Pointspace’s January roundup | Rudeness, yoga and acupuncture for migraine

Light_tower

 

1.  Did you set yourself some resolutions this year? Apparently around the third week of January was when most people broke theirs, and it appears that’s because they ran out of willpower. Studies of past resolutions suggest that it’s much more effective to play offense and to fend off temptations before they occur, rather than try to exert willpower which is definitely not limitless.

 

2.  Like the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings on one continent and cause a hurricane on another, small things we deem insignificant can have quite an effect on us. We all know that having one or two extra cookie with our tea is naughty but having one or two packets a day would be a health luxury few of us can afford. Or we may snap at an unfortunate person unlucky enough to be the last straw in an incredibly trying day. That was a bit rude but hopefully you did remember to apologize quite soon after the fact. 

A new study has shown that workplace rudeness can have a ripple effect. An unpleasant colleague’s behaviour can travel with you to affect your personal life too.

 

3.  A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that acupuncture is an effective treatment for migraines. 480 patients with migraine were randomly assigned to have “true” acupuncture or sham acupuncture. While both types of acupuncture seemed to have an effect on the patients, the “real” acupuncture groups reported doing slightly better. More studies will be needed to make the finding conclusive but it’s heartening to see clinical studies being trialled.

 

4.  Quite a bit of furore was caused this month when the New York Times published an article stating that yoga can damage your body. Although I believe it was a bit sensationalist it does raise awareness that not all holistic therapies and practices are equal. The most important message here is, as with ALL things, to find a properly trained and qualified professional who is skilled in their chosen field and can provide you with a safe environment. This says it all really: “In an industry where there is cursory certification and no official licensing, yoga teachers can become “qualified” with a 200-hour online course.

 

5. The brain is a delightful organ, and my brain delights in the unexpected. This Youtube clip is a wonderful example of combining two familiar things, you’ll never think of Old MacDonald’s farm in the same way.

 

Photo credit: CJ Schmit via flickr 

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Pointspace’s monthly roundup | December

Geese_christmas

 

1.  The past few weeks may have seen you dashing around town trying to fit friends and office parties around your diary. Often it will involve drinks and most probably food as well. Then there’s also the cakes and pies scattered everywhere, in the workplace, at the supermarkets, sometimes in the queue when you’re lining up to pay for presents. So why is there so much more of an eating aspect in the winter?

 

2.  In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the kidney is most susceptible to the cold and injury in the winter. Amazing as it may seem, winter has just started (December 22 was the winter solstice) so here are some tips from acupuncturist Boynn McIntire on maintaining kidney health in the winter.

 

3.  A cancer diagnosis can be completely devastating and with the pounding the body takes both from the illness and the treatment, it’s not surprising that fatigue is by far the most common symptom affecting cancer patients. For many cancer-related fatigue is the most distressing factor as it drains the person relentlessly so that they are unable to enjoy simple daily activities that we take for granted. As such, acupuncture has been researched as an option to help provide relief for cancer patients.

 

4.  Are you planning on having some health resolutions for the New Year? Some of you may know that I advocate having implementing lifestyle changes in September where the days aren’t as short and we haven’t just been bombarded by all the rush of the festive season, but any positive change is better than none at all so take a look at these nutrition and fitness resolutions for 2012.

 

5. Take a look at this brilliantly relaxing video and I dare you not to have a silly giggle. 

 

Have a peaceful and happy New Year!!

 

Photo credit: zenera via flickr

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Pointspace’s monthly roundup | November

Feather

 

Bonfire Night, pointspace turns one, mild weather, the turning on of Christmas lights all around London. It has been a particularly delightful November this year.

 

1.  In case you need even more reason to avoid sugary beverages, a new study has found that women who drank two or more sweet drinks (sweet tea, soft drinks, coffee drinks that look like desserts) were at an increased risk of heart disease even if they did not gain weight. Even more reason to kick that caramel frappuccino habit.

 

2.  Saunas always evoke that lovely feeling of calmness and maturity for me (there was no way you could get my 15-year-old self to sit there and just be for more than five minutes). It turns out that saunas really can improve your mood and your heart by improving your heart function by increasing the heart’s ability to pump blood (and boosting the amount of exercise you can do) as well as allowing the body to release more serotonin (the happiness molecule).


3.  What is your view on the nature or nurture discussion? Well when it comes to your health, it may appear that your living conditions as a child does have an impact on your biological being, more specifically your DNA.

