath this also helps to switch the body out of fight/flight.

Meditate

This for me is about stilling the mind so you can do this whilst walking, running or with any activity where you can switch your mind off. When I walk the dogs, I try to really focus on what the dogs are doing to bring me into that moment, instead of pounding along thinking about all the emails I need to send. It really helps.

Embrace nature

Be outside in nature and ideally with your bare feet on the earth/grass or if it is in the midst of winter, hug a tree.  This fills the body with free electrons which act as antioxidants helping to reduce the ageing of our body. Nature sounds help to switch off the fight/flight stress response.

Sleep

Sleep is a hugely undervalued activity – my rule of thumb is if you have to wake up to an alarm you are probably not getting enough sleep.  Try to be strict about bedtime, and as much as you can, go to bed at the same time each night.  If you struggle to get off to sleep watch your bedtime routine, keep it gentle and calm (no heart thumping thrillers or news at 10) with low lighting if possible.

Support your liver

Man-made toxins in our environment, such as pesticides and household detergents can overwork the liver. The liver is responsible for clearing out excess hormones, so to help it work better eat more cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts – as they help support the detox pathways in the liver. An optimally functioning liver can really help you through the menopause.

Drink more water

Try to make sure that you are hydrated every day as our bodies do not function properly if dehydrated. To work out how much water to drink, take your weight in kgs and multiply by 0.033 – this will give you the amount in litres that you should ideally be having daily.

Eat a rainbow

…of different coloured foods every day (think red pepper, broccoli, sweet potatoes, red cabbage, kale). Not only is it a joy to sit in front of a colourful plate but the antioxidants in the different coloured pigments help to reduce ageing and inflammation in the body.

Hug

…as much as you can and if you are on your own or self-isolating hug yourself- wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze tight.  This helps to increase levels of oxytocin, a hormone that lowers stress hormones, balances sex hormones, reduces cravings and helps with sleep.

How do you keep calm and carry on in your 40s? Share your tips with us in a comment below or keep the conversation going on Instagram here.

Reader offer: Get 20% off I Wish My Doctor Had Told Me This with the code KATECN20 at checkout here.

Kate Chaytor-Norris is a Nutritional Therapist who has made it her mission to empower people to heal themselves. She trained at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition and has been practising for the past ten years. Kate is also trained in Health Kinesiology, Nutrigenomics, counselling and PSYCH-K®. She lives in Yorkshire with her husband and three children.

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny from Pexels

Trying to be fit and healthy?

Yeah… me too and it’s hard and it’s boring and I’m often so overwhelmed with information I don’t always know which way to turn.

But in my 40s, I know that if I nail it now, the ride thorough the next decade will be smoother and I know I will reap the benefits physically, mentally and hormonally so I’m trying to be fit and healthy. 

Know your BMI

The body mass index (BMI) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy.

According to the NHS, an ideal BMI for most adults is in the 18.5 to 24.9 range.

I’m 5’6 and I currently weight 9 stone and 10 pounds. This puts my BMI at 21.8, right bang smack in the healthy weight range. Hurrah I hear you cry. But actually I feel bloated, uncomfortable and I have zero motivation to exercise. At this rate I will NEVER lose those extra 5lbs I’ve been trying to lose for 10 years. Aren’t we all? 

I’m very much an all or nothing kinda gal. This is useful when it comes to trying to be fit and healthy because when I go for it, I go hard and I get results fast. But then there’s always a road block. The latest was my covid jab. It floored me for a couple of days and I got out of the routine of exercising. For 2 weeks I just couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. Accompany that with a few birthdays and over indulging and here I am. Again. Feeling really crap, spotty, bloated and dehydrated. Time to get sorted. Again. 

I love the cake

I LOVE food and I never really stop thinking about it. Often I think about what I’m going to eat while I’m eating and I’m constantly looking at food porn. You’ll often find me flicking through and drooling over the BBC Food magazine. When I’m good I’m really really good. But when I’m bad, I’m a naughty little piggy. The hardest time of the day for me is around 4pm. I may have made incredibly healthy choices up until this point then it all goes to shit. I turn into the demon snack searcher. We can’t have junk food in the house because I can’t be trusted with it. I’ve been know to snaffle cooks chocolate drops from the bottom of the baking box in a desperate to get a hit of the choc.

Setting boundaries 

I have an addictive personality. It’s interesting when it comes to food because if there’s something I like, I become quite compulsive about it. This type of behaviour might go on for a few months until I move on to the next ‘thing.’ Because of this, years ago I set myself some very important boundaries. I will only eat 1 of something in 1 day. Sounds bonkers huh? It probably is but it works for me because I love crisps and if I didn’t have healthy boundaries, I would consume at least 3 packets a day. If I have a bar of chocolate, I’ll only have 1. See where I’m going with this? It works really well for me. How do you manage your diet when you’re trying to be fit and healthy? 

