Where to Find Hypoallergenic Alternatives to Down Pillows

Many people appreciate down pillows for their head and neck support, comfort, and breathability. However, these animal feather-filled pillows can be anything but breathable for someone who is allergic to the pillow’s contents or sensitive to the down pillow’s tendency to harbour dust mites. While proper cleaning techniques, such as cleaning using extremely hot or freezing water, as well as a dehumidifier, can make a difference in removing dust mites from your home, these are maintenance tasks that have to be repeated, and often, someone with allergies, asthma, or related conditions still has difficulty sleeping on down pillows.

If this describes you or someone in your house, then you may have wondered where to find quality alternatives to hypoallergenic pillows. These are special pillows that are specifically designed to prevent dust mites from entering. Allergy UK offers a list of recommended products, from complete anti-allergy bedding to air purifiers, on their website, but you can also visit a site as simple as Amazon for hypoallergenic alternatives to down pillows.

Breathe Easier with Hypoallergenic Alternatives

These pillows from In Style Furnishings are inexpensive and provide the same support as down pillows, but with hypoallergenic filling and a chemical-free, cotton-covered thread. Of course, since these pillows arrive vacuum sealed, you’ll need to give them a few days to reach their full size. These are clean, fluffy, attractive pillows that can help you enjoy all of the benefits of a down pillow without triggering your allergies or respiratory condition.

Another hypoallergenic option beyond pillows is to use a pillow protector. This waterproof pillow protector from Everlasting Comfort received high marks from Amazon users thanks to its ability to block bed bugs, dust mites, bacteria, and even sweat from the pillow, keeping it clean and allergy-free. One thing that even avid down lovers don’t care for is the way that the feathers in down pillows can poke through the surface. Using these pillow protectors over your down pillows will keep those feathers inside, providing you with even more comfort. These protectors are also great for travel, as you can easily put one over a hotel pillow.

Good Sleep Is Essential to Wellness

A key part of self-care is being well-rested. Research has shown that a lack of sleep contributes to heart disease, weight problems, and high blood pressure. It can even worsen mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. Allergies can make a good night’s sleep feel more like a dream goal and less like a reality. Taking the time to invest in hypoallergenic pillows or hypoallergenic pillow covers can give you the rest you need without sacrificing all of the things you love about your down pillows.

Do you enjoy down pillows? Have you tried a hypoallergenic down pillow alternative? Tell me how it went in the comments or share with me on Facebook. You might also want to explore other ways to combat those pesky allergies, like healing house plants (yes, there are plants that can actually help and not hurt your allergies!) and salt lamps.

Treat Yourself With These Home Spa Products

Spring cleaning doesn’t have to just apply to your home. We all need a little pampering every now and then, and a home spa day provides just the opportunity for rest and relaxation. The problem, of course, is searching through the seemingly endless product options that are available online. Instead of overwhelming yourself with choices, take a look at some of these tried and true products for a luxurious spa session without ever leaving your house:

Perfect Oils

I’ve talked in previous blogs about the benefits of Weleda arnica massage oil. This unique oil combines sunflower and olive oil with the arnica flower, a sunflower cousin that has major medical benefits. It’s been used to alleviate everything from a flaky scalp to inflammation, making this massage oil the perfect tool for your at-home spa day. Simply massage the oil into your skin after bathing. Arnica flowers are also known for their appealing scent.

Speaking of scents, essential oils dispersed through a diffuser or the use of bath products containing essential oils can promote further relaxation as you soak away the day. Ylang ylang, lavender, sandalwood, jasmine, rose, and camomile are some favourites for calming the mind and soothing the body. Just remember not to actually drop essential oils directly into the water without diluting them with what is known as a carrier oil (such as jojoba or olive oil) first! Otherwise, you may end up with skin irritation — not exactly the kind of relaxing home spa day you were planning.

Essential Bath Products

A warm soak requires the right bath products, and Weleda doesn’t only offer an amazing massage oil. You can also try their creamy lavender body wash.  This is a fragrant wash that combines organic lavender with sesame seed oil to soothe and restore. Other Weleda body wash options include wild rose, pomegranate, citrus, and sea buckthorn washes, all designed to provide excellent aromatherapy benefits and nourish your skin.

