What is Health Optimisation in the 2020’s?

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A Historical Look at Health :  What can we learn from Paleo Times?

People are always surprised to hear that we as a species are not at our peak!  We have this sense that we’re advancing, that we improve with every year.  Alas this is not the case.

Paleolithic humans were taller, more keenly in touch with their senses, showed no sign of disease such as we have today.  Their main threat outside of childbirth was from other animals – and each other!  But certainly not their own biology as is the case today.  Death then was from outside – now death is from inside – predominately the exponentially rising chronic illnesses of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, brain disorders, inflammations all generating from within. Even the current much reported ‘pandemic’ – the overwhelming majority of deaths are occurring due to a reduced internal immunity and secondarily illness.

So is this a key to our health?   Taking a deeper context; our species, clasified  as Homo Sapiens (meaning wise humans) are the most recent in a line of hominids who’s history stretches back into what’s referred to as the Paleolithic or the prehistoric period which dates around  2.5 million years to about 10,000 years ago. Prior we were more closely aligned with the primates.

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Post primate evolution we were preceded and at times shared the planet with a number of now-extinct hominin relatives, including Homo Erectus, Neanderthals and Denisovans. Many of whom – as species lived for hundreds of thousands of years – very much longer than we sapiens have still, yet to achieve. We are the last surviving human species.

It may feel like we’ve been around creating huge volumes of historical achievement forever, but everything we know has just covered 10,000 years! As if pre-history means no-history, further implying there nothing for us to learn.

It was around 10,000 years ago that our species changed from being hunter gatherers. At that time we lived with the light and slept to the dying embers of fire.

getting healthy in the modern world nature sense

Our diet was obtained by fishing, hunting birds and wild animals as well as collecting berries, fruit and nuts. We were surrounded by a world of plenty living for the  most part, in harmony with our surrounds, with Nature.  We were at the peak of our Nature Sense.

 

This most harmonious of times for our species  also marks a point in history when we biologically started to disconnect – to devolve.  It was when we started to get sick:  Our teeth rotting, our skeleton shrinking and chronic disease showing up in our skeletal remains, never seen in previous finds. Despite the great PR that farming receives in our evolution. This marks a decline in not just our biology, but also life for the animals. We started to domesticate not just them also women where their role became dependant and owned as much as the animals!  This sedentary shift ironically brought with it a much harsher life, with less variety in food and more vulnerable to weather as well as a much challenging life of planting, harvesting and building. farming ills gluten free nature senseBringing us to now where we value any invention that stops us moving and increases our sitting!  We are set, unless we become aware of our hubris to be the shortest living of the hominoid species.  So much for the ‘wise’ human!

Of course there is no denying the incredible advances in surgery and some medical discoveries but only time will tell if the big pharmacological advances are all as beneficial as we believe. After all the medical establishment is the third biggest killer in America with the rest of the west not far behind.   We hail antibiotics as remarkable – without question in many applications they are – but they may ultimately be useless as we are increasingly suffering auto immune diseases. Much of this rising tide of illness is due to our lack of understanding of the importance of viruses and bacteria and the stark fact that how we are actually made up of over 50 percent virus and bacteria. To kill them, kills us, kills our innate immunity.

Our overuse and reliance on many of our man made chemicals, the whole way up the food chain from farming to ‘health’ and with it an increasing philosophy of a one shot cure for everything is leading to a Homo Helpless.   This idea that the GP’s bible of medicine is somehow more advanced than finding a cause, than living optimally – ignoring our innate natural health is making this generation the first to die younger and sicker than their parents at any time in history! And now stepping into 2021 we’re set to be even sicker from our increased inside living and screen addictions.

history of virusWe do not need to be reminded with the Covid crisis how elements such as virus and bacteria are so much stronger than we are.  Trying to eliminate the building blocks of all life will seem in time as backward as we perceive humans who knew nothing of taming fire.

health optimisation bmcc nature senseSo to close, what’s the solution as our earth is no longer the earth of 10,000 years ago?  Awarness and acknowledging there is a challenge. That we have become misaligned with what our biology needs to thrive.  Allowing ourselves to consider ‘How do we live well when our topsoil has been reduced to 3cm when it was over 30cm, when our farming being mostly chemical laden, our lifestyle predominately sedentary, that our life having jumped from being 90%outdoors to now more than 90% indoors!’ The first is to admit we have a challenge.  But Human’s have survived – and we do rise and thrive in challenge. So let’s not ignore this in another episode of a rerun of Friends.  Let’s acknowledge and then Act.

So the first step to becoming aware.  Realising that we are part of nature that being apart does not serve us.   That learning to live in harmony not just with nature, but our tech.  Health optimisation recognises that we need to be in sync; encouraging earthing, healthy living, eating with the seasons, dumping the junk. It’s also about recognising that our good food has depleted nutrients so sometimes supplimentation is needed.  That filtering water to eliminate fluroide and chlorine to nurture our guts is important.  That many medicines are not the best solution and a recognition that so called alternative medicines are a good first call in many cases.  That the simple things are actually the easy way to start.  Walking in a park, Forest Bathing, talking with friends, learning to cook so that you can buy organic and make it last.  Paleo or Primal eating. Growing veg, not using pesticides in your garden, turning your phone off at night, reading books, chucking hours of social, upping your vitamin intake, stop wearing SPF all the time, bringing in mindfulness, turning off mainstream news, learning how to breath deeply… there is so much that this is just the start of even more information that you can find here.  Choose just one, heal yourself – It’s just Nature Sense.

health optimisation nature sense

Nature Sense is about connecting with a reality that makes you feel alive.

