The psychology of flowers and why they make us so happy
These days, as our lives go through ups and downs due to the changes we are living through, more self care is called for. We may need more exercise, a healthier diet or more sleep. We might find peace in moments wandering through nature or in meditative quiet time. And we might receive a much needed emotional lift from Flower Power.
In 2005, the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University conducted a 10 month behavioural study, looking for links between flowers and life-satisfaction. They found that “Flowers have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females.”
“What’s most exciting about this study is that it challenges established scientific beliefs about how people can manage their day-to-day moods in a healthy and natural way,” said Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and lead researcher on the study.
In the study, subjects received deliveries of flowers and other gifts such as fruit, candles and pens. While most deliveries of gifts received a positive response, the highest response rates came from receiving flowers. The studies showed that these positive responses lasted two to three days.
But honestly, we didn’t need a scientific study to tell us what our bodies intuitively know (though confirmation is sometimes nice). According to the Rutger’s study, the presence of flowers:
Why do Flowers Make Us Happy?
Flowers are connected to the release of some seriously happy-forming hormones in our systems.
Dopamine, the feel-good neurochemical, helps regulate movement, learning, motivation, attention and emotional responses. It is released by the expectation of a reward. Flowers, back in the day, were a huge reward signal in our brains because they promised abundance after a hungry winter. While we may not link flowers so directly with food anymore, flowers can still trigger that sense of anticipated excitement.
Oxytocin is a neuro-chemical often called the “love hormone”. It creates feelings of social trust from mother-infant bonding, to romantic connection to group cohesion and belonging. These bonds are crucial not only to our survival as a species but also to our capacity to thrive and grow. When we give each other flowers, oxytocin is released. Flowers then serve as talismans, communicating the strength of our bonds, and our intention to invest in caring for the relationships that form them. Because of the evolutionary connection of flowers to physical survival, we are also underlining the importance of social connection to our well-being.
And then there’s serotonin, the neuro-chemical crucial to mood, well-being, happiness and our spiritual lives. Scientists have found that serotonin receptor activity in the brain correlates with a capacity for transcendence or bliss. From the lotus to the rose, lowers have long been associated with spiritual paths since ancient times. It is both the colour of the flowers AND their scent that trigger serotonin and lift the Spirit.
That brings us to the Chromotherapy and Aromatherapy. That’s part 2 of this blog post. Stay tuned. But in the meantime, here's a lovely bouquet to help your happy.
Reflections on the past year; reality check from Krista Tippett in conversation with clinical psychologist Christine Runyard; and imagining a future based on cooperation and care
Happy Vernal Equinox, 2021 everyone. In my culture, this is actually New Years Day, called Navroz. Traditionally, it’s a time for communal feasting, dancing and letting go of all the unnecessary and dark while calling in light, peace and prosperity for the new year. And Dancing...did I mention dancing? This year’s Navroz has gone slightly differently than in the past. All the feasting, dancing, letting go and calling in has been more contained, more personal “bubble” sized. Such is our current reality.
The other day I was reflecting on the past year and the pandemic situation, with my friend and artist, Norma Jean McCallan. One of her observations was that this year has felt like tiptoeing around an abusive relationship. In such a situation, we are in fight or flight and survival mode, rolling from one crisis to another until such time as we have a moment of relief to process, and make choices as to how we want to proceed.
One of those moments came for me in January of this year. While my head recognized that “normal” is not something I can (or want to) return to, the rest of me needed some time to catch up. I disappeared into a bit of Cave Time to deal with the depression feelings that seemed to overtake me after the holiday season. My physical energy was low, I slept a lot and tried to focus on facing the fears with some heart tools - like appreciation, grounding breath work and visualization.
It was more challenging than I thought it would be. Then last week I came across an interview with clinical psychologist Christine Runyan on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast. Here’s the blurb that introduces the interview.
“The light at the end of the COVID tunnel is tenuously appearing — yet many of us feel as exhausted as at any time in the past year. Memory problems; short fuses; fractured productivity; sudden drops into despair. We’re at once excited and unnerved by the prospect of life opening up again. Clinical psychologist Christine Runyan explains the physiological effects of a year of pandemic and social isolation — what’s happened at the level of stress response and nervous system, the literal mind-body connection. And she offers simple strategies to regain our fullest capacities for the world ahead.”
Christine Runyan put words to what many of us around the globe have been feeling this past year. Her coping strategies are simple yet effective. It was a valuable hour spent. I realized that I use many of these strategies already, but it was really necessary for me to have them confirmed and validated. Equally important was the confirmation that I’m not crazy or alone in this experience. Naming it, talking about it and doing the work to come back to a grounded, balanced center, are crucial to moving forward.
It all comes down to the story we tell (meaning believe) about ourselves, each other, our world and our place in it. When I was at school, Science taught us a story about the earth and the relationships between all living beings. It was essentially that the earth is based on competition, the survival of the fittest, a win-lose story. If you think about it, this is the story upon which our world, our economies and our lifestyles have been crafted in the past few millennia. But we are seeing that story crumble around us as our impact on the Earth has exacerbated the climate; as our economies are slowly failing, as the nation state system created by conflict slowly falls apart.
Science is revising its approach. It is now saying that the earth and the relationships between all living things is cooperative. In this model, one that aboriginal peoples all over the world have known for millennia, we all survive, thrive and evolve when we cooperate and work together. Its a part of Nature, right down to our very cells. According to evolutionary biologists, without cooperation we wouldn’t be here.
It's easy to see how we might flourish in such an environment. The stresses we experience of survival and isolation just wouldn't be a thing. Within a cooperation model of human organization, our individual talents and gifts would have more chances to be expressed and flourish. See it as a group of intersecting circles, as in the Flower of Life design, as opposed to a pyramid scheme model. In the pyramid model, there is only one peak, one “best” of anything. But in the intersecting circles model, there would be more opportunities for sharing and collaborating. Every circle, or community, would have a possible place for your specific talents and gifts and many places and opportunities to be your best self in what you do.