Remember Your Feet With a Foot Spa and Pedicure Tools

Our feet work hard everyday, but we often forget about them until they’re sore and achy. Pamper them with a high-quality foot spa to ease the ache, improve circulation, and help you unwind. Don’t forget to include a foot soak, like this tea tree oil therapeutic foot soak, and to finish up with a pumice stone and favourite lotion. Aloe, in particular, is a terrific choice for feet.

Relax with a Quality Robe

This personalised bathrobe will elevate your at-home spa experience. Plus, embroidered bathrobes makes amazing gifts, as well.

The Right Spa Products Can Make All the Difference

With Weleda arnica massage oil and body washes, essential oils, enjoyable tools for your feet, and a luxurious bathrobe, you’ll come home from work, school, or exercise ready to enjoy a spa-like experience right in your own home, reducing your stress levels and refreshing you for the next day ahead.

Have you tried any of these spa products? What are your favourites? Leave a comment below or share with me on Facebook, where you’ll want to follow along for more ways to feel relaxed and restored.

Why Self-Care Is An Important Part of Running

Self-care is a bit of a buzz word these days. We hear more and more about the importance of taking time for one’s self, and what such a thing might entail. The truth is that self-care looks different for every person. For runners, in particular, it’s easy to think that the act of running is itself an act of self-care, and that’s certainly true. Some form of exercise is essential to our physical and mental wellbeing. Of course, runners find the activity to be a good conditioner for their bodies, but many also find the activity to be a great stress relief.

Running, however, can also be an intensive exercise, and runners (as well as all athletes) must take special care to prevent injury, recover from workouts, improve stamina, and stay in tune with themselves. This is where a different kind of self-care becomes valuable.

Don’t Skimp on Sleep

Casual runners often find that running is an easy way to tire you out for sleep, but it’s actually quite common for regular runners, particularly during training, to experience insomnia. The reason for this isn’t entirely clear, but overtraining may play a possible role. You can help sleep come easier by running early in the day or evening, as opposed to an hour or two before bed. Make sure that you’re well-nourished and hydrated during your runs and throughout the day. If it’s stress that’s keeping you awake, come up with a routine to help you unwind. Reading a book, journaling your stresses, doing some restorative yoga, or participating in tai chi are all ways to help strengthen the mind and calm the body for a more restful sleep.

You might also try having certain plants in the bedroom that are more likely to promote healthy sleep. While everyone is different, active runners should strive for at least the classic eight hours a night of quality sleep. Being well-rested will help your body to perform at its peak ability.

Remember Nutrition

Poor nutrition negatively affects your body and your performance as a runner. Carbs are discussed frequently around the time of a big race, but when planning for the big event, you want to be eating less-refined carbohydrates, like whole grain breads and wheat pastas, as opposed to refined carbohydrates that lead to blood sugar spikes. Lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and nut butters all provide the right balance of protein and fat that is particularly important during the recovery period post-run. Take it easy on the caffeine, however. While runners can and do enjoy their coffee and tea, too much caffeine can make it harder to get a restful sleep.

Care for Your Body

There are many different injuries that affect runners, with iliotibial band syndrome being one of the most common. With IT band syndrome, the thick band of connective tissue that runs the length of your thigh down to your shin bone becomes tight, swelling with inflammation and pain. IT band syndrome is one of the most common causes of knee pain in runners, and it can come on in even the most experienced athletes. It’s especially common in athletes who suddenly get back into training after taking a break from running.

To help guard against conditions like iliotibial band syndrome, there are a few things you can do. First, seriously consider regular massage. Massages aide in recovery and reduce inflammation. But, you don’t have to see a professional all of the time. You can invest in a foam roller (complete with instructional video) to regularly give yourself the kind of high-quality massage that is recommended by fellow runners and coaches alike. After using the foam roller, go ahead and indulge in a foot spa to further help your muscles recover.

Running as a Form of Meditation

A run can be a fantastic opportunity to explore meditation and mindfulness, especially if you’re running outdoors. Use your runs as opportunities to let go of the endless thoughts and distractions that tend to gather throughout our days, and instead notice the leaves on the trees, or the feeling of your feet as they hit the pavement. You’ll be more present and more alert, as well as feel less stress and a refreshed mind. An excellent book that teaches you how to run more mindfully is Chi Running by Danny and Katherine Dreyer.

It’s important to remember that proper fitness is more than just going for a run. Complete wellness, from quality sleep to proper nutrition and injury protection, are all essential to your health and wellbeing as a runner. Running, just like any exercise, should be apart of your complete picture of health. When this happens, you’ll reap more benefits from running than you ever could have imagined.