Why does Freshly cut Grass Smell so Good?

Mmmmm it’s like that smell transports us. With winter getting closer, the parks are getting their last manicure until Spring.  So let’s get under the hood of that lawnmower!

How is it, that a feel-good can come with just an inhale of something so seemingly simple, triggering places real and imagined, big bales of hay, sunny riverbanks or parks where we played – it’s a sense of carefree.

Plants have been around much longer than us.  We think they’re not so smart, but they’ve got much more going on than we previously gave them credit for.  The smells of plants are a language.  Predominately for each other but also for the insects that evolved along side them.  For instance this wonder whiff that we are so drawn, is a straight up a grass warning to other grass that they’re about to get their heads chopped off!  The grass in reaction is triggered to pull it’s nutrients deeper in order to save it’s food supply and in time regrow.

Insect messages from the plants have different scents for other challenges. For instance, to get rid of an enemy that is eating them. Here a sent signals out luring in other insects to eat the insects that are munching on them!   But what about us? Well that fresh smell which is often simply called green odor, (or GVL for those who want to rabbit hole)  has a psychological effect, not just for us but for our genetic relatives, the apes. This green odor – a complex mixture of chemicals – triggers parts of our brain that can heal our stress and even reduce pain.  When mixed up in a different way it can also send a lure that we really love that says ‘come get me’ I’m ripe!  But for them it’s actually saying ‘come spread my seeds’! They have us at their mercy!  Think the smell of oranges, lemons or apples when you cut into their juicy offerings.  Another hook so that we return to them is that breathing in the smells actually helps uplift and reduce depression.

However, our plant friends don’t like to give everything at once to the scientists.  The scent of freshly cut grass also triggers something called the Proust Effect, where with a little inhale of it’s green magic,  positive memories come to mind and lots of feel good.  We have yet to understand this fully, but until then we can just enjoy the bouquet.

the smell of freshly cut grass makes you feel great
why the smell of freshly cut grass makes you feel great

Nature Sense is about ‘going outside to feel good inside’ – naturally. About finding something every day to feel positive about, something for many that stands in stark contrast to a tablet that numbs you from feeling at all.   Now, with an understanding perhaps when you hear that distant burr of the lawn mower you know that as the noise subsides that the ‘whispering grass’ are sending us their secret gift of feel-good at a time we may most need it!

Natural biohacking tip:  Try walking  bare foot in the freshly cut grass, the extra moisture will enhance your earthing, which reduces inflammation within the body. If you can stand or sit amongst the grass and breathe deeply with your mouth closed, your nasal receptors can take in all the benefits.   Face the light and relax, enjoy that last wiff before the winter sleeps set in.

Walk and Talk Therapy

walk and talk london therapy nature

Going outside is a proven feel good. Uncomplicated and forgiving.

What is Walking Therapy?  It’s therapy outside.  I often sit with my clients on a big tree trunk, shaded by a canopy of leaves.  Other times we just walk around the park and depending on the time of the year can grab a few blackberries on the way.  Therapy outside is all about you, but it’s making you feel better through talking, but also walking in a positive surrounding.   It helps with perspective so often and provides you with an introduction to doing the same, going for a walk – without your therapist.

So what’s behind it all?   Research from all over the world is showing that people who spend quality time in green space have fewer health complaints and live longer and that the green space itself is a stress buffer, helping people cope better with life’s adversity. Other studies have found that invisible chemicals (called phytoncides) in some trees can reduce stress hormones, lower anxiety and improve blood pressure and immunity.  It can also help us sleep deeper and actively help us to ‘sleep ourselves well’.

We all know instinctively that being outdoors provides us with the benefits of getting natural sunlight, which comes in the form of much needed vitamin D.  What we may not know is that being outdoors in the sunshine provides our system with a natural stabilisation of hormones especially melatonin levels –  a super healer and regulated of our system.  Unfortunately melatonin is what is destroyed when you spend a lot of time with the screen.

Taking of Tech, studies have shown that screen time is associated with increased fatigue, depression, anxiety, ADHD in children, and poor concentration.  Enter the Japanese researchers, who have found that people who lived closer to or near forests had significantly lower rates of lung, breast, uterine, prostate, kidney, and colon cancers.  The health improvements of walking in forests has even led them to open Forest Hospitals with astonishing recovery for the patients even needing less medication!  So wouldn’t it make sense to want a little of that?

What happens if you’re based in a city like London – not exactly the amazon.  Good news nature benefits us even if it comes in little urban pockets.  In fact in the city there’s even a greater need to connect outside and outside yourself. Walking, Talking – you feel not just good – but double good.

If you don’t have a park, it can be a river or the coast.  Walking and talking is beneficial, but do make sure you’re therapist has trained for walking and talking therapy and that they’re insured to do so.

Feedback:  I felt so much better after having met with Fiona outside as opposed to the usual therapy rooms. ( I was even able to  take my dog !)  It was empowering.

Another client combined both online and being in the park by talking to me on his phone, while I too was outside, he said, “It was such a great session, refreshing and afterwards I was really able to process surrounded by the trees and flowers in the park”. 

Finally: I loved my session outside, it was so relaxed and easier to talk there.  We sat in the shade on a really warm day, drinking water and chatting.  I felt really hopeful afterwards.  

Book in for a complimentary chat or walk and talk appointment here

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Note:  If you’re a therapist or coach and would like to learn how to integrate walking and talking into your practice we hold training sessions – ( outside, not online )  during the months of May-September.  More here.