Imagine a human world in which cooperation and care of self and others was the governing principle. Oh but wait! We’ve had glimpses of what that world could be this past year. Health professionals pulling together in crisis situations to help others, often at personal cost; entire cities of people following masking, distancing and other protocols to help flatten the virus curve; many people sharing their skills online to help others in various areas of self-care and personal growth--from online courses to exercise programs to Arts experiences; the growth of online communities that transcend borders; governments releasing funds to its citizens and cooperating on vaccination acquisition; communities of people doing the very difficult work of naming points of trauma that need healing in our society so that we can do the repair work needed to come together; the continued commitment of so many of us to repair the damage we have done to the Earth; and the Earth herself showing us it wouldn't take much time for her to repair, if we would only stop our destructive behaviours. There will always be those who have difficulty cooperating. As oceanographer Danny Grunbaum says, “Cooperation never means the absence of conflict of interest. It means a set of rules for negotiating conflicts of interest in a way that resolves them.” I would add, “for the highest good of everyone involved.”
At the start of this Solar Year, we are on the cusp of huge changes, which can be both exciting and scary. How we meet them will depend greatly on how we change the story we believe about ourselves, our relationship with the planet and with all living things. I, for one, hope we continue to choose the win-win options.
5 natural headache remedies to consider before reaching for the pills
We're all going through a lot of stress and change right now; which means headaches may definitely be a part of your day to day experience. Many of us pop a pill and carry on. But a headache is really your body speaking to you through nerve signals sent from the blood vessels and muscles in your head. Your body might be telling your it's missing something--like a breather, a drink of water or some essential nutrients. Or it might be sensitive to something in your diet or your environment. Headaches can be triggered by a number of things: stress, fatigue, allergies, eyestrain, poor posture, a hangover, low blood sugar, hormones, or gut issues.
So, how can you help your headache go away or prevent one from happening? And are there natural ways that can help? Answer? YES, of course there are! And here are 5 of them to consider trying before you reach for a pill.
1. Get Hydrated
Often a headache is a sign of dehydration. Being dehydrated can cause irritability and interfere with concentration, making symptoms seem even worse. In fact, studies have shown that chronic dehydration is a common cause of tension headaches and migraines. But the good news is that still other studies have shown that drinking water relieves headache symptoms in most dehydrated individuals within 30 minutes to three hours.
So, the first thing to try immediately is to drink a couple of glasses of water or an electrolyte drink. The latter are especially useful in the case of a hangover headache, as alcohol dehydrates. Ideally, choose an electrolyte beverage without artificial colors and sweeteners as these can add to a headache. My favourite electrolyte option is Hydralyte fizzy tabs. Not too sweet, easy to use and carry with you. Bonus: it’s made in Canada, my home on Native land.
To help avoid dehydration headaches, focus on drinking enough water throughout the day and eating water-rich foods. Between the two of these, aim to consume 2 litres a day.
Your headache could be your body telling you it’s low on magnesium, needed for over 600 cellular reactions from making DNA to controlling how your nerves and muscles work. Magnesium keeps your bones strong, heart healthy and blood sugar normal. It also plays a role in your energy levels. In the brain, Magnesium is the gate keeper for NMDA receptors which are involved in healthy brain development, memory and learning. Without enough magnesium, your nerve cells become overstimulated and could be damaged.
Experts think Magnesium helps to block or lower pain chemicals in your brain while keeping blood vessels from tightening. It may also prevent the wave of brain signalling called cortical spreading depression, which produces the visual and sensory experiences that come with a headache, especially a migraine.
And really, who can say no to dark chocolate with nuts?
3. Get Some Exercise
A little bit of exercise can make big difference in decreasing headaches. Going out for a walk or a bike ride can help oxygenate your system which can reduce headache pain. Not to mention releasing an endorphin or two, which help decrease your sensitivity to pain while boosting your mood and increasing your sense of well-being. Exercise and fresh air can also help promote a healthy sleep pattern, which also lowers the stress that can lead to headaches.
Yoga poses and other forms of stretching can help ease tight muscles and tension in the head, neck and shoulders. This, plus flowing breathing, helps ease headache pain. You can go one further by doing deep breathing and other relaxation techniques can help you focus on the present moment and not on your pain body.
My mother swears by Reflexology. Ask her for advice on healing a headache and she’ll tell you to go massage your big toe! And no wonder... because it works.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qi (pronounced "chee") is your life force energy. Just as your body has a blood circulation system, so too does it have one for the flow of Qi. When Qi is not flowing smoothly, it may eventually show up as physical symptom, like a headache. So, if you have too much Qi gathering in the head, you might experience intense headache pain. Too little Qi in the head, and you might experience a milder, and achy headache. The key to relieving the pain, intense or mild, is to get the Qi flowing smoothly through your head. That’s where Reflexology comes in.
Reflexology involves the physical stimulation of specific acupressure points on the feet and hands to promote Qi circulation to optimize body function. Reflexology points are thought to be connected to the internal organs, brain, blood circulation, and nerve function by your Qi. Massaging those points on your foot or hand unblocks the flow of Qi and brings the body back into a healthy balance. And yes, you guessed it, one of those pressure point lives in your big toe!
Visit Chinese Reflexology with Hollie Tse for a more detailed explanation of how to give yourself a headache relieving Reflexology massage,
5. Head Massage using Aromatherapy
Plants and their essences have been used for centuries for their medicinal and healing properties. Certain oils are known for their ability to ease aches and relax the accompanying stress. Our Head Balm is formulated with four of these for their headache relieving properties.
Peppermint Essential Oil is known for its cooling properties and ability to help relax muscles and ease pain. It also stimulates circulation, which brings more oxygen to the brain which helps ease tight muscles.
Lavender Essential Oil is commonly used for stress relief and relaxation. There’s also strong evidence that lavender can help treat headaches and migraine.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil will open up the nasal passages, clear the sinuses, and help relieve sinus tension that causes the headaches. If your headaches are caused by sinus issues, eucalyptus essential oils can become your new best friend.