Are you a runner? How do you practise self-care? Let me know on Facebook or in the comments below.

The Healing Benefits of 10 Common House Plants

Plants are incredible, natural sources of health and wellness. We’ve talked about how having certain plants in the bedroom encourages a restful sleep, but plants have other tricks up their sleeves, as well. Here are 10 plants that are known for their healing qualities, from medicinal plants and herbs to stress-reducing florals:

Aloe Vera Plant

The succulent aloe vera plant is perhaps one of the most well-known medicinal plants, used to treat sunburns, soothe skin irritations, and even act as an antiseptic for minor cuts and abrasions. Nutritionally, aloe vera juice is quickly gaining popularity as a healthy beverage. Aloe vera has been said to be effective in aiding digestion and boosting immunity, along with carrying antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

Plus, aloe vera is an easy plant to grow at home, tolerant of most light and water conditions (although it prefers a bit of sun and infrequent watering).

Mint

Mint is a fragrant, fast-growing plant that you may not have realised is quite the healer. There are many varieties of mint, from peppermint to spearmint, and all have health benefits. Peppermint is known for its ability to quell stomach upsets and headaches, while spearmint tea has been extensively studied for use in certain hormonal conditions. It also helps lower blood sugar and, yes, helps stop bad breath in its tracks by killing the offending bacteria.

Some gardeners are hesitant to grow mint in their yards, as the herb has been known to take over gardens, but with a little careful planning, you can easily grow mint. The trick is to grow your mint in its own container, separate from the whole of your garden. Like aloe vera, mint is a tolerant plant; it will continue to grow under most any condition.

Ginger

Ginger is an extraordinary plant that has been used in ancient medicine for centuries. Ginger root, alongside honey and lemon, makes an immune boosting tea that is soothing for sore throats. Ginger tea is also healing for stomach upsets, and is particularly recommended in moderation for expectant mothers. Ginger is extremely versatile, serving as a tea, a spice, a candy, and an ingredient in a wealth of recipes.

You can grow ginger in a garden, or you can pick up ginger in all of its forms at your local supermarket.

Basil

Basil is likely in your spice rack right now, but there is so much more to this common food ingredient than as a dash of flavour. Basil is naturally antibacterial, which is perhaps one of the reasons it came to be so commonly used in meals. Basil also contains phytochemicals, compounds found naturally in plants that are thought to help protect cells from damages leading to cancer.

Basil, like ginger, may be a little more difficult than other plants to grow at home, unless you have a proper garden or area for growing. But, then, basil is also an easy store find.

Echinacea

Echinacea is a beautiful composite flower plant that, like ginger, makes an immune boosting tea that can be easily paired with honey, lemon, and even mint. Echinacea has long been a popular cold and flu remedy, as well as a medicinal herb for general immune support.

Echinacea as a plant often eludes gardeners. It seems to be here one minute, and then gone the next. However, if you have the means, growing echinacea provides an exciting challenge, and the plant is beneficial not only to humans — it is beloved by bees and butterflies, too.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus is a beautiful plant reminiscent of something you’d see on a summer holiday, but it isn’t just a pretty plant. Hibiscus has long been observed for its ability to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol profiles, provide natural antioxidants and cancer-fighting polyphenols, as well as fight bacteria. The most common way to take hibiscus is probably as a flavourful, refreshing tea that has a floral, berry-like taste.

There are a couple of varieties of hibiscus, one of which wouldn’t be particularly easy to grow in Britain, thanks to our tough winters. The hibiscus syriacus variety (known in some places simply as common hibiscus), however, is a stunning plant for any garden and a great deal hardier than its counterpart.

Give the tea a try before you grow by ordering hibiscus tea at places like Ocado or Amazon.

Camomile

Camomile is perhaps most famous for its use as a calming herbal tea that soothes the mind. This healing plant has other uses, too, though, from treating skin conditions to easing insomnia. Regularly drinking camomile in tea form has even been shown to potentially help manage diabetes.

Camomile is a vibrant plant to grow, and camomile beverages have a bright, unmistakable yellow colour with a lightly aromatic fragrance. This is an extremely soothing plant.

Orchids

You may be surprised to see this plant on the list, as orchids aren’t routinely talked about in medical circles like ginger or camomile plants, but they do have a rich history in traditional Chinese medicine. In China, orchids are regularly used to make teas and relaxing essential oils.

