The Surprising Benefits of a Foot Spa

There’s no question that our feet take quite the beating from day to day. We typically take them for granted until something goes wrong, like breaking a foot after a fall or that terrible feeling when a toe collides with a piece of furniture. Otherwise, our feet usually go unnoticed as they continue carrying us through each day, and this makes their health another important piece of our overall wellness.

You see, our wellness toolbox, so to speak, is filled with an array of seemingly simple tips and tricks that, when put together, add up to a healthier, better feeling you. Just like  mindfulness and meaningful exercise, the care and keeping of our feet is another small, but effective way to improve our health  — and it has an impact on both of these practises.

Treat Your Feet with a Foot Spa

While a hot soak in the tub is certainly soothing for body and mind, there are many benefits to investing in an actual foot spa. These machines range in price, design, and special features, but all offer a host of benefits that may surprise you.

Foot Spas Increase Circulation

Most foot spas involve some degree of vibration and/or massage, which stimulates an increase in circulation throughout the feet. The heat of the foot spa also increases circulation. Good quality circulation is important for all aspects of your physical health. While physical activity is an ideal way to boost your circulation, a foot spa is another addition to your health regimen that can make a difference.

Foot Spas Help with Injury Healing and Prevention

If you’re a runner or participate in other high-impact sports, foot spas give your feet ample time and space to rest and recover. Proper recovery from activity is a key way to avoid injury. If you’re already injured, a foot spa can potentially provide healing heat to reduce soreness and reduce distress. Of course, you’ll want to be gentle when using the bath with an injury, particularly when it comes to any massage aspect of the machine. Don’t continue to use the machine if you experience pain, or play around with the features so that the bath is only interacting gently with your foot.

Foot Spas Can Help Manage Certain Medical Conditions

Foot spas have been shown to provide benefit for people with a variety of conditions that can affect people, including arthritis, the painful condition plantar fasciitis, and even diabetes. Foot spas also make a difference for people with arch differences or who are prone to calluses, as they reduce pain and soften the feet.

As always, make sure your GP gives you the go-ahead before incorporating a foot spa alongside your prescribed pain management therapies, but these devices have shown to be considerably helpful. With diabetes, for instance, the boost in circulation that is received from a foot spa can potentially be extremely beneficial for the body. For people with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of a thick tissue band that runs across the bottom of your foot and is common amongst people who spend a lot of time on their feet, a foot spa can provide welcome massage for the pain.

Foot Spas Decrease Stress and Promote Positive Mental Health

Many foot spas provide a small case or other way for you to add essential oils that have been shown to benefit mental wellness. Oils such as jasmine, lavender, and ylang ylang are just a few of the oils that have been studied for their potential to calm and relax. You can also often add salts, such as Epsom, which is actually magnesium, and a vital mineral for stress reduction, as well as for pain. Other oils, such as peppermint oil, can be helpful for reducing inflammation. Be sure to closely follow the directions included with the foot spa of your choice, and to read descriptions thoroughly before purchasing.

As you experience your foot spa, you might consider using this time to practise aspects of mindfulness, focusing on the feeling of the warm water or the vibrations against your feet. You may also choose to read, another meditative activity. All of this will have the added result of reducing your blood pressure and calming your mind.

Other Tips and Tools for Feet Care

After your foot spa, you may also choose to carefully use a pumice stone or other product to exfoliate your feet, particularly if you tend to suffer from calluses. This would be a great time to apply your weleda arnica massage oil or similarly healthy lotion, and give your feet one final pressing. Many foot spas will come with a foot care kit, such as a toe nail brush, nail clippers, and even a stone. This entire experience can leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Make sure to follow all instructions regarding the operation of your foot spa, particularly in regards to its cleanliness. The last thing you want is for your relaxing foot spa to become a breeding ground for infection. Your foot spa should come with instructions for properly cleaning and maintaining the device.

Achieving a Physical and Mental Health Balance

Wellness isn’t focusing on any one part of the body or mind. Wellness includes everything from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, and tending to that which carries you through your days can result in a happier, healthier you. Don’t forget about other important parts of foot care, too, like replacing shoes when they are worn. This is especially important for runners, as wearing shoes that are worn-out can result in injury.