Rosemary Essential Oil has powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. It’s been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years for stress reduction, pain relief, and improved circulation, which can all help headaches.
We put those powerful essential oils into a salve which allows for good massagability. The beeswax in the salve does a brilliant job of holding those oils to your head for a longer period of time than a roll on, oil only headache remedy.
Half the magic of our Head Balm is the essential oils; the other half is the massage you give yourself. Rachel Richards walks you through the massage technique in the Video below. Melt some Head Balm between your fingers and thumb in both hands and then follow along with Rachel. Add more Head Balm as needed.
What are your favourite natural headache remedies?
Meet three Free Lion ways to get the benefits of Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary’s medicinal history spans centuries and was probably first used for respiratory issues. From Ancient Egypt and during the era of the Black Plague in Europe, Rosemary, with it’s antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, was burned, as sage is in North America, to clear the air of toxins, bacterial or spiritual. In successive years, rosemary was used to treat the Plague, melancholy, gout, epilepsy, arthritis, memory issues, and many other ills. Today, the herb is still used by many as a tea to treat sore throats, head colds; to freshen bad breath; to decrease dandruff and as an astringent in skin care products.
A little Rosemary Legend and Lore
“Where Rosemary flourishes, the goddess rules.”
Rosemary has played a role in our creative and cultural imagination for centuries. The genus name, Rosmarinus, comes from the Latin for “dew” (ros) and “of the sea” (marinus), reflecting the origin story of Venus, the Goddess of Love. Legend has it that she was seeded from the stars when a phallic looking object (apparently from Uranus) fell into her mother’s womb, the Sea. Venus emerged fully formed from the waters, her neck draped with rosemary. It is a gorgeous image of feminine beauty, power and love, born of both the stars and the earth.
The common name Rosemary is derived from the genus name with a twist. Legend has it that Mary, mother of Jesus, while fleeing from Egypt, sheltered one night next to a blossoming rosemary bush. When she threw her blue cape over the bush, its white flowers turned blue.
But Rosemary’s lore doesn’t end there. It is symbolic of enduring love. During the Middle Ages in Europe, a bride would wear rosemary in her headpiece and the groom and guests would wear a sprig as well. The newlyweds would plant rosemary on their wedding day to root their hopes for the future. It was said if a person tapped another with a sprig of rosemary with an open bloom, they would fall in love. Rosemary was also incorporated into love charms, placed under pillows to thwart evil spirits and between the sheets to repel moths. Ancient Greek students hung rosemary on their doors so that its scent wafted into the room, clarifying the mind and promoting better understanding. Legend has it that Rosemary oil was part of an immune system boosting blend that protected grave robbers from getting sick during the plague.
This legend and lore is not just a testimony to the Nature's wisdom and the power of the rosemary plant. Its also a testimony to human creative ingenuity. For this how we have passed on knowledge from generation to generation through myth and belief set in oral myth and beliefs. It's so much easier to remember a good story than dry facts. And really, that's pretty much how we humans got these things done before the advent of the printing press!
Rosemary’s Aromatherapy Benefits
Rosemary Essential Oil is derived from the aromatic herb Rosmarinus Officinalis, a plant belonging to the Mint family, which includes Basil, Lavender, Myrtle, and Sage. Its appearance, too, is similar to Lavender with flat pine needles that have a light trace of silver. Rosemary Rosemary Essential Oil is a heavy weight champ in the world of Aromatherapy, bringing physical benefits through topical application and to the body’s limbic system through inhalation.
Like many of its cousin plants named above, Rosemary Essential Oil helps reduce stress levels and nervous tension, boost mental activity, encourage clarity and insight, relieve fatigue, and support respiratory function. It is used to improve alertness, eliminate negative moods, and increase the retention of information by enhancing concentration. The scent of Rosemary Essential Oil is also known to reduce the level of harmful stress hormones released during tense experiences. Inhaling Rosemary Oil boosts the immune system by stimulating internal anti-oxidant activity, which in turn fights ailments caused by free radicals, and it relieves throat and nasal congestion by clearing the respiratory tract.
We’ve included Rosemary Essential oil in some of Body Therapy products because of the amazing job it does in relieving stress, inflammation and fatigue
Rosemary Goes Straight to Your Head
This is why we’ve included Rosemary Essential Oil as one of the Rock Star Essential Oils in our Head Balm. Half the magic of our Head Balm comes from the essential oils in it. The other half comes from the massage you give yourself when you apply it. Rub a little balm between your fingers and warm it up. Then, in a symmetrical fashion, massage it into both your temples and across the top of your forehead. Take some more Balm between your fingers and warm it up. Now massage this round onto the bone behind each of your ears, starting from the top of the ear to the bottom. This area holds acupressure points that connect to your brain Next, massage the balm into the back of the neck, from just below the hairline to the shoulders. You've just surrounded your head with relieving goodness.
Rosemary Has A Thing for Feet
Rosemary has been proven to stimulate blood flow, which makes it a fabulous ingredient in a revitalizing foot soak. It's also one of the reasons we include it in our Foot Salve. Rosemary delivers the added benefit of helping to relieve soreness in your feet, while tackling bacteria and odor.
Our Foot Salve is a beautifully nourishing blend of Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil; Neem Oil, which is fabulous for repairing heel cracks; Peppermint Essential Oil to stimulate circulation; Lavender for its antibacterial and relaxation properties; Tea Tree and Rosemary Oils to tackle bacteria and fungus; and Calendula oil to help skin soothe and repair itself. Apply before bed time and wear cotton socks for maximum impact.
Keeping the Pits Fresh with Rosemary
Rosemary oil may help to reduce tissue inflammation and is thought to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains. In addition, Rosemary Essential Oil has proven antioxidant properties. Since oxidative stress can play a role in underarm odor, Rosemary may help. You can find it in our Natural Deodorant. It works with Lavender to kill odor causing bacteria and take down stress levels. Our Natural Deodorant is formulated for application with your fingers. That way you can deodorize and give yourself lymphatics a draining massage at the same time for better health.
