Monday, July 18, 2011

Anti-Aging or Radiant Natural Health?

I can’t help it – the very phrase “anti-aging” makes me cringe inwardly.  As if someone is trying to run away from life and its consequences. I immediately think of people agonizing in front of mirrors, being unhappy, having painful surgeries, botox, chemical peels… you name it… to look, err, tight. Forced, even, like a rose pushed through a commercial hothouse but disappointingly lacking in fragrance.  I then think of young and beautiful friends who have passed away tragically and who would probably have given anything to be able to worry about sunspots, wrinkles and crowsfeet. 

This anti-aging cringe thing I have is a professional liability, since I make and sell natural things for people’s bodies and skin, and the very phrase “anti-aging” makes a whole lot of people reach for their purses and credit cards without even thinking.  So why don’t I simply push my scruples out of the way and settle into entrepreneurial anti-aging bliss?
Well, you see, most “anti-aging” products contain things that should make you worry.  Things with poly-syllabic chemical names that are unpronounceable and which, if I were to buy them at the wholesale chemical place here in Thailand, would come with safety and hazard warnings.  Chemicals that are well documented to not only irritate and dry skin and cause all manner of physical problems from depression to asthma, but which also accumulate in your blood and vital organs and impede your immune system.  In short, over time and with repeated usage, they make you sick.  Do they make you glow with health and vitality and make your gorgeous?  Almost never.

Conversely, if you focus on your natural and radiant health, the outcome is almost always (often by accident, as an unexpected by-product!) that you start to glow with that special something that people love.  If you forget about the way you look and just go for a run, take a yoga class, laugh in the kitchen with your lover or maybe sleep in the moonlight…. *something* happens.  You stop worrying and stressing.  You discover that instead of the $60 pot of chemical-cocktail-night-cream that the $8 bottle of natural oil actually works better.  You decide to spend the other $52 on a new skirt and it makes you feel great.  It makes you smile.  You find your yoga class is fun and you decide you’re worth the time to do it, and in that new freedom you smile more and that simply helps people to engage with you.  You start thinking more about what you eat, you sleep better and all of that makes you look 10 years younger.  You talk to the lady who falls over all the time at the yoga class and hear her story about her long term illness and her struggle to walk well, and suddenly you don’t care about the smile lines around your eyes so much – in fact, you start to feel rather proud of them.  The more you focus on your natural, radiant health, the younger and more beautiful you look and feel to the people around you.  You ooze energy and creativity.  People smile when they see you.
Next time you see someone plugging expensive “anti-aging” products, stop and think and read the product label.  Ask about the ingredients. Then spend an hour on Google and be prepared to be shocked.  Ask yourself if you really want to bombard your body with dangerous, toxic chemicals for the transitory dream of looking younger (if indeed it even works).   Look at the massive monetary and physical costs involved in these “anti-aging” products and ask yourself if simple, natural health might not be a better path to choose.

Ironically, a healthier, happier you will look more gorgeous and probably even a bit younger, but you’ll possibly be too engrossed in new things and the great people around you to care.
In loving memory of Steph, who shared Ward 3B with me many years ago and helped me make it positively rock with laughter until even the nurses frowned and fussed over drips and pain management implements.  Beautiful Steph died at the age of 17, only 3 weeks after being diagnosed with a melanoma on her back.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Essential Oils Can Make Me More Beautiful?

Essential oils are about smell, aren’t they? Natural healing aromas from Mother Earth.  Sure they can help you relax, sleep better, feel less nauseous, boost your mood.  But that’s not “beauty” – I want to LOOK good as well as feel good and be well.  That’s mostly how the masses think about essential oils – a fragrant add-on to the way we feel and experience health, but not relevant to beauty or looks.  Actually, that thinking is quite wrong.

Did you know essential oils work and have therapeutic benefit even when you can’t smell them? A 2009 study on rose oil deprived subjects of their sense of smell and applied the essential oil directly to the skin only.  Even without all the gorgeous memories and associations with the divine smell of blooming summer roses, the measured relaxation effect on the test group (as opposed to the clinical control group) was significant. (1) 

So, essential oils are not really about smell per se at all, and effective even when we’re not blissing out on their magnificent natural aromas.  What are those benefits and how do they contribute to beauty and the way I look? 

Essential oils trigger parts of the brain and limbic system that contribute to relaxation, better sleep, improved mood, better blood circulation, improved immune response and optimal hormonal function.  Better sleep equals less sags and bags and optimal production of human growth hormone for cell repair and healthy new skin.  Improved mood means less frown lines and sags around the mouth, and more smile lines (which are gorgeous!).  Better blood flow means better waste removal, better detox and improved oxygenation of the tissue cells and skin, which helps to give that hard-to-define “radiant glow” that truly beautiful people have.  Reduced stress and improved relaxation leads to an overall letting go in the body, face, jaw and shoulders, which leads to softer muscles and better movement of blood.  Improved hormonal function directly leads to less blemishes, better mood, more smiles and yes, even more love-making (and that makes everyone look and feel more beautiful too!).  And improved immune response keeps us well – we all know that looking and feeling sick does NOT make us beautiful.