Have you given thought to splurging on a foot spa this year? Are you surprised to learn of the benefits that come simply from respecting our feet? Share in the comments and on Facebook, where you can learn more about my tried and true techniques for mind and body wellness, as well as stay up-to-date as I prepare to launch my upcoming mindfulness book.

How Plants in the Bedroom Can Help You Sleep

We live in an age of stress, where fatigue and even total exhaustion are common complaints. So many of us are actually chronically sleep-deprived, and this lack of sleep creates a cycle of more stress, which leads to even less sleep, and a host of issues that stem from improper rest, including moodiness, less ability to focus or concentrate, and a severely lessened overall wellbeing. Good sleep is essential to our physical and mental health. So, what can you do if turning out the lights just results in a rush of thoughts you can’t turn off? What about those mornings when you wake up groggy, feeling ill-prepared to take on the day?

You might be surprised to learn that filling your bedroom with living plants is a simple, natural way to calm your mind and induce a restful sleep. Plants improve air quality and have a major, positive impact on our moods. Studies have even shown that plants help stressed students lower blood pressure by calming the sympathetic nervous system (the creator of our fight-or-flight adrenaline response to stress and anxiety), improve employer focus while on the job, and generally contribute to a more productive and healthy environment.

As human beings, we are inherently drawn to nature, so while all plants will certainly  provide physical and mental benefits, there are a select few that have been studied and used more than others for their ability to promote relaxation and sleep. Some, in particular, were studied by NASA back in the late 80s for their ability to detoxify air.

Here are a few of those commonly researched plant suggestions to help you start the new year healthily rested and ready for what each day brings:

The Snake Plant

If you’re afraid of snakes, you might not think that a plant with snake in the name would be particularly soothing (it’s also known as the mother-in-law’s tongue plant!), but the snake plant’s large leaves make it ideal for air purification, and it’s general hardy nature means that even the most inexperienced gardener can keep this plant thriving. Just water your plant when the soil is dry. Check out this snake plant available on Amazon, already potted and ready to be placed in your home.

The Spider Plant

From snakes to spiders, the spider plant is another greenery that has been shown to promote cleaner, clearer air and promote sleep. These plants are well-adjusted to artificial lighting; in fact, too much direct sunlight can actually harm them, so they’re perfect for an indoor environment.

Jasmine Blooms

If you’re seeking something a little more flowery, jasmine is a beautiful plant to have at your bedside. Jasmine is a scent often used in aromatherapy to calm and soothe, particularly for people with anxiety, making it an ideal choice for a goodnight’s sleep. Interestingly, a 2010 research study found that jasmine, as well as another plant — gardenia — was as effective as strong anxiety medication in non-human research subjects.

You can also enjoy jasmine in additional ways, like in a relaxing tea before bed.

Gardenia

Gardenia is a beautiful plant with a lovely scent and a long history of encouraging relaxation. That being said, this special plant is also one of the more temperamental on this list. If you’re interested in purchasing a gardenia, you’ll want to read up a little on the care and keeping of this flower. Gardenias are tropical plants, so they enjoy much more sunlight than a snake plant or a spider plant. However, they also need just the right amount of shade. While it may take some time to figure out the best plan for your gardenia, the trouble will be well worth the effort, as gardenia has such soothing and air clearing properties.

Gerbera Daisies

Another equally beautiful choice is a gerbera daisy. This plant was one referenced in the NASA study for its ability to purify air, and it’s also safe to keep around animals. If you have pets or children, this is important to note. It’s always best to research what plants may actually be toxic if consumed, so that you can place those plants in locations where they can’t be accessed by your little ones — or, so that you can choose a different, safer plant altogether.

Lavender

Lavender, like the jasmine and gardenia plants, is a kind of wonder plant, with a fragrance that has been shown in numerous studies to help with anxiety and promote a more refreshing sleep. Lavender is also found in everything from essential oil to bedtime teas, so a natural lavender plant in your bedroom could potentially do wonders for establishing a healthy sleep and calmer mood.

Nature Improves Our Overall Wellness

Having plants in the home not only makes for a more soothing, restful environment, but caring for the plants provides further opportunity for practising mindfulness. Make sure you read any care tags or booklets that come with your plant, or seek out information online, so that you’re aware of the best way to keep your plant alive and growing, as well as any information you might need to know regarding your pet’s or child’s access to the plant.

