How You Can Improve Your Emotional and Physical Health as a Senior

How You Can Improve Your Emotional and Physical Health as a Senior
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The golden years should be the best years of our lives. After decades of hard work, this is the time to finally invest in ourselves and our own joy. For some seniors, however, that can be difficult as their mental and physical health begin to decline. While age-related decline is inevitable, it’s how we react to it and care for ourselves when we’re older that can significantly affect our overall wellness. Now is the perfect time to implement ways to achieve better overall health and live your golden years to their fullest.

Invest in Supplements

Unfortunately, the body’s way of processing food changes as we age. It can become more challenging to eat the way we did in previous decades or our taste buds start to lose sensitivity, making food less interesting. When this happens, it’s advisable to add supplements to our diets to ensure we get the vitamins and minerals we need. Calcium, iron and vitamin D are common additions. Another add-on to your wellness regimen to consider is cannabidiol (commonly known as CBD). A derivative of the hemp or marijuana plant, CBD helps soothe many of the issues that seniors commonly face, including chronic pain and difficulty sleeping, but it doesn’t make users feel high or “drugged up” the way marijuana and opioids can. Different supplements provide different benefits, so do some research and speak with your doctor before introducing anything new to your lifestyle.

Aid Your Sleep Habits

Seniors need as much sleep now as they did in their 20s and 30s; the right amount lands somewhere between seven and nine hours. If quality sleep is proving elusive, there are easy tricks you can incorporate in addition to CBD to make your nights better. The first step is to make your bedroom more conducive to sleep. This means making sure your mattress and bedding are comfortable. If you don’t have light-blocking curtains or shades, now is the time to add them. Dark, cool and comfortable is the perfect cocktail for a great night’s sleep. It’s also important to have a faithful nightly routine. Minimize TV watching in the bedroom, avoid caffeine in the afternoon, and stick to the same bedtime and wake time every day. Sleep disorders in seniors are common, so if you try all of these steps and still have trouble, it’s time to speak to your doctor.

Socialize Often

Loneliness is a major issue within the senior community. Isolation can lead to the deterioration of our mental faculties, and it can also increase our likelihood of illness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are plenty of opportunities for seniors to spend time with others, even if family and friends are too far for regular visits. Look for local groups that engage in your favorite hobby, and find out when they meet. You could also sign up for classes at a community college or a senior center. You might even try volunteering with the hospital, library or homeless shelter. If you no longer drive, there are many volunteer-based groups that offer the seniors in their communities rides to social gatherings; you can use’s community assistance locator tool to find an organization that can help you get around and prevent you from feeling isolated.

Exercise the Right Way

Fitness is key to maintaining not only a strong body, but a light spirit as well. It keeps our bones dense and strong, immune systems in good condition, and minds sharp. Yet, as we age, we need to take more care with the exercises we choose. Seniors who are already conditioned for running, cycling or weight lifting might find they’re slightly slower but still able to maintain their regular regimens. Seniors who are just starting out with fitness need to take it slow and make sure they have someone guiding them. Walking, yoga, light resistance training, and swimming are all gentle ways to give seniors the activity their body needs.

There are numerous ways you can improve how you feel. Don’t overlook any aspect of your well-being, as every piece plays a role in your overall health. When you take care of yourself, you’re better able to really enjoy what should be some of the best years of your life.

Article by Jason Lewis

Mr. Lewis has firsthand experience as a senior caregiver, in addition to a background in personal training. He’s passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free.

How Reiki Energy Healing Works

Reiki is a simple hands on technique, which was discovered by Dr. Mikao Usui in Japan in the early 1900s. He called it an energy medicine, which is believed to balance the biofields and strengthen the body’s ability to heal itself.

In quantum physics, it is believed that the universe is composed of energy. Our physical universe is made up of densely vibrating energy particles which vibrate at different speeds and this speed holds the arrangement of their physical form. Physicists see these particles as not isolated but as interconnections in an inseparable cosmic web. Similarly, our own bodies are made up of energy and energy patterns.

In addition to being composed of energy, we also have energy running through us. These energies are said to sustain life. The universal life force energy passes through channels or grids called meridians. These are also called the chakras. When energy flow is powerful through the body, we are healthy, but when we are stressed or unwell, the energy reduces. Reiki is a simple and effective way of restoring this flow of energy, thus leading us to mindfulness, intuition, health, inner calmness, balance, joy and harmony.

