Try this simple way to beat stress and help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
If you're into yoga, there's a practice you might already be doing that's been shown to benefit people who suffer from mental illness.
A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania found yogic breathing, a practice known as Sudarshan Kriya, helped "alleviate severe depression in people who did not fully respond to antidepressant treatments," and lessened symptoms, such as stress, associated with the mental illness.
Karusia Wroblewski, who teaches yogic breathing in her yoga classes at Toronto's Yogaspace, says the technique has significantly improved the lives of both herself and her students. "They have more energy and their outlook on life improves," she says. "One student reported being able to cut back on anxiety medications. I just received a thank-you letter from a student who had suffered from deep depression, panic, anxiety attacks and insomnia."
Yogic breathing is more than just slowed inhalation and exhalation—it requires a conscious effort in recognizing and regulating our breathing patterns by adjusting the speed, rhythm and volume of each breath. According to Wroblewski, we often neglect the importance of breathing because it's a natural process. She says injuries, stress and even strong emotions can affect "healthy breathing."
Thankfully, for those who can't make it out to yoga class, you can practise yogic breathing at home. It's entirely safe for beginners. Wroblewski suggests finding an experienced instructor if you want to try intermediate or advanced techniques. Here's how to do it.
When: Try practising when you wake up in the morning, or at night right before you go to bed. It's not ideal to do this type of breathing on a full stomach.
Proper position: Start by lying on your back with a pillow under your knees and interlace your fingers, resting them on your abdomen. Close your eyes. Let the tension in your body melt away.
The basics: Inhale gently through your nose—imagine a balloon inside your body slowly inflating. Exhale through your mouth while the air escapes the balloon. Control your breathing; your breaths in and out should be smooth. While you're breathing, try not to dwell on your thoughts—just let them come and go, as if they were on a cloud floating by. Repeat the breaths three to four times, then close your mouth while continuing to breathe through your nose.
Photography by Stacy Van Berkel
The kitchen probably has the most traffic in your home, which means it can also be the messiest. Keep your counters and cabinets clutter-free with these clever storage ideas.
1. Looking good
Display your pretty serving pieces on open shelves and use decorative baskets to house the less attractive and infrequently used kitchen necessities (think small appliances and tools).
2. Mix it up
Varied storage keeps items of different sizes in their place: deep drawers for medium-to-large appliances, stacked shelving for wine bottles and shallow drawers for spices.
3. Within reach
Keep the items you need most, such as cereal and snacks, between waist and eye level, and move the rest of the goods up high or down low.
4. All access
A pull-out pantry allows you to see inventory at a glance and helps keep supplies organized so that nothing gets pushed to the back and out of view.
5. Now you see it
Cabinets that are tucked behind a sliding door will provide a functional space-saving solution to a typical pantry. This storage system can be built along an unused wall in a kitchen. Use it to conceal mismatched boxes, jars and canned goods.
The biggest advantage in a kitchen is accessibility, yet the most common blind spots I see are cabinet shelves that are too high and wasted space between shelves. Whether you've just moved in or you've settled into a kitchen, it's worth the time to adjust shelving to fit the contents and to lower shelves so you can reach what you need. After adjusting the height, you can often add an extra shelf to accommodate wide narrow items, like trays.
— Marie Potter, Professional Organizers in Canada, Vancouver
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Carlisle Flooring Image by: Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Carlisle Flooring
Q: I really like the look of hardwood flooring, but I've been warned against using it in the kitchen. â€¨I don't want to settle for laminate. Are there any other options?
— R.S., Brantford, ON
A: Many people love the warmth and elegance of wood floors in a kitchen, but durability is a concern. Water can damage any type of flooring, so humidity levels must be controlled in kitchen and bath environments.
Your best bet is engineered wood flooring: a thin veneer of real wood adhered to a composite wood plank. This option offers the thickness of a solid wood plank at a considerably lower price tag. The planks are sold sanded, stained and protected—often with up to 15 coats of UV-protectant varnish, making them scratch- and fade-resistant. As easy to install as laminate planks, they're a good option to use all over the house, even in the kitchen. Expect to pay $8 to $20 per square foot for the product, and an â€¨additional $4 to $8 per square foot for professional installation.