Do you have plants in your home? Have you found them beneficial for your rest and wellbeing? Interact with me on Facebook, where I share more thoughts on daily wellness, or leave your own thoughts below.

Combat Dust Mites With These Hypoallergenic Pillows

If you ever get the chance (or, rather, displeasure) to view a dust mite under a microscope, you’ll see immediately that they are unbelievably ugly creatures. Unfortunately, these little buggers are also pretty much everywhere, and wherever they go, their allergens go right along with them. This is why, for someone with a dust mite allergy, living with them can be even more of a nightmare than just knowing they exist.

Mite of Your Life – What are Dust Mites and Why Do They Matter?

Dust mites are relatives of ticks and spiders. They like warm, humid environments, and they eat the dead skin cells that fall from humans every day, so they’re, of course, found in places where people dwell. Bedding, drapes, furniture, carpet, and even stuffed toys are popular spots for these microscopic mites.

Whilst they do not bite or sting, the allergens that they produce (through their fecal matter, no less) can cause a variety of symptoms in those with environmental allergies or asthma. These symptoms can include anything from typical allergy symptoms, like sneezing and congestion, all the way up to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, and I’ve had the lot!

Getting Rid of the Dust Mites in Your Life

Anyone with allergies or breathing problems knows that such conditions are simply miserable. Reducing the amount of dust mites in your home could go a long way toward reducing allergy and asthma symptoms, leading to a significant improvement in overall physical wellness. Eliminating dust mites can also have positive impacts on the people in your home who don’t tend to suffer from these ailments. After all, anything that negatively impacts your health should be cleared away as soon as possible. Luckily, there are actually a variety of steps that can be taken to further this goal.

One method for reducing dust mites is to use a dehumidifier. Since dust mites thrive in humid places, reducing the humidity in your home will make it difficult for them to survive any longer in your environment. When it comes time to wash your bedding (preferably at least weekly), strive for the hottest possible water setting, as this can actually kill the mites. If you cannot wash your bedding in hot water, you can freeze it for a day or two instead. A less labour intensive method is to use a mattress cover to protect against dust mites, as well as stains.

If you or someone in your household suffers from more severe allergy symptoms, there are more steps that you can take, such as maintaining the cool temperature of your home, and vacuuming or dusting more often. However, be aware that vacuuming and dusting can also temporarily stir up more allergens into the air or the area that you’re cleaning. Someone severely allergic might need to wear a mask whilst cleaning.

Pillow Protection

Perhaps one of the most useful things that you can do to combat the mites and your reaction to them is to replace your pillows.

Pillows tend to be the place where we come into closest contact with dust mites as, after all, we do spend many hours each night with our faces pressed against them. Replacing your typical pillows with hypoallergenic, dust mite-resistant pillows like this set from In Style Furnishings is an ideal solution. Made from a fluffy down alternative, these pillows are comfortable, as well as allergy-reducing.

But, what if you have a favourite pillow that you just can’t seem to part with? Give these pillow protectors a try. Not only do they keep allergens from penetrating the surface of your pillow, but they’re also waterproof, as well.

You (Probably) Can’t Have Just One – Other Allergies and Dust Mites

Often, people with one allergy will also have others, and they can all aggravate each other, so doing things to relieve your other allergies is another way to minimise some of your discomforts. Consider investing in an air purifier, and don’t forget about Himalayan salt lamps.

Do you suffer from allergies? What sorts of symptoms do you have and what steps have you taken to relieve them? Let me know in the comments and make sure to follow me on Facebook for more tips and tricks for bettering your health and well being.

Help for budding authors!

If, like me, you have often contemplated becoming an author then it’s well worth you taking a look at Jericho Writers.

Their website is very well laid out, and offers a mass of free information to help get you started, irrespective of your entry level. I only came across them when the first draft of my book was nearly completed, but I can see that if I had used them at the very beginning it would have saved me a lot of ‘Googling’ time.

One of the main problems with searching on the internet is that information is either being provided by professionals who want your money, or failed writers who are now offering you the benefits of their mistakes! Neither option is inspiring, nor does it fill me with confidence.  I really need to feel I can trust someone with my hard work, and my money, before I fully engage with them.