Benefits of exercise to keep fit and healthy

So this week I’m back to it. Exercising has huge mental health benefits for me. After a run or a skipping session, I can literally feel the endorphins pumping through my body and it makes me feel happier, motivated and alive. I run 3k. 3 times a week. I’m aware that my knees are JUST starting to feel the strain so I’m keeping my runs shorter and concentrating on running the route faster. It’s so important to find an exercise you enjoy because if you want to feel healthier and happier, there is no easy quick fix. I build exercise into my daily routine. I run as soon as I’m awake at 6.30am then it’s out of the way for the day and it gives me that extra spring in my step. I’ll add other various cardio and strength exercises throughout the week but get bored easily so I’m always mixing it up.

In my 40s, I want to spend some time exploring foods that will support my transition into the next stage. (I can’t even bear to say it the M word) 

Trigger foods

We all know that sugary foods are bad for us but they taste SO good and only last night I was polishing off half a tub of Ben and Jerrys. Sugar is a real trigger for me so I’m mindful of it. When I do have something really sugary, I really really enjoy it then drink a shit load of water in a lame attempt to apologise to my body.

Over the years I’ve tried many lotions and potions to help with various skin complaints like eczema and psoriasis. 2 years ago I experimented by cutting out milk. I’d love to say dairy but I cannot give up cheese yet. A life without cheese is no life for me right now. So I switched to oat milk and while I couldn’t really tell the difference while I was on it…I went back to dairy milk after 3 months and I felt it straight away. My sinuses were instantly blocked, I felt clogged and my skin broke out. So I have oat milk and it’s lovely. I know I’m on the right path. But I will take it slow. In the daytime I only drink water. I try to drink enough so that my wee is clear but it feels like a consorted effort. It’s worth it though. When I drink enough water, I generally feel so much better.

What’s the deal with inflammation?

Inflammation can cause so many problems so I wanted to look at a food plan that included lots of food that targeted inflammation. Turns out, it’s super important. 

Karen Preece Smith, DipION, mBANT, CNHC, IFM  is a Registered Nutritional Therapist from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and www.alturum.co.uk. She states: ‘In general, inflammatory foods can be used to protect the body against free radical damage, As free radicals and endotoxins (environmental toxins) may accumulate with age, it is especially important for women (and men) over the age of 40 years to include anti-inflammatory foods in their diet. These foods include, but are not limited to; turmeric, blueberries, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli. These natural foods all contain flavonoids and polyphenols which have been researched for their anti-inflammatory properties.’

In an attempt to feel better, I had dark rye crackers with mashed avocado, tinned sardines and a handful of cherry tomatoes. 

I asked Karen if my lunch today was a good choice. She said, ‘This lunch has a great balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and phytonutrients in the vegetables.’ She said she would add a drink of Green tea or a turmeric latte with oat/ coconut milk and a dessert of blueberries in kefir. 

Well that sounds rather bloody lovely so perhaps this getting old and eating healthy malarky isn’t going to be so bad after all? 

Are you trying to be fit and healthy in your 40s?

Will meditation help me? Here’s why you need meditation in your life

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Have you often wondered “will meditation help me?”.

Well, let me break it down for you like this. Life before meditation, and quite frankly, I was completely crazy. From struggling with insomnia to unleashing seismic fits of rage on my partner, I felt like a terrible parent and human being wound like a tight coil ready to spring at any time. You name the inner demon, I was struggling with it.

I was on the road to 40 and beginning not to like myself very much. I had become so grossly reactionary to pretty much everything and especially when life wasn’t going according to plan – which let’s face it can feel like 99% of the time. I wondered “will meditation help me?”. I desperately hoped the answer would be yes.

I needed to mentally unplug and get away from it all, and six years ago booked myself onto a half day meditation workshop with Simon Hoten for beginners where I learnt the basics of meditation, how to meditate using a candle, moving meditation and more. I had always been nervous about the idea of meditation. Could I actually sit still and meditate when I couldn’t even handle a Savasana at the end of a yoga class without wanting to have a massive twitching fit? And even if I managed to do that, when on earth would I ever fit meditation into my daily life?

I left the workshop feeling deeply and sublimely relaxed. The best takeaway? The revelation that even just three minutes of meditation could help me. And armed with that knowledge that meditation didn’t require a large chunk of my time, I tentatively started my meditation practice, just before light’s out every evening.

Six years later, it’s still going strong. Sometimes it’s three minutes – sometimes it’s 15 minutes. Hey I’m not counting! But either way I am no longer asking “will meditation help me” because I know the answer is a resounding yes.