For more solutions to your design dilemmas, read what Karl Lohnes has to say about picking a couch.
|This story was originally titled "Design Dilemma" in the June 2014 issue.|
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Keeping a healthy lifestyle is important, of course, but quick fixes and flashy diets that you hear of online aren't the way to go. These trend diets, advertised to work wonders, can actually bring more hassle and danger than benefits to your health.
With flashy food shots and pictures of fitness gurus posted on social media pretty much every second of the day, it’s no surprise so many of us are scrambling to keep up with appearances through strategic self-branding and unhealthy diets.
“People are willing to try and pay anything in the hopes of losing weight. There are many self-proclaimed ‘experts’ on the internet providing health advice that may not be safe or even science-based,” says Andrea D’Ambrosio, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians of Canada. “It’s crucial to be critical of information that we find on the internet to avoid being misled by false, unsubstantiated claims.”
D’Ambrosio says she reminds her clients that despite what personalities like Dr. Oz say, there’s no magical food or diet for weight loss.
Here are five popular diets to be wary of.
Juicing encourages dieters to juice their plant-based meals. It’s based on the idea that nutrients from foods such as fruits and vegetables can be absorbed quicker, and fresh juice gives our systems a rest from digesting fibre. While some claim this helps in weight loss and the removal of toxins, the truth is that the amount of sugar from the fruit you eat to maintain a feeling of fullness can equal more calories, which contributes to weight gain.
“Diets that remove entire food groups run the high risk of leading to nutritional deficiencies unless you make up the lost nutrients in other foods or supplements,” D’Ambrosio says.
2. Low-carb diet.
A low-carb diet requires the restriction of foods high in carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and certain fruits and vegetables. Although dieters don’t need to cut high-carb foods from their meals entirely, the suggested limit being advocated on social media, is 60 to 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. That’s less than three plain bagels.
3. No fat diet.
A fat-free diet sounds tempting, but is it really? When we think of fat, we often think of the bad kind that’s found in junk food, but we can also find it in nuts and seeds, fish and fruits like avocado. According to a publication by the Harvard Medical School, unsaturated fats (the good kind!) supply the body with energy and can even help prevent heart disease.
A positive note, D’Ambrosio says, is that these types of diets encourage people to eat less processed foods, which is healthier and helps weight management.
4. 5:2 diet.
For those familiar with diets, fasting is no stranger. The 5:2 diet is one of many regimens floating around the internet that has dieters eating normally (read: unrestrained) for five days and reducing food intake to 500 calories a day for the other two.
“Eating less than 500 to 600 calories a day on fasting days is very difficult for many people and challenging to sustain,” she says. “Many who attempt fasting or severe restriction also find a corresponding increase in cravings or binging after their day of restriction.”
5. Activated charcoal “diet”.
Touted by both health junkies and beauty enthusiasts on social media, charcoal can be consumed via tablets or used in cooking. Aficionados of activated charcoal claim it soaks up surface fat so that calories are not absorbed into the body, plus they say it removes unpleasant gases and toxins and reduces appetite.
The short-term effects may be tempting for those hoping to quickly shed a few pounds or to maintain a healthier lifestyle, but D’Ambrosio says there needs to be more research conducted for diets that boast impressive results. “If you want to lose weight fast, remember that you did not gain that quickly.” she says.
D’Ambrosio says working with a professional dietitian to ensure nutritional needs are met and healthy weight-loss strategies are implemented is a good plan for those who need a helping hand losing weight. “Forming a healthy relationship with food and a positive body image—regardless of weight—is also important during any weight-loss journey,” she says.
Tip from D’Ambrosio:
Food-tracking apps, such as eaTracker, give you a better idea of what (unhealthy) foods you’re eating and what swaps you can make to increase the nutrition and healthfulness of your diet.
Andrea D’Ambrosio is also the owner of Dietetic Directions a nutritional counselling and education company based in Kitchener, Waterloo.