What are your favourite ways to use Rosemary Essential Oil?
So you grew a ton of zucchini. Here are three yummy ways to perserve and enjoy them.
End of Summer is Squash time in the garden. There is a proliferation of Zucchini coming off the vines. Rather than eating zukes until we can't look at them anymore, I've been casting about to find different ways to preserve them so that we can enjoy them into the fall, and possibly the winter.
Here are the three things we’ve made this month using zucchinis that turned out fabulously.
I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. Frankly, I was a Dill pickle-making nube. But I had made mango and carrot pickle, Indian style from scratch before . So I went in using that knowledge to mix it up in the recipes I found. Here is what happened:
So, all in all, Zuke Pickle was a big hit!
2 pounds small zucchini (preferably about 4" or 8" long), trimmed and cut into spears
4 tablespoons coarse sea salt or pickling salt, divided
2 teaspoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
4 star anise clove
12 garlic cloves, halved
4 red jalapeños or Fresno chilies, split lengthwise
2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
We love a good veggie spread at our house. There is nothing more satisfying than a Baba Ganoush or a humus and pita with a Greek salad on the side on a hot summer day. So when we stumbled across Zucchini Butter, we knew this would be a winner. It's basically Zucchini with a bit of butter, garlic and herbs, cooked down to a spreadable consistency. We have been eating it on baguette slices as an appy; in a veggie panini with Havarti cheese; and as a BBQ meat topper. It rocks in a burger or a-top a steak as an alternative to sauteed mushrooms. Added bonus: It keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge and up to a year in the freezer.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
5 garlic cloves, gently smashed
2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 2 pounds)
5-6 springs of rosemary (thyme and/or oregano is also good here)
1/2 teaspoon finely milled sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD
This recipe uses grated zucchini, picked fresh from the garden, semi-sweet chocolate chips and cocoa powder. The moisture from the zucchini gives the bread a decidedly brownie-like texture. Not complaining. Not now. Not ever! I’m loving this bread with a scoop of ice cream or a bit of custard and whipped cream. Okay, I’m now officially drooling!
I didn’t use all the zuke I grated so I measured out two cups, the amount needed for a loaf of Zuke bread, bagged and froze it for later use. This way we can keep enjoying Chocolate Zucchini Bread right through the fall, possibly winter.
2 cups grated zucchini (fresh or frozen then thawed)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (use natural unsweetened cocoa, NOT Dutch processed)
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts or seeds (optional)
6T tbsp unsalted butter, melted OR sunflower oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
Zucchini has not been a favourite with my kids over the years. They've always found it bland or too mushy, though I was always able to sneak it in with chocolate. And now, we have definitely upped our zucchini game. Plus, cooking with food harvested fresh from my garden is bringing me a lot of joy and satisfaction.
What have you been making out of zucchini lately?
Why being grounded is so important right now and some Essential Oils that can help
A few days ago, an artist friend of mine posted on her social media wall, wondering how the rest of us were dealing with pandemic depression. Those that replied weighed in with helpful suggestions and loving support. In the current social distancing scenario, social media is serving as a window we can lean out of to talk to our neighbours and maintain some kind of human connection. That's a very good thing.
But social media is also the site of many fearful, traumatizing stories that can put us off balance. We are in such a deep transition, and it is not clear how it's going to turn out. Being mindful of our thoughts and feelings is important to our mental and emotional health right now. It's also useful to remember that thoughts and feelings become things. This is how we create our collective reality. Metaphysics for Life explains:
"Thoughts become things when they are given substance with feelings in the Mind.
Thoughts are the DNA of the Universe. They contain the information that gives form to our physical life experience. Without feeling or substance, we would not be able to perceive the thought-forms in our Mind.
The feelings we use to give substance to the thoughts in our Mind come from one of two sources: fear or Love."
Our thoughts and feelings affect our body's pathways, creating hormone release and affecting our energy flow. Fear thoughts will release stress and anxiety hormones and prolonged stress can lead to dis-ease. Love thoughts will release endorphins and happy hormones which leads to sustained health and well being.
The collective consciousness is also affected by the predominant thoughts and feelings of any group. Studies have shown that group meditation, for example, can do things like reduce crime rates and promote peace. How does this work? According to Thrive Global:
"An experiment conducted during the Lebanon war in the 1980s showed that when 1,000 people in Jerusalem meditated on world peace, war deaths in Lebanon went down by over 75%. Not only did war deaths go down, but crime and other destructive happenings also went down on the days the group meditated. There are many such experiments and given such huge positive social changes brought about by group meditation, it is very much possible that large meditation gatherings will become very popular very soon, just as meditation has become mainstream."
So for the good of ourselves, each other and the planet, choosing Love over Fear, following our hearts and inner guidance, seems critical at this time in our human history. Aromatherapy can play a huge role in helping us maintain our sense of rootedness on the earth in these winds of change.
WHY IS BEING GROUNDED SO IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW?
Being temporarily ungrounded is a pretty common experience these days, especially in our current, fast paced, rapidly changing world. We are constantly bombarded by fear thoughts, and feelings of depression or anxiety. We worry about what's going to happen in the future (anxiety); we miss how it used to be (depression). Yet we are all being called upon to dream a new future for ourselves and the planet, individually and as a species. In order to make the best choices for ourselves, we have to be able to hear our own inner voice, our own personal creative muse. This is where being grounded comes in. When we are, we are choosing to place our trust in something much older and wiser than our fears. We are choosing to love and honour our soul's journey and this beautiful planet we call home. She's been here a lot longer than we have; and this too shall pass
Being grounded refers to being physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically and/or spiritually rooted. This doesn't mean staying rigid or unchanging; it means that, like trees, embracing the flow of the breeze; following the sun and growing while being energetically connected to the earth. The emotion behind being grounded is Trust--in the unconditionally loving connection between ourselves and the earth. People who are grounded are fully present in the moment, alert and aware of their physical experience and boundaries. They tend to be solid, clear and comfortable in themselves. This is a useful way of being, especially in the face of the unknown. Aromatherapy is an effective tool for helping us get back into our bodies, anchoring us so that we can manifest our dreams for ourselves and our planet.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M GROUNDED?
