We really underestimate the impact that light has on our bodies. This time of year in the Northern hemisphere brings less exposure to daylight. It is cold/rainy/windy, so we avoid spending time outdoors in the daytime. Most people spend their waking day indoors in their workplace. And due to the shorter days, it is less likely that any of us really encounter much daylight outside before or after work.
But we get plenty of light inside from light bulbs, though. Or from computer screens, phones, e-books, and other electronic devices. This light is less bright than natural sunlight, but much brighter than moonlight. So, let's call this artificial light "medium light."
The body reacts to light all of the time.
Our body produces melatonin and cortisol to create our "circadian rhythm", our cycle of being asleep and being awake. High melatonin levels at night help induce sleep. High cortisol levels in the morning induce wakefulness.
If we lived outside as the animals we are, we would be exposed to much daylight during the day, and only moonlight at night. In our cozy buildings, however, we get this "medium" light consistently throughout the day. This means not enough daylight during the day and too much light in the evening.
During the day, when our cortisol levels are prone to be their highest, we should be exposed to a great amount of light. In particular, the blue spectrum of light (short wavelength), like those obnoxiously bright headlights you see on cars from time to time. If we are exposed to this spectrum of light from 7am to noon, we produce as much as 50% more of the "awake hormone" at this time than we would without this bright light exposure. (1)
Can you imagine being 50% more awake in the morning? Doesn't that sound great?
But exposure to light at night has a negative effect. Exposure to this blue spectrum light in the evening results in a dramatic drop in melatonin production, even in small amounts of light exposure. This means more difficulty getting to sleep, a hard time staying asleep, or lower quality of sleep. (1)
Interestingly, exposure to light in the red spectrum (long wavelength) does not suppress melatonin production like blue light does. According to the research, there is no statistical difference between red light and darkness when it comes to affecting our melatonin levels. (1)
For a wakeful, energetic morning:
For a deeper rest at night:
I have met very few people that don't have any difficulty with sleep AND also feel energetic in the morning. So please don't take light for granted. Some very simple changes in light exposure can make significant changes to your health, especially during the darker months.
1. Mariana G. Figueiro and Mark S. Rea. The Effects of Red and Blue Lights on Circadian Variations in Cortisol, Alpha Amylase, and Melatonin. 2 March 2010. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2010/829351/
Last week I promised to begin to share some of my favorite habits for keeping myself healthy during the cold and flu season. As mentioned last time, these healthy habits are too great in number for me to dish out all at once. So I'm beginning with three for this week, and more will come.
We all know that we could be doing more to keep ourselves healthy, but that it takes time and willingness to put the effort in to do so. I hope that by sharing a greater number of habits, some of which may be new to you, the number of habits you are likely to adopt will increase.
The key is in finding what resonates with you and what seems likely to fit into your daily life without counter-intuitively casing more stress. So, read on, and look forward to more next week.
I thought I'd start with one of my weirder habits to get your attention.
If you've never heard of oil-pulling, you can read more about it in a very thorough article on oral health written by Jason here. In brief, oil-pulling consists of swishing oil around in your mouth for 15 minutes or so, then spitting it out.
Exciting, I know.
Why would you want to do this?
Our mouths- teeth, gums, tongue, hard and soft palate, and the back of the throat- are a ripe environment for bacterial growth. Gross to think about, but it's true.
Brushing is very important, flossing too, but NOTHING has ever made my mouth feel more clean than oil-pulling. I'm not going to drag you into the details of what oil pulling does for your body. I encourage you to learn more, and if you want to, please read Jason's older article linked above. Oral health affects every corner of our body and is directly tied to numerous chronic diseases.
Specific to our topic, though, a cleaner oral environment means less likelihood of an upper respiratory infection taking hold there. How many of you first notice a head cold as a sore throat? Or swollen, irritated tonsils?
Well, knock on a tree, I have never gotten a sore throat or caught a head cold when I have been consistently oil-pulling. That alone is enough reason for me to continue doing it, but the systemic benefits are overwhelming.
Really, consider swishing some oil around your mouth every morning. The benefits FAR outweigh the effort. A good how-to for oil pulling can be found here.
I have a hard time empathizing with people who don't love sleep. I've met a few people who consider it an inconvenience and even resent that they need it. I LOVE sleep and it's one of my favorite things to do. Sleep is what I find most healing for my body.
If you suffer from insomnia, please forgive me for bragging about the benefits of sleep. And please, if you haven't already, give acupuncture and Chinese herbs a try to help alleviate your sleeplessness.
If you don't have time or the right environment to get enough sleep, then I am so very sorry. I hope you can find as much time as possible for rest, and that you are able to give it as high a priority as possible.
If ever I feel I am coming down with something, and I'm in the position to stop what I'm doing and take a nap (which I admit, is rare), my body will almost always be able to ward off the illness.
Many people put others first, obligate themselves to too many tasks, and then -surprise- they fall ill. Restful times- nightly 8 hours, naps, and quiet time spent doing absolutely nothing- are one of the best preventative medicines against contagious illness.
If it's a possibility for you, make your rest a priority and don't sacrifice it unless necessary.
Summertime in our Northern hemisphere is accompanied by pleasant weather. We spend more time outdoors; we let more fresh air in our households.
As autumn cools, our windows remain closed. As the rain and cold settle in, we avoid being outdoors more than usual. This is comfortable, but it's not a healthy trend.