 

4.  Stress has been in the top three of health concerns I’ve seen amongst my clients this year, regardless of what their actual main health reason was when coming to see me. How does traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and acupuncture approach stress? At its simplest, as with a lot of disease and disorders, it’s down to an imbalance. This easy to understand article, by acupuncturist Janis Egan, gives quite a good explanation of the concept.

 

5.  Video: Work out like a Hong Kong action hero. I came across this set of exercise routines from Michael Nevermind (that’s his name, not because I couldn’t be bothered to write it up). It seems like a great fun way to work up the heart rate in your living room, shades optional. 

 

6. And finally, something truly inspiring: watch this video of what a simple bottle can do.


Photo credit: mendhak via flickr

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Pointspace’s October round-up

Pumpkin_fest_day

 

October was a wonderful month of purpleness: I had my fill of lovely figs before the season ended, yummy grilled aubergines topped with feta cheese, tomatoes and finely diced onions, and the London sky was painted a gorgeous purple-pink during quite a few twilights.

 

1.  A civil society needs the kindness of strangers and acquaintances. The quality of tiny interactions in shops and streets seriously affects our daily wellbeing. No wonder we’re anxious about it.


2. 
An interesting study published in the Archive of Internal Medicine found that older women who used common dietary supplements died at slightly higher rates than women who did not rely on supplements. Other studies have not shown such a dramatic result and the authors note that other factors could have been affected the outcome. However it does raise the question whether one should concentrate more on having a healthy diet instead of taking supplements.

 

3.  Botox is no longer limited to celebrities or those who have a particularly rugged “lived-in” look. It’s no longer age or gender that determines whether someone considers using Botox, it’s a simple principle of whether or not you want to inject yourself with chemicals for a “perfect” face. Just recently I met a 22 year female who told me she had had Botox on her forehead and around her eyes(!).

However, could Botox suddenly stop working after a few years of treatments? According to dermatologist Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, “Studies have indicated that if people are injected with dosages of 100 units of Botox or more, the body will start to react against the product and increase antibody production. This means that after subsequent injections, the Botox will stop working. Muscles will start to recover rapidly, and the muscles that you injected won’t react the way they did the first time.” 

 

4.  Brrr it’s cold and the door draught excluder is out! Perfect time to make a pumpkin spice latte, mmm.

 

5.  And finally, from Fauja Singh who completed a full marathon in Toronto this month, aged 100: “The secret to a long and healthy life is to be stress-free. If there’s something you can’t change then why worry about it? Be grateful for everything you have, stay away from people who are negative, stay smiling and keep running.”

Happy Halloween everyone!

 

Photo credit: Helena Price via flickr

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Pointspace’s monthly roundup | September

Fairway

 

After the calm of the summer, London sprang back into life. I settled into my new neighbourhoods of Marylebone and Regent’s Park and explored quiet side streets with my kick-scooter (which has now become quite famous at The Hale Clinic). London Fashion Week and the impossibly fashionable crowd came and went. Autumn made an appearance with crisp mornings but much more favourable afternoons than we’ve had all summer.

 

What else caught my eye this month?

 

Growing up, September was always a time of anticipation. After having devoured all eight books that I had borrowed from the school library (that was the maximum allowed over the summer holidays and I was meant to ration them) within the first week, it wouldn’t be long before I yearned to be back in school.

 

I was a model student and I relished learning. Aside from PE and French III, there was probably not a single subject I didn’t enjoy, and I never encountered the stereotypical attitude of humanities versus science. The rarity of having not just one but quite a few great teachers probably had something to do with my love of books and knowledge.


I also spent my entire education from grades 1 – 12 walking through the same corridors and eating from the same canteen; and if that wasn’t enough, it was a small school with the entire student population in my final year never topping 130. I don’t think I fully appreciated the nurturing atmosphere of such a small-knit community (after all my first grade teacher was still there when I graduated high school) but I am certain that experience has played a large part in shaping the person that I am today.


I can clearly remember the time we painted Mr Men characters onto panes of glass in the windows of our classroom and also five years later when Mike and I accidentally broke the window of another classroom with a misjudged catch of the volleyball. I remember my father teaching me the multiplication table when we waited at the airport during a particularly heavy snowfall and then reciting them to an amazed Mrs Kalamboukas a year later.