The Principles of Reiki

Reiki principles

We need to realize that our thoughts are more primary than our genes. This is because the environment, which is influenced by our thoughts, controls the genes. We have to change our environment, which includes harmful beliefs and attitudes, so that our energy can stay high. Dr. Usui realized that Reiki would be more powerful when the practioner also had the right way of thinking. You can only change a person’s life by changing his attitude towards it. He devised five principles of Reiki, which form an important part of the healing process. The principles are:

Just for today:

Do not worry
Do not be angry
Express gratitude for all your blessings
Apply yourself diligently
Manifest compassion to all beings

How Reiki Works

There are many reasons why illness is caused. In addition to the regular causes, emotions and thoughts affect the body. Positive thoughts keeps the body healthy and supple while negative thoughts and energy cause the body to stiffen up and cause other illnesses. When we have a strong emotional reaction to something, our thoughts and feelings about it are stored in the cellular structure of our body. When issues relating to fear, anger and grief are not dealt with or released, a persons life force energy gets blocked.

Reiki is an effective and simple method to heal emotional blocks and restore balance in the body. When you consistently practice Reiki, a person’s awareness is raised due to the increased energy flow. This process helps to identify unhelpful thought patterns, thus clearing the way for their release. The emotional blockages dissolve, relieving physical symptoms and enabling healing to occur. In the book ‘Heal Your Body’, Louise Hay lists the patterns behind many physical illnesses, that she has learnt from her years of experience with her clients. While metaphysical causes are not definitive and cannot be proved, it is worth considering whether they have contributed to a disease.

The applications of Reiki are extensive and limited only by the imagination. Reiki can be used to calm a person down or energize someone who is flagging. It can boost confidence and revitalize. Reiki can be used to heal relationships, both past and present. As the awareness quotient increases through the practice of Reiki, we become aware of the self limiting patterns in our life. It heals at the cellular level, and its constant practice helps bring up hidden patterns and memories from across space and time that need healing. Reiki can even be sent to someone far away. This is called distance Reiki and it works because energy is not limited to a set spatial distance.

Reiki In Hospitals

Reiki is increasingly being used today, to work along with conventional medicine, even though methodical studies on the efficacy of Reiki is very limited. There is very little scientific proof on how Reiki works. In 1990, a Kirilian photograh showed a beam of light coming from a Reiki practitioner’s hand while he was channeling Reiki. Independent research has revealed that during the practice of Reiki, the practitioner and the receiver become synchronized in a state of deep meditation and relaxation and the bio-magnetic field around the practitioner’s hand is at least 1000 times greater than normal.

Reiki works well as it is a non-invasive therapy that does not affect or manipulate body tissues. It helps the patients relax, while also lowering stress and heart rate. It can be readily integrated with other therapies and there are no known contraindications.

The anecdotal evidence of efficacy of Reiki in healing cancer and various other terminal disorders across the world by Reiki practitioners, indicates a need for a comprehensive study of Reiki as a complementary medicine. Institutes like the NCCAM in America have accepted biofield therapies like Reiki as low risk intervention, which can be used as a preventive measure and for post-operative healing.

The New York Presbyterian Hospital of Columbia University Campus conducted one of the first studies ever performed to determine the effectiveness of Reiki treatments on the autonomic nervous system. It was also one of the first hospitals to offer Reiki as part of their Integrative Medicine Program. There have been other controlled studies submitted to peer-journals and to The Touchstone Process for review. The Touchstone Process is actually a peer review method for analyzing the current state of scientific studies done on Reiki programs in hospitals, clinics and hospice facilities throughout the United States. The disorders that tested favourably to Reiki treatment were post-operative pain after tooth extraction, pain in chronically ill patients, depression, stress and cognition in elderly persons relating to dementia.

The Touchstone Process had evaluated 25 test studies by 2009, that appeared in peer-review journals evaluating the merits of Reiki Treatments. Taking into consideration only the most rigorously controlled studies, the team reported that 83% showed moderate to strong evidence in support of Reiki as a viable,
therapeutic healing modality.