Will meditation help me? Here are the ways it has done good in my life

Meditation has so far improved my life by:

  • Easing my anxiety
  • Improving my overall mental health
  • Helping me sleep
  • Making me less reactionary
  • Increasing my self-awareness and self-control
  • Making me feel overall happier and more confident
  • Enhancing my productivity, creativity and efficiency

But don’t just take my word for it. Just google “How meditation changed my life” and you will find reams of pages dedicated to people saying the same. This – my friends – is no coincidence. Because meditation works.

Will meditation help you find your right mind?

Recently I discovered Finding my Right Mind: One Woman’s Experiment to put Meditation To The Test. The book follows Vanessa Potter’s journey – where one day she woke up to find herself blind and paralyzed. How absolutely petrifying! She was stunned to discover that it was meditating, not drugs, that saved her mind.

Convinced she had more to learn, she embarked on her own consciousness road trip, exploring the major schools of meditation, along with hypnotherapy and psychedelics. In order to objectively record her journey, Cambridge neuroscientists measured her brain activity, with their observations and results featured within the book. It’s a fantastic whistle-stop your of the different types of meditation out there, and it provides an unusually voyeuristic glimpse into how powerful meditating can be. So if you’re not yet convinced that meditation can help you find your right mind – or even how on earth it can – then I would suggest you read this book!

I loved how perfectly she summed up the impact meditation can have on your life in her conclusion:

“It’s taken effort and time, but meditating doesn’t have to be a straight jacket; ironically, it’s been freeing. I’ve learned to be responsible for myself – what I think, feel and do is up to me….I had to acknowledge the different versions of myself. The nice, patient self along with the grumpy, worried-about-my-kids self. Neither is better or worse.”

She continues, “Meditation doesn’t have an on-off switch. It’s not as simple as doing it or not doing it. Sitting still is only part of it. What happens after that then, twenty or thirty minutes is just as important.” It’s that last part that rings so true for me – it’s about how meditation eventually informs everything that you do in your life, and makes it better.

Help! I can’t sit still and quieten my thoughts for love nor money

I hear you! I also have a brain that behaves like it has been soaked in amphetamines for a week straight plus a back that screams “I hate you!” most of the time. But yet still, I am living proof that it is possible. If you are in the same camp, then you will want to know about Sitting Comfortably by Swami Saradananda – an internationally renowned yoga and meditation teacher who has inspired thousands of people to practise.

It is full of tips for those who are prone to getting distracted, finding sitting painful, lack of time and self-discipline. Read: everybody. Once you have read this there will be no more excuses. You will stop wondering hmmmm will meditation help me and dive in and finally find out for yourselves.

Swami notes, “The mind likes constant stimulation, so when you try to sit quietly during meditation, without giving your mind external entertainment, it may come up with resistance and excuses not to continue. Rather than viewing these as setbacks, it is useful to view them positively, as obstacles to be overcome and lessons to learn from. Below are some common mental and physical challenges of meditation and how to overcome them.”

Be in the moment

Memories of the past and daydreams of possible futures can often distract the mind. If these come up while you are trying to meditate, just bring your mind back to your point of focus – whether it is your breath, a mantra, a visualization, or whatever other technique you have chosen to use.

Avoid fault-finding and replaying thoughts

Try not to review the shortcomings of other people when you are sitting for meditation and also be careful not to get caught up in self-criticism. If you find your mind re-processing the events of the day during meditation, remind yourself to come back to your point of focus, whatever that may be.

Be fearless

You may uncover hidden fears during meditation that have been lurking within your subconscious mind. These can manifest in many forms: fear of death, disease, solitude, criticism, or even just facing yourself. All fear stands in the way of meditative progress, so develop the habit of observing them with detachment. You will find that many will dissipate of their own accord if, instead of allowing yourself to get caught up with them, you simply return your attention to your chosen point of meditation focus.

Avoid muscle cramps

You could take a walk before sitting to prevent cramps. Make sure that you are getting enough potassium in your diet – and maintaining a healthy potassium-magnesium-calcium balance. Consider eating more bananas, dried apricots, prunes and other fruits.

Feeling disorientated?

Sometimes you may feel that your body is whirling or moving in a spiral motion as you sit in meditation. This tends to be more common if you meditate with your eyes closed. If this happens, open your eyes for a moment to reorient yourself and then close them and restart your meditation practice.

Exercise for optimal energy

Doing some form of exercise prior to meditating – whether stretches, yoga poses, breathing exercises or even just going for a brisk walk – can help to energize you for it.

So if you still think that meditation is just sitting around and doing nothing then think again! Still wondering “will meditation help me”? Let’s put it this way – I would be willing to put my house on the line and answer your question with “yes it will!”. Well, go on then and give it a try. After all, you’ve got nothing to lose, apart from all those bad habits that meditation can help you get rid of :).

Photo by Shashi Ch on Unsplash