Orchids are also naturally wonderful air purifiers, and terrific plants to have in the house to help the air quality.

Rosemary

Another popular herb, it might be easier to ask what rosemary doesn’t do than what it does, as rosemary has been associated with cancer prevention, brain and eye health, less inflammation, greater antioxidant activity, pain relief, and even longer hair!

Related to mint, rosemary can easily be grown in a large container and is tough enough to last for many years.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a powerful plant when it comes to controlling diabetes and possibly even maintaining or regaining liver health. Silymarin, the main ingredient in milk thistle, is believed to be a major player in its healing effects. It’s also being studied in cancer research.

Milk thistle is most commonly taken as a capsule, but it can be crafted into a kind of tea, as well.

Nature as a Chemist

What is your favourite healing plant? Have you tried a hibiscus or camomile beverage? Let me know what you thought in the comments below, or on Facebook, where I share more easy, unique ways to enhance your wellbeing.

What Your Feet Can Tell You About Your Overall Health

One of the most important things to understand about wellness is how each part of your body plays a role in your health. You may be surprised to learn how some of the smaller features of your body, features that may not always draw your attention, can actually provide clues to your overall health. Your eyes, for example, can reveal to your doctor valuable information about your blood pressure and even diabetes. Your feet, as well, can offer insight into your health.

Let’s take a look at some common foot symptoms and what your feet might be trying to tell you:

Wounds That Won’t Heal

If you have a wound or ulcer on your foot that isn’t healing, you might want to check your blood glucose levels. Open sores, particularly on the bottom of the foot, are an extremely common problem in people with diabetes, and can be caused by everything from circulation issues to neuropathy related to diabetes. All of this, of course, can turn serious. Diabetic neuropathy can also cause foot tingling or numbness. If any of these things occur, visit your GP to discuss the problem, as well as your blood sugar control. Open wounds can end up causing dangerous infections.

Toenail Problems

When examining your feet for problems, take special note of your toenails. Spoon-shaped nails could be a sign of a nutritional deficiency, such as anaemia caused by a lack of iron (or its opposite, hemochromatosis, too much iron), as well as a variety of other conditions. Toenails that are strangely coloured, particularly yellow, could also indicate medical problems, some even serious. This is another time when you’ll want to pop into your GP for a quick foot check-up.

Foot Spasms, Tingling, or Pain

Foot spasms or pain can be a sign of a long day at the office, or an athletic injury, but just like the other symptoms on this list, it can also be a sign of something more concerning. Nutritional deficiencies, circulation problems, injuries, and more can all result in pain or tingling. One condition, plantar fasciitis, is a common cause of heel pain and results from inflammation of the connective tissues on the bottom of your foot. Your GP can help sort it all out.

Swollen Feet

Swollen feet can be another signal of circulatory problems and definitely warrants a visit to your GP. If swelling and even pain is felt more in your joints, like your toes, you might have a form of arthritis. Of course, swollen feet can also just be a sign of too much stress on the feet, but if you’re noticing the symptom regularly, a check-up can help ease your mind.

Freezing Feet

We’ve all had those moments where our feet are icy, and chances are good that you just need some extra layers on your feet, but if your feet are always cold, you could have anything from a thyroid condition to, yes, the aforementioned circulatory issues. If you’re overly tired or have noticed unusual weight gain alongside your freezing feet, you might ask your GP for a thyroid check. If you’ve noticed other signs of circulatory problems, like foot swelling, you might also want to mention this to your GP.

Flaky Skin on Your Feet

A common cause of flaky feet is athlete’s foot, a scaly, red foot condition that is so named because of its association with sweaty feet inside of too-snug shoes. Athlete’s foot typically starts between the toes, and causes unpleasant sensations, like burning and itching. Luckily, your GP can prescribe an easy fix for athlete’s foot, such as an ointment.

Of course, you can also have certain types of skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis on your feet, as well. Either way, there’s certainly no need to suffer when you could see a medical professional about the problem.

Time for New Shoes?

Poorly fitting shoes can be quite damaging to the feet. Bunions, corns, and calluses all can result from wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. If you do end up with these conditions, there are a few steps you can take (after, of course, investing in new shoes!):

  • For bunions, special shoe inserts can help while your toes heal. Your GP may also recommend a splint to help straighten the toes.
  • For bunions, corns, and calluses alike, pamper those feet. The use of a warm foot spa, followed by the gentle use of a pumice stone, can help heal and soothe these skin conditions.