I remember first learning about recessive and dominant genes of hamsters in the sixth grade and then rediscovering them (and fruitflies) in more detail in the eighth grade and again in the tenth grade. I remember how we never managed to squeeze much World History into one academic year but 250 years of American History seemed to drag on and on. I remember jamming my finger during volleyball practice and having the most peculiar handwriting for an entire month. I remember loving the language of algebra and trigonometry and then the dismay at the gibberish (to me) of pre-calculus. I remember giving the speech as valedictorian of my graduating class and the sense of excitement at a decidedly close of one chapter and the beginning of another narrative.


1.  Imagine then if I forgot everything. Not just the memories and smells and laughter, but all the knowledge. Imagine not remembering how to tie your shoelaces or tell time, not being able to use a protractor or use a computer. Su Meck, now an undergraduate at Smith College in Massachusetts USA, recounts in this New York Times artilce how a freak accident wiped away her entire memory of the past 23 years of her life.

 

2.  Those of you who know me would know I am not entirely pleased with the overuse of antibiotics and the growing resistance of superbugs to antibiotics is a very true and alarming fact. Now research is also showing that antibiotics is permanently altering the state of our gut, which in turn may lead to an increase in allergies,  asthma and weight gain.

 

3.  I came across this really well explained exercise that can help if you experience back pain. It’s also a good reminder that staying active and moving is never a bad thing for your body.


4.  We are often told that beauty is skin deep and is only in the eye of the beholder, but research is showing that the beauty routines (whether it’s a lovely eye cream or having a facial acupuncture treatment) are an important part of our daily “self-care”. Self-care, as defined by Michelle Segar PhD, a behavioural psychologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, is “any activity that nurtures, restores and truly feeds the self.” This is why something as simple as a pedicure or a new shade of lipstick can make you feel good. She argues that taking care of yourself (whether through facial treatments or exercise) will make you look better and therefore make you feel better.


5.  Sara Calabro is an acupuncturist based in Oregon, USA. Here she writes a lovely article describing the importance and effects of autumn on our bodies from Chinese medicine’s point of view.

 

6.  In our busy lives trying to fit in work, family, friends it is so easy to forget to stop and enjoy the simple things. I discovered this short video, Industrial Revolutions, showcasing Danny MacAskill’s amazing talents and it is an absolute delight. Watch it, let your eyes soak in the colours and tap your foot to the music, you can’t not feel better afterwards.

 

Photo credit: Nana B Agyei via flickr

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Pointspace’s monthly roundup | August

Sunflowers

 

So September is fast approaching and hopes of an Indian summer are becoming more and more unrealistic. I have been caught out in more downpours this month than I probably have all year but I have also discovered the most amazing honey mangoes from Pakistan (not the ones from supermarkets). I’m afraid I’ve become quite a bore raving on and on about them, but they are little morsels of sunshine.

 

What discoveries have you made this month?

 

Summer fires in Greece are, unfortunately, an annual occurrence. The dry arid weather with weeks and sometimes months of no rain combined with secluded areas of pine trees with dropped pine needles that carpet the forest ground make it the perfect setting for that casually flicked cigarette end from a passing car or bit of broken bottle harnessing the sun’s rays to start that little wisp of smoke. And as luck would have it every single time, days of stuffy stillness would be relieved with a strong cool wind which would help carry the fires further than it could imagine, and render the helicopter water rescues useless as the wind blows the large clouds of water every which way but near the fire.

One summer growing up, the forest fires decided to leave the forests of Halkidiki and creep towards the city, and specifically my neighbourhood. On the slopes of Mount Hortiatis, we were raised above the rest of Thessaloniki, and surrounded by a nest of trees that provided me with pine cones and acorns to spray paint gold and silver to my heart’s delight every Christmas (do children still make crafty presents?). The news told about yet more hectares of land burned to the ground and we wondered whether it would ever stop.

That night I remembered being woken up by an insane watermelon seller droning on about his produce through the crackly megaphone system attached to the top of his pick up truck. On and on he went without respite, at three in the morning. I turned over and drowned out his voice with my pillow.

It turns out the watermelon seller was in fact the local police who were driving up and down the streets announcing the news that the fire was indeed on our woody doorsteps and we should probably leave. Their voices were being carried out through the megaphone system making them sound exactly the same as the watermelon man (and other fruit and vegetable seller back in the day) announcing their arrival to the housewives of the neighbourhood. My parents marvel to this day how I could hear the megaphone but not the words.