It's my experience that our bodies have a way of telling us. Here's how you can get ready to listen. First, become present in your body. Take a deep, cleansing breath in. Fill up your lungs and hold it for 5 seconds; then exhale out. Take a couple more deep breaths and begin to notice sensations in your body. When you feel relaxed, pick up your essential oil bottle and bring it to your nose. Inhale. Hold your breath for a few seconds and notice any sensations you might be feeling, primarily in the your chakra system, from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. Grounding oils usually speak to your Root Chakra, found at the base of your spine. When you inhale, you might feel a drop in your lower pelvis area--that's your Root Chakra responding to the oils. Or you might be aware of an energy sensation running down your legs to your feet. You might also sense your feel feeling solid and firmly planted. These are all messages from your body that you are anchored in the present moment. If you don't feel the Root Chakra drop right away, inhale again deeply. Repeat until you feel grounding sensations in your body
Now take a minute to notice your feelings. If you are grounded, you will notice an overall feeling of calm and relief, as though you just put a big burden down. You might also notice some feelings of hope in the space between calm and relief. That is the feeling of trust taking root.
MY FAVOURITE GROUNDING ESSENTIAL OILS
My blog post, Aromatherapy, Memory and the Art of Creating Scents explains the science behind how aromatherapy works in your body. The entire process from the moment of breathing in the oil aroma to the corresponding gland secretion in your body, takes place in a matter of seconds. This is one reason why Aromatherapy can be so powerful in effecting change to your mental, emotional and physical state.
Essential oils that are grounding tend to be derived from tree bark, needles and resin. Or they come from the roots and rhizomes of herbaceous plants. No surprise here. Nature is wise that way, creating what we need to ground with her quickly, leaving clear clues for us to find it. She literally seems to be saying, "Make like a tree and get rooted."
Here are my favourite essential oils that provide grounding and the Free Lion Scents that holds each one
Cedarwood has been used traditionally by Native Americans for its spiritual energy. It is grounding and centering while also helping to open the upper chakras. The Druids believed Cedar to be a relative of the Tree of Life, holding an energy that is deep, ancient, and protective. Cedarwood essential oil brings forth feelings of safety, grounding, support, love, and comfort. Its fragrance is purifying and safeguarding. It powerfully facilitates deep connection to the wisdom and sacred truths of the earth.
I use this one a lot. You'll find it in our Rose Garden, Sandalwood, Citrus Cedarwood and Tofino Breeze blends as an anchoring base note.
Fern is a staple of Native American self-care preparations. Spiritually and energetically, Fern helps build an earth-sky connection between that in you which needs to soar free, and that which needs to stay anchored and stable so that you don't lose your way home.
It's a much lighter scent, leafy and herbaceous. a "green" sort of smell. I use it in our Namika scent blend to give some grounding depth to green tea and jasmine.
Juniper Berry is the oil of transitions and new beginnings. Its warm and comforting smell evokes feelings of safety and security, like being in the presence of tall trees standing guard. Juniper berry is a powerful tool to purify, cleanse and detoxify the body, mind, spirit and environment. It supports us during times of stress, works to calm negative emotions and facilitates communication between the heart and mind.
It has a slightly fruity note to its otherwise woody smell, giving it a gentler presence. You'll find it in our Rain City and dancing with the citrus notes in our Citrus Cedarwood
Pine instantly connects on the deepest level with hundreds of years of tree wisdom with its restorative assistance and present-time perfection. Revered by Native Americans as the "Tree of Peace," this nourishing oil expands the chest as you inhale the fresh scent of revitalizing evergreen. I use it in our Rain City blend.
Frankincense is said to hold the wisdom of the universe, reconnecting you with spirit. It is elevating yet calming and grounding. It helps remove blocks and negativity to support faith and trust, creative vision and concentration. Frankincense was used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks as an offering to the gods. It is said that it was gifted to Jesus by one of the three wise men.
The scent is less woody and more resinous. You'll find it in our Citrus Cedarwood and gently grounding the sweet, warm tones in our Mombasa.
Oak Moss evokes the scent of the wet forest, truly connecting you with the earth. It helps us connect with the earth plane, and to realize that we are on earth for a reason. I use it in our Tofino Breeze.
OUD or AGARWOOD
Oud or Agarwood is known for its spiritual and calming properties. It is used to clear the negative and destructive energies that surround the human aura, while increasing mental functionality, and a feeling of harmony and contentment.
I have a huge attachment to the smell of Oud. It reminds me of sacred ceremony. You'll find it in our Mombasa, in a sacred dance with Frankincense.
Patchouli has a comforting yet stimulating scent that supports both creativity and sensuality. It is both balancing and grounding, helping with manifestation of earthly matters. Basically, it helps you ground your creative intention. You might be able to feel this one in your Sacral Chakra too, just below your belly button. You'll find it in our Sandalwood blend.
Sandalwood evokes sacred, wise energy. Both grounding and spiritual, it is a wonderful aid in mediation or to create a sacred space. Sandalwood is an aroma that is said to stretch out into the universe, into the hallowed space between heaven and earth, connecting you with your divine presence. What a way to meet your inner voice! You'll find it in our Sandalwood blend
What are your favourite Essential Oils to use for Grounding?
A few little things you can do for yourself everyday to enhance your wellbeing while replenishing and protecting your skin
The secret to being naturally beautiful rests not in a jar of expensive creams. Rather it is in a few little things you can do for yourself everyday to enhance your wellbeing while replenishing and protecting your skin from damage. So here are seven healthy habits that will leave you feeling and looking your best, naturally.