What About…the Smell?

No one wants to talk about smelly feet, but odour is another area where your feet are trying to tell you something! Poorly smelling feet can result from conditions like Athlete’s foot or just basic daily sweating. Ease the problem by regularly wearing clean shoes and socks, switching out your shoes everyday, keeping your feet well groomed, and letting your feet get some air by going barefoot when you can at home.

Who Knew Feet Could Tell You So Much?

Your feet are at the lowest point of your body, and as such, they can be important signals to problems with the body’s circulation, thyroid, nutritional profile, and so much more. If you’re concerned about what your feet might be telling you, contacting your GP is never a bad idea.

Your feet are a reminder to take care of yourself from head to toe (literally). Curious about more ways to improve your health? Follow my Facebook page and check out my thoughts on mindfulness, hypnotherapy, and the benefits of tai chi.

6 Misconceptions About Tai Chi

Tai Chi is many things to many different practitioners. For some, it is a powerful Chinese martial art. For others, Tai Chi is a meaningful health therapy or fitness plan. Even as Tai Chi has remained in the news as a valuable, healthy exercise for mind and body, there are still numerous misconceptions about this ancient art.

Let’s dispel some of these Tai Chi myths.

Misconception 1: Tai Chi Is Too Slow to Offer Any Health Benefit

Often, a person’s initial understanding of Tai Chi comes from something that they’ve seen on Youtube or in movies. They may have even watched a fitness video of Tai Chi and felt like the slower, continuous movements of Tai Chi couldn’t possibly be offering the workout they desired.

This is one of those areas where looks can be extremely deceiving. On the contrary, Tai Chi is actually one of the most beneficial activities that you can do for your overall health. Research has found that Tai Chi benefits memory, even possibly delaying the onset of conditions like Alzheimer’s. Additional studies have found that Tai Chi contributes to lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation, greater balance and coordination, increased muscle strength, and wider flexibility.

Tai Chi is, of course, not an intense physical activity. Instead, it is often referred to as a kind of meditation in motion that still offers incredible cardiovascular benefits. However, it is the very difference between strenuous exercise and Tai Chi that helps offer these benefits. Intense aerobic exercise has its place of importance, but the calming, strengthening, mentally focused activity of Tai Chi provides separate, even unique benefits — the full spectrum of which research is only beginning to uncover.  

Misconception 2: Tai Chi Is Not an Effective Martial Art

Tai Chi is absolutely an original martial art, dating back to 13th century China, in fact. While Tai Chi is perhaps more often undertaken these days for the myriad health benefits, the martial art aspect is still a key component of the movements and forms. You must learn the basics of Tai Chi before you can proceed more deeply into Tai Chi as a form of self-defence. These deeper techniques include actions known as sparring and push hands, as well as expanding upon the visualization techniques and foundations of the art that you learn early on when beginning Tai Chi. Ultimately, it’s down to the individual martial artist rather then the art itself. A diligently practitioner of just a few years in one martial art would easily defeat a poor practitioner of 20 years in another art.  So making comparisons is never really a valid thing to do.

Misconception 3: It Has to Be Done Outside/In a Group/In a Certain Environment

The beauty of Tai Chi is that it can be practised anywhere, from the park to your own home. While a class is extremely beneficial in helping you learn the proper techniques involved in Tai Chi, and to experience partner movements and other Tai Chi activities, once you’ve learned these techniques, you can easily practise them at home on your own, as well. Tai Chi can be whatever you need it to be to fit your lifestyle.

Misconception 4: Only Certain Ages (Usually Older) Do Tai Chi

Tai Chi is for everyone! While it is of high benefit to elderly individuals for its gentleness and specific health benefits, including research showing it can even reduce the risk of falls and strengthen the mind, anyone of any age can — and should! — consider trying Tai Chi. This is an extraordinary exercise that will change your overall health for the better regardless of age, fitness level, or even injury restrictions.

Misconception 5: You Have to Have a Specific Uniform to Practise Tai Chi

You do not have to wear any specific uniform to practise Tai Chi. Generally, loose clothing is recommended due to the flow of energy (known as Qi) that is an essential part of Tai Chi practise. You can choose to wear shoes, particularly if you do practise outdoors and to assist with balance in your movements, but many Tai Chi practitioners choose to perform their movements barefoot. Eventually, as you find yourself enjoying Tai Chi and wanting to feel more connected to the art, you may wish to purchase traditional Tai Chi attire, but it certainly is never required.

