My name is Jacqui Harwood. Some would say I’m an extraordinarily lucky 46-year old who is often mistaken for looking 35. The health revolution had my name written all over it as I graduated as the youngest in my Physiotherapy class in December 1991 just before I turned 21. Physical Therapy was a natural choice to someone drawn to helping others with their hands.
Today, I am a master of CranioSacral Therapy – yes, CranioSacral Therapy is a mouthful – so Cranio or CST for short. Sometime along the way, I survived being tossed onto the road in a hit and run accident at age 22 and discovering I had multiple sclerosis at age 30. Multiple Sclerosis is another mouthful, aka MS.
Growing well and being able to look and feel well despite these setbacks has been a glorious journey of trials and errors notwithstanding awkward moments. What has helped me to survive, I now share through my Craniosacral Therapy practice.
It may seem simplistic but I believe in Happifying your life to reach your potential.
I’ve learned that 5 essential tips can make a huge difference in your health and life and here they are:
1. Eat slowly
Eating slowly. Who does that anymore? I live in France and it used to drive me nuts how the French culture insists upon a two-hour long, three-course sit-down meal at lunchtime.
Now I’m a self-professed health guru and have been gluten-free since aforesaid MS diagnosis 16 years ago. Rather than being miserably antagonistic towards the cultural idiosyncrasies of my adoptive home, I am greeting the “Eat Slowly” resolution from a physiological perspective.
The physiologically correct way to digest carbohydrates is to chew each mouthful. The digestive enzymes for bread, cakes, pasta, rice and potatoes are in the mouth. That is why we have to mix each mouthful with saliva containing ptyalin in order for our bodies to correctly break down the carbs into their glucose and water molecules for the energy needs of our bodies and brains.
Have you ever left the dinner table feeling bloated sluggish or nauseous?
Despite raucous kids and crazy French in-law conversations, I now understand it is simply because the digestion of the carbs has been left to the stomach acids to do all the work. The stomach’s function is digesting proteins and if we have not been practicing chewing our food, the miserable carbs are placed in the queue to be digested secondly. Hence, the bloated gut and heavy feeling.
So rule number one is to “Eat Slowly”. I put down my fork between mouthfuls and advise my kids to do the same. Eating slowly means eating mindfully (the meditation practice). You take time to notice the taste, the textures, and effects upon your body taking in the nourishment.
2. Embrace sleep
I love to sleep. I appreciate sleep. I advise everybody to indulge him or herself. RED ALERT that moment when your yawns are increasing. Notice your body’s sensations of slowing down, and do NOT fight it. We live in an excessively fast-paced world. In the decade and a half since I became a parent, we have gone from PC’s to smartphones via tablets spending more screen hours of the day than we care to admit. The information explosion leading to multitasking is changing our neuronal pathways rapidly.
Sleep is the repair phase for our bodies and our minds. I love coffee as much as anyone. I have given it up frequently. Coffee metabolizes slowly over 8 hours and its effect hits 8 hours after you drink it. For those 2 am wakers… was a 4 pm coffee part culprit?
The medical understanding of our afternoon dip in energy is a combination of digestive processes and sugar levels. Our brains need glucose to work. The ideal replacement for an afternoon coffee is an apple and some nuts, seeds, or nut butter, as the protein has more lasting power and apples are recognized to increase alertness more effectively than green tea or coffee.
A glorious side effect, sleep is effortless.
3. (If in doubt) Smile
My third tip has been a default mode since I first moved to France. If in doubt, SMILE! I was born in dazzling New Zealand.
In 2005, I was able to move to the Paris suburbs to finally live my youthful fantasy. I arrived in France speaking the bare minimum schoolgirl French. Smiles ease the passage of faux pas of modern relations.
Relating to people is the stuff of magic in of our lives. Whether it is the beggar in the local metro station, the drivers in the traffic around you, or the baker at the local boulangerie, each interaction is a choice. Try a smile!
This is one of the most satisfying resolutions to commit to. The health benefits are proven in terms of reducing stress and interrupting the cortisol/adrenaline production cycle. Monday morning alarms the Western World over erupt into dreamland and tend to evoke reflexive grumpiness/tiredness. Instead, pause and choose another way. When you smile, it triggers a cascade of positive reactions both internally in our physiology and externally — smiles, like yawns, are contagious.
4. Breathe and Sigh
Take a breath and engage your concentration. Engage your senses: FEEL the cool air entering your nostrils, and do you notice the temperature of the air exiting your nostrils? Yes, the little hairs that line our respiratory tracts from nostrils to the end of the bronchial walls inside our lungs wave and warm up the air so it is at an optimal temperature for gaseous exchange. The body is a design miracle.
Practicing yoga for the last 24 years, I eventually unlearned bad breathing habits. I learned to pay attention to breathing and I am grateful for the opportunity taking a breath gives me.
5. Indulge in a little of what you fancy
By the time you have optimized your gaseous exchange, entered into a happy relationship with random strangers and enhanced your digestion, allowing brighter mood and natural weight loss through taking time to eat consciously, you will be rewarding yourself with some well-deserved extra hours of sleep. Reap the wonderful effects of my first four tips for a clean start; now it’s a given to allow for number 5. If and when you like, I say indulge in a little of what you fancy. All along my healthy happy routines, I create sacred space for very dark chocolate. I do not feel I need it every day but pretty much I always have it available. After all, I deserve it, don’t you?