1. SLEEP IT OFF
A night of tossing and turning and a mirror check in the morning is all you need to understand just how much your skin needs a good night's sleep. A 2013 case study says as much. In a first-of-its-kind clinical trial, physician-scientists found that sleep quality impacts skin function and aging. The study, commissioned by Estee Lauder, demonstrated that not having enough sleep increased signs of skin aging and slowed recovery from a variety of environmental stressors, such as disruption of the skin barrier or ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Those were just the physical symptoms. Not having enough sleep also decreased energy levels and sense of confidence and self worth. It was easier for a tired person to look in the mirror and find fault than someone who was de-stressed by complete rest. So in short, sleep well because it will help your skin, mind and spirit regenerate.
2. SWEAT IT OUT
Your Skin is your body's largest organ. Just as exercise keeps your other organs, like the heart, in healthy form, it also enhances the skin's ability to repair the effects of aging and other damage. In fact, the moment your heart starts beating faster, muscles pump out more of a protein (IL-15) that powers your skin cells' mitochondria to act youngerâover time, that can make skin some 25 years younger at the microscopic level, according to a study at McMaster University in Ontario.
You don't have to go crazy on cardio for your skin to get the benefit of exercise and increased oxygenation in your body. Pick something that works for you and do it regularly. Consistent exercise will likely help on the sleep front, too.
Also, consider hitting the sauna or the steam room on a regular basis (though in this COVID period, a steaming hot shower could do the trick, too). It's a lot like having a facial but for the whole body. Fifteen minutes in the steam room opens pores, increases sweating, stimulates circulation, and eliminates toxins. The elevated heat and the increased sweating and circulation stimulates the reproduction of collagen and deeply cleanses and rejuvenates your skin.
3. WALK IN THE SHADE
Protect your skin from the sun with sunscreen, yes. But also by covering up with long flowing garments or a sun parasol. Don't forget your sunglasses for UV protection (and the fashion factor). And when you're outdoors, seek shade, especially between 10am and 4 pm. It would be a good time to go for a grounding forest bathing walk. Here are some summer shading suggestions from our Wild Beauty Blog, Three Chill Ways to Protect your Skin from the Sun.
4. STAY HYDRATED
Keep the water going all summer long. If you're not a big fan of plain water, add fruit to create a lovely tasting fruit infused beverage. Or add a little bit of fruit juice to your water in a 1:4 proportion.
If you're feeling a bit weak out there in the sun, your body may be low on electrolytes. Stay away from the Gatorade, though--it's full of sugar which causes other skin issues. Instead, consider throwing a Hydralyte tablet into your water bottle. Hydralyte is a Canadian made fizzy tablet, formulated with the right balance glucose and electrolytes for rapid rehydration. Thom uses it frequently through the summer, as heat and dehydration can exacerbate his MS symptoms. But it's brilliant for anyone who needs a little boost in the hydration department.
5. DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY
When you're stressed, cortisol goes up and does a number on your collagen proteins, causing dry skin and wrinkles. So find ways to bring your stress levels down.
Meditation with deep breathing helps calm your cortisol count while oxygenating your body. It can also help you get a good night's sleep. Book a massage or a hair cut or any other self-care service that you find relaxing. Hit the yoga mat at home or join a socially distanced Tai Chi class. Sing out loud or dance up a storm all over the living room furniture. Binge watch something hilarious. Or get on computer and hilari-chat it up with your besties.
Again, choose your stress reliever (one or more) and engage regularly and consistently.
6. SCRUB AWAY THOSE DEAD SKIN BLUES
Skin cells turn over constantly, and sometimes they need help to fully slough off. Give your skin an assist and exfoliate once or twice a week. For a scrub and polish, try Free Lion Namika Salt Scrub. It's formulated with some old-school Japanese beauty care ingredients like adzuki bean flour, rice flour and seaweed. The scent is a delightful blend of green tea and jasmine. Or try our Lavender Salt Scrub. This one is blended with clay and apricot kernel shells. The scent is pure relaxation as only Lavender can deliver. If you have sensitive skin, try our Rose Garden Sugar Scrub. It's blended with some skin soothing oat and chickpea flour. The scent is both grounding and uplifting. And you want to wake up your skin and smooth out that bumpy cellulite look, give our Espresso Sugar Scrub a go. It's a caramel macchiato for your skin!
7. CULTIVATE KINDNESS AND GRATITUDE
When you can, reach out to someone to lend a hand, an ear or your heart. Things are difficult for many people these days and a kind, friendly word can help make all the difference--to them and to you. When we give of ourselves and connect with others, we get to step out of our own stories for a while and experience the reality of our interconnectedness. This is especially important during this COVID period when isolation feelings can be overwhelming.
Bookend your day with all the things in your life you are grateful for. Write them down or simply affirm them to yourself. This simple ritual will help clear the anxiety clouds of future thinking and open you up to receive the best the universe has to offer in this moment now. Your heart (and your skin) will thank you.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
Resmaa Menakem on healing black and white trauma; Austin Channing Brown and Brené Brown on the humanist work of anti-racism; Brené Brown on shame and accountability
This week has been a bit of a roller coaster ride--again--as our human story unfolds. Things are opening up a little as we venture into Phase 2 of the COVID response plan. As expected, new case numbers have spiked in various locations, causing adjustments in the plan. I am grateful to be living in BC where Dr. Bonnie Henry has been so pro-active about maintaining our health protocols.
Truthfully, I have enjoyed the "sheltering at home" period, the quietness in the world, the songs of the birds being so audible in the city, the decrease in traffic and road rage, the care people have shown for one another. This pace feels "normal" to me, what life should be like so that we can stay grounded, connected and not lose our minds in stress frenzies. My neighbours have been echoing much the same and are not eager to return to how things were. They've enjoyed the experience of being at home with their families; homeschooling; taking classes online; working from home; having the Canadian governments use taxpayer money to bail Us, the citizens, out (for a change). They, like me, are wanting a revisioned new normal.
