Tag Archives: wellbeing

Acceptance in the Age of Terror

We don’t know the limits of life’s horror.

There are so many evils that we will never know. We are not in a world where we could be sent to concentration camps because our opinions do not align with the government’s (though, outside of the west, this can still happen), we are free to express our dissent in protest, online and in press, though some would argue that the scope of this freedom is being slowly eroded by various means, and we have jobs and some level of welfare (again variable) to protect us from the very real and very easy to fall into trap or homelessness.

So, with that, what is our oppressor in this modern world? What is left to fear and to fight in the west?

Fabricated terror.

What do I mean by this?

I mean that we live in a world which is saturated by lies. We are drowning in advertisement, we are suffocating in media, both online and in print, and we are asphyxiated by the increasing avenues of society to perceive us as ‘other’.

Advertisement is everywhere. It tells us constantly ‘you need this, you wouldn’t be as happy without this thing that you can buy.’, but it’s all lies. In fact, having worked adjacently to the marketing team in the company that I work for, I can tell you, they make a living from creative lying. This is disappointing, that the only forms of creativity in which we can find a living easily, should be the ones in which we must instantly discard our integrity. Exaggerated claims about the longevity or performance of products is the first outrage, though it is rife and quite commonplace in this area of work. Then, what about the fact that the marketing department, who have all the money and power, who tell us what we can and cannot do, will wilfully expect us to lie to customers about the claims a product can make, or even to avoid the truth that sometimes there are limitations and that these limitations on a product’s ability should be respected. I find that customers appreciate that honesty more than any unbridled claims about how much a product can do for the value of its cost. And then, as if to take it to the limits of incredulity, they would withhold product faults or issues from us, the front line staff who must fix the problems, for fear that we are untrustworthy. There is no greater hypocrisy, no greater insult to the genuine staff that I work with.

Every cell of the body of marketing companies is without integrity, from the creativity, to the authority, to the obfuscation of truth, which hampers our ability to help customers. There is no integrity in advertising before you even reach the advert at hand.

And then let us look at the products themselves.

What do they look like? Smiling white toothed models holding products tenderly and proudly, like new-born babies. Except where is paternal love? Cold, dead eyes stare back through LED screens at bus stops and on billboards. There is no love here, only spiders, sharks, and vultures behind white porcelain veneers. And what of those things that they would sell to you? A mortgage? With expressive coolness, they say we can lift you up when you need to make that big life decision, yet, do we even know where the term comes from? ‘Mortgage’ means ‘death loan’. It was used to describe a sum of money you would pay until you were dead. Rather grimmer in reality than as posed to us in advertising. And what happens when you cannot pay your mortgage? Ultimately, they will repossess your home. What does ‘repossess’ mean? It meant to ‘start again’ or more viscerally, it could mean an ‘undoing’. A creative term for obliteration and recycling of home, of life as it was. And still, we cannot see how, underneath the language of advertising, there is so much violence and misery. Smiling mortgage providers extend a hand, all the while, they have leashes around the necks of mortals who will wear them until death, and whose homes can be yanked from beneath them when life takes a turn for the worse.

I am reminded perhaps of the buddhist teaching that grasping for material things, like products etc are a fast track to misery and emptiness. And we cannot breathe in our society for the grasping! Everywhere you look, some talon, miserable, wan, clammy, dead, extends and swipes, hoping to land its sharp sinus in your mind-flesh. We are fatigued because we step into waking life under siege from all angles, but not the kind which forces the body to move and take evasion from, but attacks on the mind, bamboozling us in every waking moment of every day. We are indeed living in a nightmare and there are evils waiting for us always. What must our subconscious landscape look like at this point? Deep, scoured craters, trenches, scarred, muddy battlefields, and desolate to boot.

This is the first terror, and it is a terror which plays on the subconscious as soon as we wake, ravaging our inner mind, so sensitive that it is, we do significant damage without even knowing it.