1.  This article from the Guardian’s neurophilosophy blog by Mo Costandi goes into the concept that our awareness of the world around us depends on how focused our attention is. Put very simply, if you’re concentrating on one thing enough, you don’t notice other blatantly obvious things.

 

2.  I seek out interesting blogs and articles (about health, wellbeing, technology, culture, physics and kick scootering to name a few) but often it’s the comments section that is most interesting. Think of the raw unpolished diamond in the mines and that’s what some comments (and the resulting conversation) are. A recent article suggesting that chocolate can help your work out was just that.

Researchers have discovered that mice given epicatechin, a purified form of cacao’s primary nutritional ingredient were fitter than mice given only water in the same amount. Of course mice aren’t humans, but the researchers estimate that about half of one square from a normal chocolate bar could be beneficial during exercise. It’s an interesting article and the comments below were (at the time of writing) humorous and insightful. 

 

3.  The latest news of celebrities accrediting acupuncture with helping them conceive, has sparked an interest amongst women seeking help with their fertility issues. Acupuncture offers a more natural, calmer option to the costs and side effects of conventional medicine’s options for infertility, as shown in this article from USA Today.

 

4.  I watched “My Life As A Turkey” which followed biologist Joe Hutto as he hatched a batch of wild turkey eggs to the day they left home. It was full of Hutto’s easy charm, wonder and heartbreak. Amongst the backdrop of the Florida Everglades, Hutto mused: “So many of us live either in the past or in the future and betray the moment. And in some sense, we forget to live our lives. And the wild turkeys were always reminding me to live my life. I think as humans we have this peculiar predisposition to be always thinking ahead and living a little bit in the future, anticipating the next minute, the next hour the next day and we betray the moment… And the wild turkeys reminded me to present. To be here.”

I think that’s a wonderful sentiment. I always plan with one eye on the future, but I think there is great value in remembering to stop and enjoy the moment. It’s a wonderful documentary and I urge you to seek it out (available on BBC iplayer until September 14).

 

Photo credit: Per Ola Wiberg via flickr

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Pointspace’s monthly roundup | July

Potpurri

 

Greetings everybody! We are officially past the mid-way point of the year which of course means some stores will soon have Christmas decorations up. For once this doesn’t seem quite that out of place this year, what with the lovely Arctic weather we seem to be getting.

 

What has caught my eye this month? 

 

July is my month, my birthday is on the 16th and every year I make sure you know about it. I suspect people expect me to lose enthusiasm for it but I doubt I ever will. Being a July baby means it’s no easy feat to have a simple dinner as everyone is on holiday or just away to escape the city heat. But I persevere and use the entire month as an excuse to have that Peggy Porschen cupcake or that cake pop from Sukiandme.

This year I treated myself to a kick scooter and the general consensus (in my brainium) is why didn’t I get one sooner? My friend warns me I will get thunder thighs but who cares when you can feel the slight breeze going through your hair as you gently roll along a familiar stretch of the sidewalk that you never realized wasn’t entirely flat. It is great fun and I recommend you all get one.

 

Growing up it felt like I was the only one who had a summer birthday and had to have my party brought forward by over a month to make sure my classmates could attend before the end of the school year. But this year I’ve noticed quite a few taps on the shoulder from the (slightly too) helpful Facebook that Jeremy and Dian and Jon and Miltos and Mirca all have their birthdays in July.

1.  On her blog, Susan Orlean wonders whether all the Facebook prompts and nudges to remind you of a birthday make the whole act less sincere.
 

 

2.  I love London in the summertime. The days stretch longer like shadows and it’s always a pleasant experience to walk along the river at 8pm with the sunlight still going strong. It does wreck havoc on my sleep though, almost without fail I will wake up ridiculously early as the painfully brightness streams in through my bedroom windows. I know if I don’t get enough sleep I can be incredibly cranky but as it turns out, a disruption to our biological (or circadian) clocks can affect our health and wellbeing as well.

 

3.  Although a popular scenario in many novels of my childhood involving a feisty (possibly pig-tailed) overall-wearing tomboy I have never actually met someone who’s fallen into a carpet of poison ivy. I have however encountered extremely hungry mosquitoes that see me as a free buffet. Do you try to resist the temptation to scratch or do you attack the itch with ferocity? I discovered this month that there is actually a Center for the Study of Itch at the Washington University School of Medicine.