At the very the beginning of the writing process an ‘expert’ told me that writing the book was the easy part. Oh how right he was! It has been a very steep learning curve for me along the way. Trying to find out what to do next at each milestone was really heavy going, so it was with great delight that I came across Jericho Writers now that I am looking for a professional editor.

Apart from being a great website and having really useful information, Jericho Writers has a huge ace up it’s sleeve which I discovered quite by chance. Long before I discovered the site, I had bought a book called ‘Getting Published‘ by Harry Bingham. I purchased this as a companion to the ‘bible’ of publishing here in the UK called the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. Both books are well respected, trusted sources of information. Months later as I worked my way through the Jericho Writers website it suddenly dawned on me as to why the website was so useful. It was set up by none other than Harry Bingham himself, a successful published author in his own right.

Clearly, Harry has set out to make a difference! This is not another ‘How to make money from unpublished authors’ site, nor is it the kind of site which aims to guide you down one particular publishing route, i.e. their own. There’s a kind of democracy running through this site which is very refreshing. If, like me, you have already churned your way through many hours of Google searches, or you want to avoid doing that, then this is the site for you.

I am on the cusp of engaging with a professional editor, and Jericho Writers has set the bar for me. I do have a short list compiled from a few other sources, but Jericho is very much top of the list, and I have a strong feeling it is going to win.

If it hurts, don’t do it!

About 10 years ago down in London when walking home after a morning of teaching Tai Chi I found myself alongside my most elderly student. After a short time, I noticed that even though I was about 40 years her junior I was putting in quite some effort to keep up with her. Initially I was okay with this until I discovered that she would be walking about 80% of my route which meant continuing to go at a pace that was becoming embarrassingly uncomfortable! This was further exacerbated when she told me how she was a member of a local 70+ ramblers club, and that she was going to have to leave them because she was finding it difficult to keep up, what with being well into her 80s and also now having a dodgy knee…

Now, even with all my years of training in a variety of sports and specialised activities, and despite being outshone by anyone who’s seriously older than me, I still think that walking is one of the best exercises around; provided you’re sensible.

As with all exercise I always apply what I call my ‘golden rule’ which I also teach to all my students: “If it hurts don’t do it”.

This is a simple mantra that usually serves to protect most people apart from those that don’t listen to me and those that don’t listen to their own bodies. One such episode occurred when one of my younger students (she was only in her 70s) was informed by her GP that she had a raised cholesterol level. Being the type of person that she was my student went into a panic and without further consultation decided she best take up jogging. Fine you might say, until you understand that this is not by itself the best way to reduce cholesterol, nor is it a good idea to take up jogging if you have no experience of it, especially if you are in your 70s. Surprise, surprise, she put her back out within a hundred yards of her house.

After talking with her I ascertained that in her ‘panicked state, my student ignored all of the cardinal rules of any physical exercise:

  1. Understand what you are doing, or get expert advice if you’re not experienced
  2. Gently warm up before throwing yourself headlong into the activity
  3. Relax and enjoy it
  4. And finally – for the third time: “If it hurts don’t do it”

One of the main points I took from this is that although learning Tai Chi will automatically and unconsciously have beneficial effects on all areas of your life you still need to consciously apply it to gain the full benefit. Who knows, she might not have even made the hundred yards if she hadn’t been a Tai Chi player? The other point being that if you build up slowly you can achieve amazing things – and it really doesn’t need to hurt!

As I am a pragmatist rather than a purist I recognise that amongst my Tai Chi students, and indeed amongst the rest of you, there will be some people who feel the need to do other forms of exercise, e.g. long-distance running. Therefore, I thoroughly recommend a book entitled ‘Chi Running’ (link opens in Amazon.co.uk) which I have used myself on those occasions when I need to go at more than a snail’s pace. I don’t do serious amounts of running but I take the same view as I do with swimming, i.e. I can swim well enough to save my life in reasonably non-extreme circumstances such as falling into the river from a pleasure boat. Likewise, with running I can still catch a train when the taxi taking me to the station is forced to stop after knocking down a jogger trying to reduce their cholesterol. Fortunately for me it was less than a hundred yards to the station…