Then what of the media? Is there ever a good word to say about the world? It makes it no less true of course that bad things happen every day, but we know this, we implicitly understand that life can be filled with tragedy and it will touch all of us human beings at various points in our lives.

So what is this constant reminding? Yes, it has its purposes. We must not forget the past, for if we do, we can bring it about again through forgetting, but that is what history is for, which should be taught and passed down by communities and schools and parents and relatives. The media does not play an active part in the dissemination of history, but rather in current events. So we are bombarded with the worst miseries of modern times from across the globe. And it is worse because now there are not just newspapers and radios, there are also computers, smart phones, televisions etc which can send information to us more quickly than at any other time in human history. How can we deal with so much misery, so readily and quickly available. The mind again lays itself out to be flayed and stuffed, like foie gras ducks, we are stuffed until we are sick to death. It is true that our impulses and attention are quick to gravitate towards negativity, in the fact that our base brains are powerful, primal and quick. But it is our humanity which lives in the outer most parts, the prefrontal cortex and higher brain which control our ability to be empathic and good, and to form strong, meaningful relationships with other human beings.

The media highjack of our base impulses is the second terror.

Then what of our avatars in this world, where information flows to quickly and spreads vastly under the right conditions?

Social media, where we put our lives online to show others who we are is dangerous. No version of ourselves which appears through the internet is fair and representative. We want to be successful and revered in the eyes of our peers, so we often lie about how we feel. Curiously though, I have started to see a new phenomena, the rise of the ‘down to earth’ media star. They burp, fart, talk about real shit and their vulnerability with the world. And this too is an insult to our humanity. There is a paradoxical lack of integrity in the very act of putting all of yourself onto the internet. A camera always makes us behave differently because a camera is not a person, it is an inanimate object which captures our likeness. We can only communicate by way of in person exchange. Energy flows between life, not the cold dead barrier of camera lens or social media profile. Something is lost in translation. The soul, perhaps, the integrity perhaps also, but we are so desperate for love that we will take this half-filtered shadow and accept our fate.

And then we say something online that can be taken out of context. And the likes of twitter can be the catalyst to the utter destruction or exaltation of anyone or anything in about an hour. ‘Tweeting’ is a form of mass hysteria which is more revolting than anything I could every imagine. And now we all know that what we say online can be taken by little birds, cut, edited and morphed into something grotesque with the power to abjectly destroy your life, no matter if it is true or not. Once it happens, whether you are later cleared or not, there is no way to reclaim your integrity. People have stopped being interested once the the hysteria has passed. They now only retain the perception which made them excited, which in almost all cases is shy of the truth, or abjectly false. We are living in post-truth. It matters not if something is real, only that it could be real.

Hear say has always existed, but the extent to which this can then become global truth is alarming.

This is the third terror of modern life.

And so we can see how life is plagued by sinister and pale oppressive forces which barrage the psyche at every waking moment. Once, long ago in the medieval period, we believed in demons, spirits and angels, the wrathful vengeance of God and other divine entities. Are we any better now? I could make an argument that we are actually worse.

We know our enemy, we know where it stems from, but still, we let it suck us dry.

Advertisement, news, and social media, the new demons and wrathful Gods of the modern age.

How to tackle this new threat is a whole new article, but I will leave you with this rather commonly quoted passage from Chinese General Sun Tzu:

“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.”

Sun Tzu

Acceptance, knowing who we are and what the enemy is, will be salves and healing potions in this phase of monsters and mythical terrors.

Follow @heathen.life for the next instalment.

Are You Walking or Talking? – The Pitfalls of Nature Walks in Modern Times

I am very lucky to have a small group of friends who appreciate nature. They enjoy it, take it in, listen to it, look at it, say very little, and are comfortable with long pauses to admire the outdoors. Now, I am no expert, but I imagine not everyone is so patient with the countryside. Some walking partners really only want an excuse to exercise, talk, a lot, or take pictures for their new Instagram account. Please do not misconstrue me, I am not saying that, in order to appreciate nature, you should not do these things at all, walking around like some hermetical sage wizard who has transcended the responsibilities of trivial human affairs, but many people do too much else when they’re out walking.