Ignited by the anti-racism protests currently occurring all over the world, my desire also extends to wanting to write racism (and every other divisive "ism") out of our new normal. As a person of colour, anti-racism work, in all its complex nuances, has been a part of my life since childhood. It hasn’t been easy or fun. It’s actually been exhausting--but necessary. Without standing up for myself as often as I have, I'm not sure I would still be here, self-value more or less in tact. Along the way, I have met amazing people of colour who have been willing to do the hard work of standing up against relentless systemic behemoths, only to be beaten down time and time again, but relentlessly rise up and do it again; and white people, who have been willing to do the hard work to unlearn racism and become an ally, standing in that interstitial space between the oppressor and the oppressed.
In my walk so far, I have found that we are more alike than different. We are a human family, as Dr. Maya Angelou has said, albeit a dysfunctional one. But as in all dysfunctional families, repair is possible with a lot of hard work. It seems to me that in order to revision a new normal, we’re going to have to dismantle the old one, its inequities and systemic abuses. Its going to take a lot of honest introspection and perspective shifting grounded in a vision of unity, equity and love. For in the end, fear isolates; Love liberates.
1. Resmaa Menakem: Notice the Rage; Notice the Silence
First, a perspective-shifting interview with Resmaa Menakem, trauma specialist and author of My Grand Mother’s Hands. In his examination of why anti-racism work hasn’t taken root, so to speak in the last 20 years of equity movements, he speaks about the trauma of Racism as it lives in both the oppressor and the oppressed. I’d never thought about it this way before but as soon as he said it, I thought, “Of course, it makes sense.”
Trauma, he tells us, is stored in the DNA for generations, it’s role being to inform our survival reactions in the here and now. So a trauma that might have terrified an ancestor becomes recorded in our DNA which, in turn, triggers our own survival mechanisms. In order for us to heal division in our human family, we have to heal that trauma that signals danger, causing us to fight or flight. Resmaa Menakem is working with old wisdom and very new science about our bodies, our nervous systems, and all that we condense into the word “race" to offer us the possibility of change, beginning at a cellular level.
Using a gradual process, we can learn to take our survival reactions off autopilot by observing and noticing the trauma reaction, moving the body itself to unlock stored trauma, and then choosing to replace the trauma reaction with mindful, loving responses (not reactions) that fall in the realm of what Angel Davis calls Radical Self Care. Menakem shows us the possibility of being able to change and let go of our collective traumas.
Having been through trauma recovery counselling myself, I can tell you that this method--slowing down, noticing and then making a choice to respond rather than react on the survival fight or flight autopilot--is crucial to transforming traumatic experience into lived wisdom. It takes time, but once it's done, the effects are far reaching and profound. And without diffusing trauma reactions, we will have trouble hearing each other rationally.
2. Brené Brown with Austin Channing Brown on I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Brené Brown’s podcast interview with Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, is an exercise of witnessing one way in which hearing each other across the race divide gets done. Austin Channing Brown is a writer, speaker, media producer, thought leader on racial justice in America is invited to share the Brené Brown mike. They have worked together on the issue of race before and have a lovely back-and-forth banter.
Their conversation raised a crucial point for my exhausted Social Justice worker self: The work of un-learning Racism is about being a better human. That’s it, plain and simple, period. It’s not about shaming or blaming or maiming. It is simply about the will and desire to be a better human being and to make sure that everybody, regardless of colour, has the space to experience and just be without fear, dignity and self-worth in tact.
3. Brené Brown on Shame and Accountability
In another podcast about unlearning racism directed mainly at her white audience, Brené Brown continues on, examining the role that Shame plays in accountability, through examples from her own life. One of the main nuggets is that being held accountable or called out on Racism is not the same as being shamed, even though one’s ego’s survival self-defense mechanism might get triggered. As a shame expert, she unpacks this part of the human psyche in a way that is succinct and easy to follow; and she shares her strategies for bringing her thinking brain back on line after a survival trigger has gone off. She's also echoing much of what Resmaa Menakem is saying about defusing trauma reactions.
I share these resources because they put into words some important tools that can help us navigate times of flux and change. For it’s not just racism that is falling apart as a system of control right now. All other "isms" are up for review too: sexism, homophobia, trans-phobia, casteism, cultural phobias, and the list goes on. In short, any difference that has been exploited by power hegemonies to ostracize, divide, conquer and control segments of the human family. My hope is that if we can actually transform some of this division trauma in ourselves, we might actually be in a place to collaboratively revision and reinvent our world from a place of love and not fear, a place where there is enough for everyone, where the dogs no longer have to eat dogs. The new normal.
How’s your week been?
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
WHY USE FACIAL OILS?
The ancients in just about every culture all over the globe kept their skin vibrant and flawless with plant Oils. And this old-school beauty secret is making a pretty big comeback right now. It is concentrated nutrition for your skin that can mean the difference between dull and healthy, glowing skin. Here why to include facial oils in your skin care routine, no matter what your skin type.
YOUR SKIN NEEDS OILS TO BE ITS BEST SELF
Your skin’s epidermis generates its own oils to keep you safe from germs and dehydration. Think of your skin as your body’s shield. When your skin gets attacked or neglected it becomes:
In short, it's not a happy scenario. Here's where adding Facial Oils to your skin care routine can really help. The outermost layers of your skin are composed of fatty acids, cholesterol and ceramides, all of which can be found in natural oils. Facial Oils work with your skin, not against it. There's a false belief that putting oil on your skin will cause a break out. But this is far from the case. When you give your skin an ingredient like plant oils with high Omega fatty acids, you’re feeding it something it is already familiar with and knows how to use. Your skin takes in these nutrients fairly quickly and uses them to restore itself to optimum health.
A good facial oil contains plant oils with high levels of Omega fatty acids, antioxidants and skin repairers, all chosen for your skin type and its specific needs. Using one regularly can keep your skin healthy, soft and smooth by replenishing your skin’s natural oil content. Facial oils can help to:
That’s a lot of amazing work being done for your skin, isn’t it? Other bonuses include that you don't need much of it do the job. And the oils facilitate giving yourself a lovely facial massage to improve circulation and drain facial glands, which, in turn, improves your overall health.
