Things to worry about

Today is a sweet little girl’s second birthday. Fili can’t read just yet, although she can sing and dance and sign and hug and love with amazing dexterity and enthusiasm. This is for her, and for all of us – some wise words to remind us every day.




Happy birthday Fili!!


Photo credit: K Leoungk

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Can Botox affect your ability to empathise?



In our flat when we’ve had a long, hardworking day a favourite pass time is to pop on a movie and look for sensational facial over-acting. This works best when it’s a Nicole Kidman movie and not so well when it’s Pixar’s Cars. TV shows also provide ample scenes; I have recently discovered Franklin & Bash, which has a refreshing amount of wrinkles on show (plus I think the show is brilliant). Flexible face acting I call it, because once the emphasis has been registered, the forehead bounces back to being lovely smooth china with not a ripple in sight.


Do wrinkles tell the story of the face’s adventures?


I have met quite a few people who have had Botox or would definitely contemplate it, including one lovely person who had it done “just to see what it felt like”. I care about the effects of ageing as much as the next person, but injecting myself with botulinum toxin has never appealed.


Last month I wrote about preliminary research that suggested having more wrinkles was associated with a lower bone mineral density in early menopausal women. Now it turns out that having Botox to paralyze facial muscles also make it harder to read other people’s emotions.

I know- you should have heard my surprise as well. I imagined the research would’ve shown it was harder for others to read the emotions of the Botoxed one, but the other way around? It appears that Botox interrupts our “embodied cognition” which is when we mimic someone else’s facial expression to empathize with their emotions.  Neuroscientist Tanya L Chartrand, who published the study with her colleague David T Neal, describes it as: “So if you are wincing in pain I immediately do a micro-wince, and that sends signals to my brain that this person is experiencing pain, and by experiencing it myself I now understand what you are going through”.


This interference leads to people who have had Botox finding it harder to relate to others. This goes to show that things we do to our bodies have a ripple effect, good and bad. A person may decide to join the gym and exercise more to lose some weight and find that they have more energy and over time, perhaps a greater sense of self-confidence that helps them ride out the bumps in everyday life. Conversely many people might consider Botox another tool to fight ageing but don’t realize that its effects could appear below the surface.


Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This doesn’t have to apply only to physics, and the reaction may not be exactly opposite, but like in TCM, we understand that everything has a cause and effect. What do you think- would you have Botox knowing that it can hamper your relationships? Or do you think empathy comes in different ways?


You can read the full interview with Tanya L Chartrand here.

Photo credit: C Dekeersmaeker via flickr

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What would Florence Nightingale do?


Image: K Leoungk


Today is the centenary of  Florence Nightingale’s death. Nightingale’s theories and teachings are over a century old and yet it still has relevance in today’s society.

It seems incredible that before she came on the scene, washing hands and general cleanliness was not the norm in the first line of defense against infection. Incredulously, the ritual of hand washing seems now to have been lost on an entire generation or more. I myself have witnessed more than enough adults who seem unaware or unconcerned about the virtues of soapy water, especially in public places.


She also embraced the holistic approach of treating patients as a whole rather than just as parts. She recognized when treating injured soldiers during the Crimean War that their mental stability was just as important as their physical injuries. This approach is akin to that of traditional acupuncturists. We have long understood that sometimes, if you just treat the symptoms the problem may lessen, but rarely does it go away. Instead you have need to treat the root of the problem.

Nightingale advocated prevention over cure which is the fundamental logic of traditional acupuncture. Illness and ill health occur when the flow of qi is obstructed but if you can regulate qi so that it doesn’t even have the chance to to be blocked then you lower the likelihood of becoming unwell.

What would the nursing pioneer think if she were alive today? Would she be aghast that after all this time, hospital staff still need to be taught that cleanliness is of the utmost importance when it should be in society’s fibers? Would she wonder at the understaffed clinics and surgeries when the waiting time is endless and the consultation time is not even a fraction of that.


Or would she be glad that although it’s been a long time coming (in the West at least) we are remembering that nature is good for us. People in urban areas are making an effort to go to parks or further afield to the countryside. We are starting to understand that under the surface of every symptom, there is a person with a unique character. Would she be pleased that we also regained the knowledge that food is also a type of medicine. Better to eat fish than to take loads of omega-3 supplements. But even better is the fact that people at least try to take supplements. Our health is our responsibility – professionals are just there to better guide us along. 


Other posts you may be interested in:

Health and wellbeing | Six things we can learn from a construction site

East Meets West | The development of traditional Chinese medicine in the west