Think for a moment of the most aggressive, stressed out, sleep deprived person you know: all frown lines, pursed lips, locked jaw and tight.  Not beautiful.  When the myriad of tiny muscles of the face are contracted through stress, worry or anger, the skin pulls differently and blood flow is constricted, which in turn impedes natural skin detox and leads to blemishes, pallor and a loss of skin elasticity.  Consider that prolonged stress makes it harder to sleep and, in time, will make us sick.
Using essential oils as part of your daily health and body care routine contributes to the way you feel, look and to your natural beauty.  You don’t have to sit hovering next to an oil vaporizer to achieve this – I mean, who has time for that?  You can use natural body oils blended with essential oils as part of your daily after-shower or before-bed routine – gorgeous silky smooth skin as well as an essential oil health treatment.  You can spritz on essential oils in natural sprays during the day or just whenever you need a “boost”.  You can plan for a hot herbal ball treatment after a great massage – as the hot herbs release their healing benefits to your muscles through the essential oils they release, your whole being will respond.  You could even simply add a few drops of essential oil to a handkerchief and put in your clothes drawer or cupboard – that way even hurrying to dress for work is taking care of yourself.
Be aware that products containing essential oils must contain ONLY essential oils and not additional synthetic substances or fragrances – these synthetic additives are incredibly harmful to your health (read Essential Oil + Fragrance = Something Stinks! to understand this issue better).
Celebrate the magnificent essential oils Mother Earth has blessed us with and indulge yourself daily for not only better health, but for a soft, radiant, natural beauty that shines like nothing you can ever buy in a bottle.
1Hongratanaworakit, T. Relaxing effect of rose oil on humans. Natural Product Communications, 4(2), 291-6.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Can’t manage “essential” stress relief?

Knowing something is good for you simply doesn’t help. Harsh fact, but true.  Without the “doing”, the implementation, it all goes belly up and we simply continue on in our less-than-healthy-sub-optimal state.

Take stress relief and essential oils, for example.  Most of us know that essential oils are a pleasant, simple way to help manage daily stress, increase concentration and improve sleep quality.  Herbs and oils have been used for thousands of years to enhance natural health and manage stress.  So what stops most of us actually making it part of our daily lives?  Are we too busy, tired and stressed to even remember to use essential oils for daily stress management?  Or is there more to it? 

If we consider the first mental associations we get for the phrase “essential oil” we are on our way to an answer.  Close your eyes and repeat the phrase to yourself:  essential oils.  You might see a massage therapist applying gorgeously fragrant oils from a pretty bottle to your stressed body.  You probably instantly see a little blue, brown or green bottle (much like in the image above) of concentrated oil.  The next part is tricky but pivotal – try to catch the silent “self-talk” that you engage in next, but which is often not accessed in our busy brains.
  • “My budget just isn’t gonna stretch to an expensive massage this week – maybe next month”.
  • “Hmm.  Essential oils are expensive – I only need a few drops but they want me to pay $25 for just 15ml?”
  • “Essential oils burn the skin.  That means I also gotta buy a carrier oil AND a ceramic dispensing bottle.  Starting to look too hard… maybe I’ll just have a glass of wine instead.” 
  • “I’d really like to book a massage but I have to take the kids to basketball and then I’d have to skip either my workout or the grocery shopping.”
  • “Not sure exactly which oil to buy.  I’ll try to remember to research that next week.”

You get the gist of it.  The self-talk identifies the core reasons most of us don’t make essential oils for stress relief part of our daily routine.

Consider this: once you are aware of  what drives your “why I don’t do it”, there are simple ways you can find practical answers and start to over-ride that limiting self talk.  How might you do this?  Think outside the box – here are a few starter ideas related to essential oils for stress management:

  • If you are a clothes-dryer user, put 5-10 drops of your chosen oil on a piece of cloth, pop that cloth in one of those washbags for delicates, and toss it in the dryer with your clothes for the last 5 minutes of the drying cycle.  The wash bag will prevent oil spots directly on your clean clothes.  The uplifting lemongrass (or whatever) infused through your laundry will make dressing for work a more uplifting experience, improve your mood and change your stress levels for the day.
  • Not a clothes dryer user?  Put a few drops of oil onto a piece of cardboard, pop that in an envelope, and place it in the drawer or cupboard where you store your clothes. Don’t forget to do the same with bed linens – easing into clean sheets that waft out healthful aromas leads to better sleep as well as a delightful sensual experience.
  • Use a daily all-over body oil instead of a moisturizer – aromatherapy on the run.  Pre-mixed, plant based and be sure it contains only essential oils and no extra nasty fragrance or chemical compounds.  (See Essential Oil + Fragrance = Something Stinks )
  • Add the essential oils (few drops are enough) to a bath and soak in it – that way you get to enjoy your wine as well.
  • Look for an essential oil spray, spritzer or body mist at the heath-store – make sure it contains nothing more than the essential oils, alcohol and water.  Pop one in the glove compartment of your car and spritz at traffic lights, before meetings, before getting out of the car and facing your kids and the evening chores.  Put an essential oil spray in your handbag for a quick stress-relief hit in emergency situations like an irritatingly long queue at the bank or dealing with a lost credit card. 

The solutions are out there and don’t take any extra real time – they also don’t have to cost nearly as much as investing in 3 different essential oils, one carrier oil and a dispensing bottle (thnk anywhere from $38 to $200+).  They require us to simply identify the real mental blocks that stand between the “I know it’s good for me” and the “so why am I not doing it?”  Tune into your self-talk, identify the blocks and get creative!

One of the biggest stress-relievers is good self-care; it’s a silent, unspoken daily affirmation to yourself that you are worth it, that you matter and that you are powerful enough to care for yourself.  That feeling of being empowered helps us to change our mindset and leads us to solutions instead of excuses.

Think smart about the gap between knowing and doing.  Use herbs and oils for natural stress management and body care.  Change that limiting self-talk about stress relief.  Once you get the hang of this technique for stress relief and you feel a little less stressed, apply the same technique to your diet and exercise regimes.

Awareness enables us to live simply, naturally and healthfully.  Enjoy, smile and remember to breathe.