When you’re taking pictures, talking too much, or focusing on the steps, you’re not getting the benefits of the countryside that really make you feel alive. By this I mean, the sound of dead twigs under foot, the soft rustling of low bushes, batted gently by swirling gusts, and the pale-gold sunshine warming your cheeks after the cold wind whips them rosy red. In these winter months, you relish the scarcity of bird song, and the sounds of streams, their notes richer, deeper, and more viscous in the icy temperatures. You see animals and plants that are different dependent on the seasons, and you see skies that vary greatly and elicit as many emotions as there are colours in them.

When you can tune into this, you’re communing with nature and it speak to us, in whispers at first. With other people, sometimes loud, well-meaning though I am sure, the chances of you being able to hear it, to see it and appreciate it fully reduce.

I propose that, even if you’ve never tried it before, or you think it odd, that to go out into nature alone is worth doing. If you’ve never done it before, consider it a challenge from me to you. Take a public footpath, or venture further out to a landmark with your car. Just go by yourself. Or, if you really can’t face it, take someone with you that you know you can be comfortably silent with for stretches of time. This is important. The more that you listen to nature in the quiet, the louder it speaks. I believe this can be very healing if you suffer from any mental health issues or physical illnesses. I often find myself feeling much better following a walk, more optimistic, focussed and alive. I credit this with taking in the landscape, which feeds my vitality, while talking too much or using technology, drains it.

Nature walking is a very special activity. Many of us enjoy it with others, which is no bad thing. Just remember, the sounds, sights and sensations of the outdoors are quiet, require patience and attention, and are worth a more thoughtful, tacit and pensive approach. Nature heals, if you listen. Sadly, the social responsibilities and technological commodities of the modern era can wildly distract us and decrease our ability to enjoy and benefit from nature. So, are you walking or are you talking? Choose your friends and smart tech wisely.

Follow me on Heathen (top right by my face) for more mental health tips. Be sure to share these articles with friends and loved ones who you want to look out for in these difficult times. Walking outdoors can be a very rewarding experience if you are able to tune into the landscape thoughtfully. Even if you have never tried this before, I encourage you to take a walk by yourself. See what you discover with nothing but the trees and wind for company. I wish you happiness and health in the New Year.

C Is for COVID – 5 Ways to Get More Vitamin C in 2021

It’s been a trying year, I think we’d all agree. The news has gone from miserable to downright dire. Christmas was cancelled here in the UK as the new covid (dare I even utter the words!) variant spreads across the population. Medical experts are straddling a wrecking ball of ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’, ‘maybes’ and ‘could be’s’, like they’re Miley Cyrus during the chaotic years. Toilet roll, our most beloved signifier of civilised society teetered on the precipice of market place extinction, followed closely by the elusive transparent liquid alcohol, feverishly sought by all.

Despite this confusion, experts agree that getting enough vitamin C can help support your health if you do get the new virus. Some scientists believe that those at higher risk, with cardiovascular disease or immune system problems are likely more at risk due to the fact that their cells are worse at transporting vitamin C. Without this vitamin, the body’s cells struggle to fight back or heal the damage caused by the virus. For this reason, we’ve got to keep an eye on our vitamin C levels before we get ill so that our cells can retain as much as they need to effectively fight viral infections. Here are five simple ways to get more Vitamin C in every day:

1. Take a Supplement

yellow medication pill on persons hand

Now this may seem like a straightforward starting place, but if you’re concerned about your vitamin levels, taking a vitamin C supplement may improve your levels over time. Again, this will depend on how well you are able to absorb the supplement and on how well your cells are able to take in nutrients. Still, getting into the habit every morning to take the supplement may help in the long run, and in most cases, will do no harm. If you have a medical condition, please consult with your doctor first regarding any supplement choices. Safety first!