Reiki most definitely opens hearts and minds to infinite possibilities. This healing energy is like an unconditional love, which rises above all barriers to heal and transform even the most difficult situations. It can be considered a spiritual practice which is incredibly versatile. It aligns you with your highest energetic frequency so that you can receive guidance from your own inner wisdom. Those who have practiced Reiki have had the honour of witnessing many transformations and miraculous healing.

Further Reading:

How Herbal Supplements Interact with Drugs

Herbal medicines have been used by people since ancient times in various civilizations. But lately, the issue of herb-drug interactions has ominously appeared over the practice of herbal medicine. It has been noted that herb-drug interactions may not necessarily be a chemical interaction between a drug and a component of the herb that produces something toxic. The interaction may cause a herb component to either increase or decrease the amount of a drug in the blood stream. The herb may also lead to reducing the effect of the drug or increasing the drug effect.

Even though herbal supplements are popular these days, most people still take over the counter drugs and those prescribed by a doctor, in which case not telling the doctor about the herbal supplements, may lead to dangerous consequences. Mixing herbs with medicines should be done wisely. It has been discovered that grapefruit juice could affect drug metabolism. The biggest concern about drugs and their interactions with herbs are those medicines that people took continuously – such as blood thinners that are prescribed after a heart attack or stroke. Antidepressants are another concern.

Some of the commonly used herbs and their interactions with drugs are given below:

Feverfew (used for migraines and arthritis), garlic (to reduce blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure), ginger (nausea, vomiting and vertigo) and Ginko biloba (for increased blood circulation and improving memory and mental alertness) are said to have a blood thinning effect, and may increase bleeding especially in patients taking anti-clotting medications.

Echinacea, which is said to boost the immune system and help fight colds and flu may cause inflammation of the liver if used with certain medications such as anabolic steroids. Licorice, which is used for treating stomach ulcers may cause high blood pressure, swelling or electrolyte imbalances.

Persons using Ginseng (used to increase physical stamina and mental concentration), sometimes see increased heart rate or high blood pressure. Goldenseal may worsen swelling and high blood pressure. Saint John’s-wort should not be taken when taking antidepressant medication and the herb may intensify the effects of sedatives and diabetes medication.

Having said this, it would be prudent to note that in the article, ‘CHECKING FOR POSSIBLE HERB-DRUG INTERACTIONS’ by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon, it is mentioned that, “A standard procedure is to test the herb extract alone and to also test it with drugs that cause the same effect. If the drug effect is increased or prolonged by the herb, it is implied that the herb has a similar effect, even though it may have a different mechanism. Thus, a study intended to demonstrate that a traditional claim for an herb is true turns out to be a source of worry about herb-drug interactions. However, the amount of herb used in the pharmacology experiments of this type is often far higher than the amount normally used in clinical practice; the likelihood of herb-drug interactions occurring with normal use of the herb may be minimal.”

“When published reports alluding to adverse herb reactions (but not interactions) and to pharmacology studies only are eliminated, one is left with few instances of reported herb-drug interactions. This is likely due to the low dose of any individual herb component usually consumed and the simple absence of significant interaction at any reasonable dose.”

The best thing to do would be to consult with your doctor before taking herbal supplements.

Science of Breath – 1

Life is actually a series of breaths, that starts with birth and ends with death. To live is to breathe. The correct form of breathing not only leads to good physical health but it also increases one’s mental power, happiness, self control, clarity in thinking and even one’s spiritual growth. Hence it is very important to understand how breath works.

A person who is able to control his breath, will be able to control his body and mind. The yogis of ancient times were able through breathing practices, to store prana in their body and send it to any organ or part, thus strengthening and invigorating that part.

Oxygen, is needed by every cell in our body in order to live. The air that we breathe contains oxygen.  In the lungs, the oxygen moves into the bloodstream and this purified and oxygenated blood is carried to the heart and to different parts of the body through arteries and capillaries. At each cell in the body, the oxygen cells are exchanged for waste gas called carbon dioxide. The bloodstream then carries this waste gas back to the lungs where the waste gas is removed from the blood and then exhaled from the body.