 

4.  Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) isn’t only about having acupuncture and taking Chinese herbs, your food and diet is also an important aspect of it. Think of food as medicine and it can act as the first line of defence in both the prevention and treatment of disease. I have found acupuncturist Frances Boswell’s commentary and explanations of food according to TCM extremely easy to understand without being too simplistic, especially this one on why we shouldn’t eat too many cold raw food. And her recipes sound really tasty too.


5.  Summer is walkathon season for me, and this year I walked in aid of Kidney Research UK. It was a lovely day spent along the river Thames (it was the London Bridges Walk after all) and it was great seeing all the other participants with their purple balloons. You can still donate online here, your support is greatly appreciated.

 

6. Finally, there is something terribly tranquil about this image from Brock Davis. I never had a tree house growing up, but I would certainly have been happy with this.


Photo credit: Jenny Downing via flickr 

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Pointspace’s monthly round-up | June

Sunshine_and_smiles_by_nana_b_agyei

 

The summer solstice, a red moon (which I didn’t see), Ecoli outbreak (wash your hands!), loads of rain, Wimbledon, Glastonbury, my boyfriend’s birthday and the resulting Nutella and Cinnamon Cake I baked.

 

How was June for you?

 

In the sixth grade, we got a new teacher called Ms Ann. She was a blonde, blue-eyed Scot with a strong Glaswegian accent (despite having lived in Greece for over 10 years). The very first morning she walked in and asked us to stand up and greet her with “Good morning, Ms Ann.” She would then glance at all twelve of us and reply, “Good morning, Class.” And that was how it was from that day till the following June.

Sixth grade was like being transported to some parallel universe of a rose-tinted childhood in an Enid Blyton book. Every morning consisted of answering rapid-fire multiplication table questions until you were the last one standing, and once a week we were given a new poem to learn and recite. Oh how we ravaged “A Red, Red Rose” (As fair art thou, my bony ass) and it wasn’t until a year later in the seventh grade when I fully comprehended Emily Bronte’s “Fall, leaves, fall”.

Looking back, it seems quaint and a bit twee to be standing up by our desks reciting poetry that we didn’t fully understand, repeating sounds and syllables rather than words and meaning. But those memories and the poems (!) have remained twenty years later (oh how Ms Ann would fume at using “but” in the beginning of a sentence).

1.  In her (very short) blog post, Susan Orlean contemplates on why computers and Google could never replace the human touch in helping us understand our history and our past.

 

2.  Last week I wrote how good city planning resulted in healthier and happier residents. In the same week a study revealed that city dwellers have a higher incidence of anxiety and mood disorders than those who live in a rural setting. The research involved brain scanning volunteers who lived in a range of locations while they performed difficult mathematical calculations designed to make them feel anxious. The results showed that urban participants had a more over-active amygdala (the part of the brain that senses danger) and cingulate cortex (active in emotional and cognitive tasks).

In a nutshell, the urban environment causes our amydalas to be over-stimulated which results in a higher rate of mental disorders. What are all these stress factors that are over-stimulating our systems? It could be noise, perceived levels of threat or over-crowding. So again, even more reason to have good, informed city planning that doesn’t only involve planning permission for that back extension.

 

3.  Mademoiselle Soleil de Juin (the fashionably late socialite you may know as the sun in June) finally made her entrance over the weekend (hurray). I was never in doubt that she would appear and as such already had my sun hat and sunscreen at the ready.

Despite the education and awareness of the dangers of too much sun, every year I still see painfully red skin abound framed by the inevitable white strap lines. A bit of sunlight taken sensibly is good for us, as the vitamin D gets absorbed into our systems but you still need to take precautions. This article is a nice, short way to refresh your memory on UVB and UVA and sunscreen, and finally answers that question: Is SPF 50 any better than SPF 30?


4.  In this month’s Prevention (US edition) there is an article that articulates neatly why acupuncture (and Chinese medicine) works. It also lists the health problems acupuncture is best for which include digestive issues, hot flashes, stress, anxiety, depression and the side effects of chemotherapy as well as the most famous one of all: pain.

 

5.  One of the great things about Chinese medicine is the emphasis on flexibility, the ability to mould and change for the seasons in the year and in our lives. It’s this constant changing that helps shape and strengthen our beliefs and personalities; how boring would we all be if we were exactly the same as our 16-year-old selves. This brilliant performance, available as usual on the wonderful Youtube, shows that no matter how different we think things are, there are actually quite a whole lot of things that are more similar than we think.

 

Photo credit: Nana B Agyei via flickr

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