2. More Fruit

round orange fruit

Fruit! The font of plenty! So villainised for its sugar content these days! BUT, if you’re not diabetic or in some form of exemption, fruit as a snack is brilliant for a high dose of vitamin C that tastes delicious and doesn’t cost too much! Citrus fruits keep a long time and are typically high in vitamin C. Berries like blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are also high vitamin C fruits that taste delicious! Little tip here, for those on a budget, buy your berries frozen. They’re cheaper than fresh, but just as healthy for you.

3. Vegetables

bowl of salad

Kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts are cheap and full of vitamin C. You might be breaking wind, but you’ll keep covid (and dear ones) at bay! Broccoli has more vitamin C than an orange, so scrap that last tip and start munching on them stalks. Cook them though, yeh? Let’s not be that person eating raw broccoli in public now shall we?

4. Po-tay-toes?

green and brown round fruits in green plastic bucket

What’s taters eh precious? Now, don’t be coy with me my hobbity friends. The common potato and its sweet counterpart, the, uh… SWEET potato, are great sources of vitamin C. That means MORE mash, and baked potatoes, and all of the good, wholesome, starchy meal ideas you can put this tuber at the centre of!

5. Juice It

carrot juice on mason jar

The thought of eating getting you down? Cooking broccoli got you giving up? Never fear, juice is here! Seriously, vegetable and citrus juices can get you tonnes of vitamin C. If you have to buy store bought, try to go for fresh juices not from concentrate. If you can afford to buy, or have, a juicer, juicing fresh produce not only gets the best results, but in my opinion, tastes better too! You’re also overwhelmed with options for juice recipes which can keep it interesting. I personally like to juice a whole bunch of celery because it’s great for digestion and helps keep the heart healthy.

Ok, so you’re armed with your covid toolkit for fighting the virus with the power of vitamin C U LATER VIRUS. You’re getting it from a supplement, fruit snacks, high vitamin veggies like broccoli, your favourite yummy starches, and, for those of us who cannot lift a finger to cook, juicing! You’re all set. Remember, getting your vitamin C levels up before you get ill will make the process easier and the recovery faster. So, make sure to follow these tips and try to get some vitamin C in your diet over this period. Hopefully you won’t have to deal with this virus at all, but if you do, you’re that little bit more prepared, and your body will thank you!

Follow me on Heathen (top right hand corner) for more light hearted health advice. Be sure to share these articles with friends and loved ones who you want to protect in these times. Maybe a Juicer in the January sale? There’s still time!

What Would Jesus Eat?

I’m trialling a new series.

I’m looking at diets from around the world and seeing if anything we used to do has any merit today.

Jesus would have eaten an ancient Israelite diet, so let’s see what that involves.

Surprisingly, a large number of health foods were regularly consumed by the Israelites, so we’ve got a pretty solid anti-inflammatory diet here.

Jesus is always depicted drenched in amber glow, kissed by the warm silken banner of the almighty, but could a portion of that be due to a diet full of healthful foods promoting beautiful golden skin?

Let’s check out some of the staples in Jesus’ day:

Olive Oil

Olive oil and olives grew well in this mediterranean climate, so they were abundantly used. Olive oil was likely to have been cold pressed, avoiding the damage that other heated processes can cause to this stable oil. Oilve oil is high in unsaturated fats, which are linked to lower levels of heart disease and related disorders, like high blood pressure.

Figs and Dates

Figs grew well in this climate and are an excellent source of prebiotic fibre. Prebiotics support the natural gut flora and suppress the growth of pathogenic settlers! Dates are sweet, but also contain some fibre which slows down digestion and prevents unhealthy insulin spikes from occurring. Dates were also fermented into a drink called ‘Shechar’. Fermented beverages contain probiotics which help to colonise the gut with helpful bacteria.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates are unlikely to have been a huge part of the ancient Israelite diet, but they nevertheless tout a number of health benefits. A recent study found that pomegranate extract could reduce inflammation by bringing down blood lipid levels (a known risk factor for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a range of other inflammatory conditions). Israelites probably would have eaten this fruit fresh in season, and may have fermented it into wine to preserve it out of season.