We get SO MUCH MORE oxygen when we breathe outdoor air than when we breathe indoor air. It's really very simple.
In addition to less oxygen, our indoor air is also generally quite polluted with dust mites, skin cells, fabric fragments, and chemicals from plastics, cleaning products, perfumes, dyes, etc etc etc. And airborne pathogens.
We need oxygen to live. It's not such a great leap to conclude that optimal bodily function requires optimal oxygenation of our tissues. And if we're spending more of our time indoors (or nearly all of our time indoors), we're getting significantly less oxygen than we should.
Remedy this as well as you can:
1) Open your windows, even a little, whenever you can. Jason and I sleep with our bedroom windows just barely cracked open. And as I lay in bed, I can distinctly smell the fresh air seeping in through that crack. Overnight, there is a significant cumulative effect on the body from getting that much more oxygen and less pollution through our air.
2) Open windows and doors when you clean your house. Even in the winter. A weekly housecleaning session with air exchange re-oxygenates your home's air, reduces the air pollution, and helps to prevent any cleaning chemicals from polluting the air (if you use nasty chemicals to clean, that is). Put on a coat, bundle up the kids, turn off the heat, and just know that you will re-heat the house when you finish. Our ancestors lived in animal furs huddled around fires; I think we can handle a couple of hours of cold.
3) Get outside when you can! Oh, it's rainy...it's cold...but it's fresh! Take a lunch break walk or commit to a walk every weekend even if it's dreary out. Shed the fear of being uncomfortable and embrace the invigoration of a cold weather stroll. You need not be out for long to get the blood flowing and the clean air in your lungs, and it goes a long way to combat the effects of months indoors.
If there is one broad, underlying principle I adhere to as a foundation for health, it's being in closer proximity to and in better harmony with nature. In an urban environment, this is admittedly more difficult than it is here in Southern Oregon. But even in a city, the outdoor air is often more fresh than indoors.
Open a window, or get outside, and breathe the air you were meant to breathe.
The blog has been quiet for a while, as has Radiant Family.
For those reading who may not know us personally, Jason (the co-creator of Radiant Family) and I were married in late August. Hooray! And since then we've been vibrating along the thread of new-marriedness, honeymooning, and now getting settled back into the office. Like it was for many others, the end of summer and start of Fall was a whirlwind of activity.
And now the calm months of transition into cooler climate, shorter days and indoor hibernation are on their way.
I love autumn, especially in beautiful Oregon. This will be the first time in a few years that I have been living in Oregon through Autumn and am looking forward to feeling the seasons do their shift.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I am accustomed to feeling the seasons change. As a student and busy do-too-much-er in the past, I've felt that shift in my sore throat and stuffy sinuses. As a healthcare practitioner, I've seen it come into the office as seasonal allergies, asthma, cold and flu, bronchitis and even pneumonia.
The seasonal illness part of Fall has never been a friend of mine. In years past, I was down with a cold as often as twice a month. And at a 10-12 day sickness spell, that meant months passed with rarely a well day.
That has changed in the past handful of years. I still get a cold, but possibly only one or two a year. And never for more than two or three days, as I promptly turn to the magic of Chinese herbs if I do fall ill.
If any of you that frequent our clinic for other reasons do come down with a contagious illness, please PLEASE come get some herbs from me as soon as possible. I hear of many people struggling to shake off a cold, flu or respiratory infection for weeks and wish everyone knew how helpful a few doses of herbal medicine could be!
But prevention is the best medicine.
Through study and self-experimentation, I've found a number of interesting habits over the years that have helped to keep myself healthy and prevent illness effectively. Such a large number of habits, in fact, that it's too much for one article.
So for the next few weeks, I'll touch on these habits a few at a time. I hope they can help you enjoy the beauty of the autumn and winter months, and prevent the lengthy illnesses that so many of us easily succumb to this time of year.
Until next time, enjoy this beautiful October!
Staying healthy has been a challenge over recent months. Starting a business is a full-time affair. Like some kind of inanimate baby, it demands all of our time, our finances, and our loving care.
Jason and I are constantly evolving our commitment to health, each day coming closer to practicing everything we preach. We're still human and slip backward from time to time, but being fully immersed in our passion for health and happy living has led us to learning what habits have made the greatest overall impact on our health.
On to the 8 habits (in no particular order):
A profound shift is upon us in the world.
Science, mind and heart are coming together to unravel the mystery of the healing arts. Now, with enough conclusive research and concrete scientific data, vibration and light are being tied into the very fabric of this spectacular wonder we call the human body. Its remarkable ability to act as a transceiving/receiving device for the facilitation of healing is beyond belief.
This is why Reiki, Qigong and other forms of vibration/light therapy are still regarded by misinformed or uneducated people as psychosomatic, placebo or belief based systems. (Systems or techniques that work only when believed in by the receiving participate.)
The mother-in-law of one of my dear friends is a Thai woman from a small village. Once when she was visiting her family here in our larger town, one of the neighbors passed away. It was a quite sudden and unexpected death. The mother-in-law shared her perspective on the suddenness of the woman's passing.
“Rich people, they never have their feet on the earth. They spend all of their time in their cars, and on the sidewalks, and in their shoes. Their feet aren't on the earth. That is why it is so easy for God to lift them up to heaven.”