Mindful Monkey.

Taking things into your own hands

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Recently there was a series of 3 shows on BBC Radio 4 which are a great example of how the media can really do it’s job: informing people about important things, Priceless! The time would be well spent listening to these very well informed shows.

Link to Inside Health Podcast – 12 August – Conflicted Health Part 1: Are conflicts of interest in medicine out of control and undermining public trust, or an over-hyped concern? Dr Mark Porter investigates the hidden influences driving your doctor.

Link to Inside Health Podcast – 19 August – Conflicted Health Part 2: Dr Mark Porter examines the hidden conflicts of interest that may affect how your GP or specialist treats you. He discovers that the advice patient groups give you is also not immune to the influences of organisations such as pharmaceutical companies.

Link to Inside Health Podcast – 26 August – Conflicted Health Part 3: Dr Mark Porter examines how powerful lobbying groups like the food and alcohol industries steer public health policy in the direction that suits them most.

(Another excellent source is a book called “Bad Pharma: How Medicine is Broken, and How We Can Fix It” By a doctor and science writer, Ben Goldacre.)

For me the powerful lesson behind all this is that the priorities of the ‘Health Industry’ often may not be entirely about our welfare.

And that instead of putting all our trust in them we might do well to take our health and wellbeing into our own hands as much as possible. How?

Some regular exercise, mindfulness practice, eating mindfully, compassion for ourselves and others: there is plenty of evidence that these things actually do work and there are no side effects, other than making the world a better place for others as well.



Being open to what you are not looking for…

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I was recently given a prescription for Penicillin for a throat infection and was reminded of the fascinating history of this medicine. Still in use today it was the first substance that ushered in the modern era of antibiotics that have saved countless lives. Before these drugs people would die from what we might regard as relatively minor infections. Said to have been discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928; he was studying some bacterial cultures and found that one had got accidentally contaminated with a mould. He noticed that the mould seemed to be inhibiting bacterial growth and further investigation led to the identification and extraction of Penicillin.

Usually when things go mouldy they get thrown into the bin; it was serendipitous that he noticed the significance of the space around the mould where the bacteria were not growing. The history of discovery is littered with stories like this one; this is just one example of how being able to look at things our perceptual filters set a bit wider can let us see something important.


The thing you are looking for is already within you

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A good few years ago someone said to me that ‘ the things you are looking for are already within you, just look inside’. I didn’t really understand the significance of this sagely sounding advice at the time but have since come to realise just how many levels it works on. For example, next time you have misplaced something and are getting wound up looking for it but not getting anywhere, try this: Just stop, sit down take a slow breath, relax and wait ‘without attachment’. Soon an image or sense of where to find the thing will appear. The more you let go and relax the sooner it will happen. This is a skill and gets better with practice. I have lost count of how many times I have ended up smiling when I could have been stressed or anxious or frustrated.


A Better Way of Becoming and Staying Slim?

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For quite some time now we have been promoting a new approach to healthy slimming; a way that works with the body and feels effortless. Although there are hundreds of diets out there, they essentially all boil down to: “forbidden foods” and restricting calories. When someone makes a radical change to their eating habits it is not unusual for them to initially lose weight but most will put the weight back on, often they will put on even more than before.

There are two main problems associated with any diet: Firstly by denying ourselves particular (“bad” or “sinful”) foods we create a sense of resentment and make that food irresistible. If we say “I must not eat ice cream or chocolate” that will be all we would then think about. This creates a sense of tension around food.

Secondly when we restrict calories our body starts to believe it is going into starvation mode and to protect us it slows down the metabolic rate. So from a psychological and physical point of view diets cause the opposite of losing weight in the long run.

Now there is research to back this up. Recent articles in the Guardian (Wednesday April 11 2007) and Mail (Tuesday April 10 2007) news papers make for interesting reading. Professor Traci Mann points out that when people feel like they are denying themselves it creates a sense of pressure that leads to people (sooner or later) stopping the diet and gain the weight back, often more than they had before!

In our opinion, this creates feelings of failure and the belief that weight loss is difficult. Apart from the fact that diets do not work in the long run, the articles point towards evidence that it may be harmful for the body to go on ‘yo – yo’ diets. By continuously losing and gaining weight we may harm our immune function and become more prone to certain diseases.

Only by listening to the authentic signals of our bodies, using our imagination (not just will power) can we start to develop a more relaxed and authentic relationship to food. Then we can start to become slim and stay healthy, happy and slim. Of course, to this we can add ways of feeling good about exercise and movement. Exercise need not be pumping iron; it can be just about anything from yoga to walking, from dancing to swimming. New eating habits and exercise can both boost our metabolic rate to keep us slim and toned.

We need to start by focusing on some core changes. By changing our emotional relationship with food, and ourselves, changes in eating patterns become easier. Real change in this area comes not from dieting but from learning to re-establish a balanced relationship with food and with ourselves.


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