Wine

Many of you know that too much wine can cause inflammation and liver damage over time, but a little every day can actually support health. Red wine, which is what Israelites would largely have had access to, can reduce inflammation because it contains lots of antioxidants which inhibit cellular damage.

Dairy

This is where it gets really interesting. There were no cows in ancient Israel, so milk, cheese, and yogurt were made solely from goats. Goat milk is widely accepted as anti-inflammatory. Many who cannot tolerate cows milk can drink goats milk without difficulty. Due to the naturally warm temperatures, this could also be made into a range of probiotic yogurts and even something similar to ghee or clarified butter, which has become a popular health food.

Fish

Coastal and river dwelling inhabitants would have had access to a range of fresh fish. Fish is naturally high in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, both of which are shown to support longevity and provide anti-inflammatory effects in the ratios naturally found in marine foods. Fish were also salted and dried, producing a lean, protein rich food source that could be transported and kept in storage without going off.

Leeks, Onions and Garlic

Potent prebiotics, these three vegetables were often added to a range of cooked dishes for flavour and nutrients. These three in particular have been praised in the scientific literature for contributing to the health of the gut due to their high levels of prebiotic fibre, which help good bacteria populate the large intestine, crowding our pathogens which cannot digest it. Leeks, garlic and onion are all related, coming from the onion family.

Wheat

Any of you Keto/ Paleo people will reel in horror at the notion that wheat was a staple in ancient Israel, but this was not the refined wheat you are used to today. Most widespread was Emmer Wheat, an ancestor of Durum Wheat. Durum wheat is a much heartier grain which contains more fibre and is less processed. It also contains less gluten, which is inflammatory to the gut lining.

Overall, to eat like Jesus, was to eat surprisingly well! Lots of healthy oils with anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. Fruits and vegetables with prebiotic fibre. Dairy from goats instead of cows, and fresh fish some of the time! On a side note and not mentioned above, meat was rarely eaten during the year, and when it was, it was largely goat, with some chicken, duck and goose. Too much meat has been implicated in heart disease as well as some cancers, most commonly colorectal.

Jesus is known for his wisdom as a prophet in Christianity, and is a guiding light for Christians across the globe, but even those of us who aren’t religious could probably learn a thing or two about health from this historical figure.

If you enjoyed this short insight into diets from around the world, let me know in the comments, and as ever, please like and subscribe for more to come!

J

Can Big Food Corporations Really Claim To Care About Us?

Coca Cola and other big brand names are pulling ad funding for Facebook due to some novel kind of ‘moral obligation’ to themselves and the general public.

Yet Coca Cola is one of the largest funding bodies for the American Diabetes Association, who’s CEO’s are paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for leading a ‘non-profit’ organisation.

Just think about that for a second. The largest advisory board for diabetes health is also taking huge sums of money from Coca Cola et al, to give advice to people suffering with the condition.

Does that sound very moral to you?

Coca Cola, both full fat and fat free, are seriously contributing to diabetes and obesity in America. Both the added sugar and the artificial sweeteners have DEFINITIVELY been implicated in rising obesity and diabetes numbers.

Do you really think coca cola and friends have any kind of moral obligation to anyone, least of all you, the every day man or woman, to avoid platforms or products which are causing division and disease?

Facebook has been involved in a number of data breaches and security scandals, it is also run on algorithms which thrive on negativity (please take a look at this article where I talk more about that), and it’s losing ground to more popular visual platforms like snapchat and instagram (but it still owns these companies, so be aware).

It’s much more likely that big corporations are sensitive to these aspects of Facebook’s recent behaviour which can potentially harm their image, than due to any arbitrary sense of ‘moral obligation’ to the public.