Free Lion Facial Oils are a carefully chosen blend of plant oils that are highly effective while respecting your skin’s biology and needs. The ingredients lists for each blend tell you which oils are in there and what they will do for your skin type. If you have any questions, feel free to fire me an email here.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team.
CHOOSE CALM AND CONNECTED THROUGH COVID19
As the COVID19 story unfolds, many of us are feeling a little stressed out and scared. The words "lock down" have a decidedly negative, trapped feel to them. I came across a wonderful, positive alternative today in my internet travels: Safe Harbour. We are currently anchored in the safe harbour of our homes until the storm passes.
Humanity has an amazing ability to rise above adversity and be our best selves. I see so many examples out there of people pulling together and reaching out in different ways to help and support each other, often without even being in the same room. I’m feeling hopeful.
Here are a few some resources to help you and your loved ones keep stress levels down and some feel good articles to keep your spirits up.
TURN OFF THE NEWS FOR A WHILE
Words illicit feelings which in turn affect our bodies and frame of mind. So in a time such as this one, it can be a good idea to download less negative information and open yourself up to more positive messages. Happiness hormones really help us on the health front. So turn off the news for a while. That doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore what’s going on in the world. It just means give yourself a break from stressful mass media messages. Check in once a day for a short period of time just to be updated and then get on with the rest of your day.
SING, SING OUT LOUD
According to Uplift Connect, “The neuroscience of singing shows that when we sing our neurotransmitters connect in new and different ways. It fires up the right temporal lobe of our brain, releasing endorphins that make us smarter, healthier, happier and more creative. When we sing with other people this effect is amplified”.
People in Europe know the score on this one. Here are some feel-good stories from Europe of people joining in song together. In Italy, people have been singing or jamming together across balconies. In Milan, a DJ played music for the neighbourhood, while in Florence, a tenor gave a beautifully moving concert of Nessim Dorma.
Inspired by the singing in Italy, Bono has written a new song called Let Your Love Be Known. The song was released on St. Patrick’s Day so that people could continue celebrating despite not being able to gather in the same room. It was posted on U2’s Instagram page.
SHAKE YOUR GROOVE THING
Get yourself and the kids moving. Random acts of dancing (my go-to) can be really helpful in times of stress. From Arthur Murray Dance Centers, “...dance has the ability to act as a stress reliever stems from the idea that when the body feels good, the mind does, too. Any type of physical activity releases neurotransmitters and endorphins which serve to alleviate stress. Neurotransmitters are chemicals within the brain that help communicate messages throughout the body. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller to reduce stress and improve the mind’s perception of the world. Thus, after a good workout the endorphins cause the body to feel calm and optimistic. The endorphins also aid in improving the quality of sleep, so that a few sleepless nights due to stress can be avoided after dancing!” So put your favourite tunes on and let ‘er rip!
In Seville, Spain, a fitness instructor led a workout for quarantined citizens. Closer to home in Vancouver, Canada, VYVE is hosting a virtual dance party on March 20. Turn up the tunes and have a romp around the living room.
PRACTICE PEACE, GET GRATEFUL AND HELP WHERE YOU CAN
Meditation and deep breathing techniques are really useful right now. These are practices that allow us to connect with our intuition and inner knowledge. It also helps keep us calm. This would be a great time to teach these tools to your kids. According to the Chopra Center, meditation gives “…kids the tools to help them fend off negative thoughts and behaviors, build self-confidence, focus, and treat others and themselves with respect and appreciation is a gift they will have for the rest of their lives.” They offer three kid-friendly meditations to try.
Practicing gratitude in times of uncertainty is a really great way to stay focused on the positive. Try journaling, writing down all the people and things in your life you are grateful for. Take the time to expand your list with why you are grateful for them. When you feel anxiety, return to your list to remind yourself of what’s most important to you. And when its possible, share your gratitude. Let people know what you appreciate most about them.
In Spain, people felt it important to express their gratitude for their hardworking, dedicated health professionals. They came out collectively onto their balconies at 10pm to applaud and thank them.
There are many of us coming together in the community to help each other out. In Vancouver, Canada, a FaceBook group, Caremongering YVR - Vancouver Community Response to COVID19, offers a place for people to connect and help each other. A similar one has been set up in North Vancouver, COVID19 Coming Together. Look for similar groups in your neighbourhood. I’m sure they are out there. Because kind and giving is just who most of us really are!
Don't feel like you have to help in a big way right now, unless you feel called to do so. Every little thing helps, like calling your friends and family and checking in with them; and observing self-isolation protocols and your self-care rituals. Don't let fear over take you, even in the grocery aisle. Take only what you need and leave some things for others, even the toilet paper! Be as considerate and loving as you can.
As for me, I’m at home looking after my loved ones, checking in with family, friends and neighbours and helping where and how I can. At home, we’ve divided up chores and responsibilities and we’re doing a lot more cooking (also a time for Kitchen Dance Party and Sing A Long). Davida and Zak just made a most beautiful, tasty braided cheesy garlic and herb bread. Thom and I are spending time in the garden. He needs those Vitamin D rays; I’m getting ready for planting season. I find it reassuring that despite all this, Mother Earth just keeps going. If you pull the camera out a bit, you might see a silver lining: all of us staying at home is giving the Earth some space to clear up some of our mess. Let's not get in her way.
I wrote a poem that I want to share with you, if you don’t mind.
Birds have come to life in Wuhan
Singing the earth back into health
Swans and the dolphins frolic in the canals
loving the earth with their joy
Smog rolls away in Shanghai
Letting the light back in
Neighbours sing to each other from balconies
Reminding us that we are in this together
Families dance around the living room
Snatching fears back from the unknown
This love that powers our planet
This is who we truly are.
Stay healthy, stay calm and keep singing! We are in this together.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team