Misconception 6: Tai Chi Is Just Like Yoga

Tai Chi and yoga are both wonderfully beneficial exercises, and even have similar goals, but they are also completely different. While yoga consists of specific postures that are often held for certain lengths of time, Tai Chi is more dance-like, consisting of a constant flow of movement without those same pauses.

Most of the moves and poses of yoga are practised on a mat, while Tai Chi is typically spent standing and moving around, quite possibly making it a little easier for those who might find spending time on the floor to be difficult. There are a variety of styles of both Tai Chi and yoga. If you take yoga, you might consider trying out a Tai Chi class to note the differences and determine your preferences.

Tai Chi Can Make a Difference in Your Health and Wellbeing

If you’ve never tried Tai Chi, or are looking to return to Tai Chi practise, consider attending one of my classes in York. I offer classes three days a week, and am also available for a 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your specific needs and goals beforehand.

You’ll be amazed at how this ancient art form can completely transform your life.

To learn more about the benefits of Tai Chi, as well as other wellness tips, follow me on Facebook.

How Desk Cycles Can Help With ADHD Symptoms

Many of us spend a good portion of our time at work sitting. Students, as well, find themselves sitting through lectures and classes for most of the day. Of course, spending so much time in a desk chair, staring at a computer screen or text book, isn’t the best for our physical or even our mental health. We need to take breaks. In fact, numerous studies over the years have shown that physical activity during the work or school day improves productivity.

If you or your child has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, physical activity is all the more important. You or your child may have a difficult time focusing when you aren’t moving.

Physical Activity Helps Students and Adults with ADHD to Learn and Concentrate

It’s been estimated that up to five per cent of British children have ADHD, a condition with symptoms that commonly includes difficulties with impulse control and maintaining attention, as well as noted hyperactivity and fidgeting. Interestingly, a growing body of research is showing that these active movements may play an important role in how the person with ADHD learns. Researchers are beginning to find that students with ADHD — and even students without ADHD — function best and learn more in an environment that allows them to move. Modern classrooms are beginning to incorporate fidgeting tools and other various opportunities for physical activity throughout the school day, and there has been a particular interest in pedal desks.

This is where the DeskCycle can make a huge difference.

How Can a DeskCycle Help with ADHD at School or at Work?

The DeskCycle is like a small bicycle that fits under your desk, allowing you to pedal while you work or study. Because it uses magnetic resistance, it isn’t particularly loud, so it won’t disturb classmates or co-workers, and is designed to provide a smooth ride that won’t jostle your workload.

For a student with ADHD, the DeskCycle can potentially help improve the executive function challenges caused by the condition, including helping with memory, planning, and concentration during the school day. For adults with ADHD, the DeskCycle provides these same benefits, making it easier to remember and focus on the task at hand.

The DeskCycle has multiple resistance options, allowing the teacher, student, or adult to choose the appropriate resistance for the school or work day. Adults will likely end up enjoying the challenge of pedalling at tougher resistances, while kids could even make games out of their DeskCycles by timing themselves and pedalling faster or slower depending on the events of the classroom.

Schools and workplaces are slowly beginning to change in ways that are beneficial to students and adults with learning differences. Gone are the days when a student with ADHD was told over and over again to “sit down and focus” with little positive result. These days, that same child might be offered a DeskCycle or a subtle fidgeting tool that allows them to use that hyperactivity — something they are actually doing to help themselves learn, it seems — to better focus and complete assignments without disturbing other classmates.

Everyone Benefits from Physical Activity

Everyone is more productive and focused after physical activity, but adults and children with ADHD may particularly benefit from increased activity during the work or school day. While a DeskCycle is an extremely helpful choice, other ways to improve concentration include flexible seating arrangements in classrooms, standing desks, tactile tools like Play-Doh or clay, and even those trendy squish toys.

If at all possible, adults and children alike will benefit from regular walks and exercise activities beyond the DeskCycle, as well as activities that involve meditation and mindfulness.

How have you found physical activity to be beneficial for you or your child’s ADHD symptoms? What tools have you tried? Have you tried a DeskCycle?

Let me know your thoughts here or on Facebook, where I share my own thoughts for living a more mindful, active life.

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.