All I’m asking is that people remain vigilant and alert to language which takes on a moral tone, when it’s coming from large multi-national companies. The likelihood that morality plays any part in choice is low to none in most cases. Where you see language like ‘we care’, or ‘we have a duty’, or virtue signalling regarding current world affairs, you would be safest to take that language with a pinch of salt.

As always, do your research, listen to all sides of the argument, and never dismiss the idea that businesses may not be working to make your life better.

It’s not out of the question that they might not be rooting for you in the way that they say they are.

Stay safe and aware, and please like, comment, and subscribe for more information on digestive health, diet and society.

Julian

Veganism Helped Treat My Depression

Veganism has garnered a reputation as something for radical political youths, hippies and edgy people with colourful hair (which I love, don’t get me wrong). But what is the merit and practicality inherent in a diet that has often been labelled the bad banana in the bunch?

I reached a critical point in my life only months ago. I was suffering with chronic back pain from a slipped disk, mood swings, something I imagine close to hypomania, joint pain in my knees and asthmatic symptoms like severe tightness in the chest. When I was energetic and ‘up’, a lot of these symptoms went away. Every couple of weeks, I would be sure to plunge into ever greater depths of dark depression, which no longer remained contained in my mind, spreading now deep into my bones and my heart and my lungs. My plummeting abyssal thoughts began to twist my body as well as my mind.

I reached a breaking point. I could not bear to go lower. To live in endless cycles of physical and emotional pain, followed by the barest respite of a fickle and uncanny happiness, like there were threads sewn into my lips, pulled up in a wild grin by an evil puppeteer, destined to cut them away and lead me back into doom with a shadowy, hollow cackle.

I started to move towards fixing myself. I did research. I read books and articles. What I discovered was that there appeared to be several links between food allergies (I was food intolerant to dairy as a child and this issue may still persist), chronic pain and mental health. One diet promised to eliminate or drastically reduce the impact of all three.

To the average individual, going vegan may seem drastic. Sadly, I have been to some very dark places in my head. I would eat or drink anything, a laughing periwinkle, ground unicorn patties, the algae on a whale’s back. Anything, to reduce the pain and suffering I was experiencing. When your depression starts to make you feel paper thin, until you start to feel the cracking of your soul, parched, barren and dry, I cannot express the lengths you would go to to avoid that feeling again. It is indescribable.

For me, this was an easy choice.

I feel better.

I am by no means happy every day. That would be impossible. I still have many bad days, but the bad days aren’t as bad anymore. I have more energy. I do not spend so many of my evenings in pain.

I am writing again! I work full time and I STILL spend some of my evening writing and looking after myself. This is an incredible milestone for me. I never expected to feel well enough ever again to write three blog posts in a week. Yet, here I am!

Part of this change will surely be down to my resolution to look after myself, to tackle my fears and insecurities, to grow as a person and to never take life for granted, yet part of that transformation is absolutely about radically overhauling what I choose to put into my body.

My last few blog posts have also been about the impact of meditation and meditation has so far proved extremely helpful in the fight against mental illness. I am tackling this problem from as many different angle as I can. I will not settle and give into my pain and suffering. I will use it to transform myself.

So, there we have it. Veganism is part of my commitment to look after myself. It’s not political, though I am happy to be choosing a more sustainable and animal friendly lifestyle in the process. It’s not to be trendy. I don’t and have never run in trendy social circles. I’m doing this because my research has led me here and I refuse to give into pain and stop fighting for my happiness in this life. Veganism is a commitment to my individual well-being and that is where my stance on the diet ends.

Nevertheless, I do believe that many people could improve their depressive symptoms by trying a vegan diet. It’s naturally low-inflammatory food staples do help to reduce allergic stress responses in the body which absolutely can adversely effect mental health. I won’t stress this too much as I am not a doctor and my research is purely personal, but I do want to share my story so that others may find some respite from their pain in depression.

We are all different. What is helping for me is not necessarily for you, but unless we research and persevere, how will we know what is?

I wish you happiness and good health, and a diet that helps you maintain the best possible head space.

Greenly,

J

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