It follows that unless fresh air in sufficient quantities reaches the lungs, the impure stream of venous blood cannot be purified. Thus, not only is the body robbed of its nourishment but the waste products which should have been destroyed are returned to the circulatory system thus poisoning it, instead of invigorating and strengthening it.

The normal human being invariably breathes in a shallow way, in which, only a portion of lung is used and a large portion of the lung capacity is lost, as a result of which, the blood does not get completely purified. Once we understand that ‘prana’ (life force energy) comes from the air we breathe, it makes sense to learn the correct way of breathing, so that we live a life full of vitality.

What is Prana?

‘Prana’ is absolute energy which exists everywhere. It is considered to be the essence of all forms of life – from the highest to the lowest. Fresh air is the greatest source of prana. The easiest way of getting prana is by inhaling it along with air. This is where breath and the way we breathe plays an important role in  nourishing both mind and body. With the correct form of breathing, we can control and regulate breathing. We will be able to extract a greater supply of prana, which is stored in the brain and nervous system, to be used when necessary.

What is the correct form of breathing?

The correct form of breathing according to Yogi Ramacharaka, is also called the complete breath. First of all, always breathe through the nose, and not through the mouth. The mouth is not equipped to cleanse the air and change the temperature of the air you are breathing in. The nostrils filter the air we breathe and also warm it, so that it can do no damage to the delicate respiratory organs.

The best method of breathing according to Yogi Ramacharaka is one where the entire respiratory apparatus, – every part of the lung, every cell, every respiratory muscle is brought into play. In the Yogi complete breathing method, “the respiratory muscles are fully called into play…… The muscles controlling the ribs are used in such a way that, it increases the space in which the lungs can expand.”

The maximum benefit is derived with minimum energy expended. In such a breathing, the chest cavity is expanded to its normal limits in all directions and every part works and performs the functions it is supposed to.

Swar Yoga – Unification through breath

‘Swara’ in addition to being a ‘musical note’ in sanskrit, also means the continuous flow of air through one’s nostrils. Swar yoga allows us to be in tune with the lunar and planetary cycles, and change right or left hemisphere dominance through breath, whenever we want.  It helps us synchronise our inner rhythms with those of the cosmos.

It is a known fact that we don’t breathe through both nostrils at the same time, except for brief periods in the course of the day.  Breathing with the right, left or both the nostrils creates certain physical and emotional states. A task undertaken during the operation of one nostril is sometimes not suited for that state of body chemistry.

For example, when both nostrils work, we are in a good place to meditate and concentrate. When the right nostril is operating, we are in a rational and logical phase, because it communicates with the left side of the brain. It activates the thinking hemisphere of the brain. When we breathe with the left nostril, we are more tuned to the intuitive, emotional and visual side of our nature, i.e the feeling hemisphere of the brain.

One important aspect of swar yoga is that, it helps us to adapt our activites to the breath in dominance at that point of time, or change our breath to suit the activity we are doing. How do we do this?

In his book, ‘Dhanwantari’, Harish Johari says, breath can be changed from one nostril to the other by lying down on the side of the operating nostril with a pillow placed under the ribcage  The breath will change over in healthy people within 10 mins.

The cycle of breath is directly related to the moon. The right nostril operates at sunrise for three consecutive days, after full moon. After that, for the next three days, our left nostril operates at sunrise and this goes on till the new moon. After the new moon, the cycle changes and the left nostril operates for an hour at sunrise for three consecutive days followed by the right nostril for three days and so on.

When there is a disturbance in the natural cycle, the proper nostril does not open accordingly and body chemistry becomes disturbed. As a result, physical and psychological   disturbances occur. Knowledge of Swar yoga, helps us to quickly respond to the imbalance and avoid the consequences. We can change our breath by the method outlined above. Changing the breath at the first sign of any physical or mental disturbance, prevents worsening of symptoms and promotes well being.

It is said that indigestion can be cured by eating only when the right nostril is dominant. This is because when the right nostril operates, the body chemistry is acidic and heat is produced. This helps in digestion. When left nostril is working, the body chemistry is mostly alkaline. This nostril cools the system and hence, when our left nostril is operating, we should not eat, bathe or defecate. When we want to change an unwanted emotional state, we should breathe through the non active nostril.

There are sciences like chronobiology and chronopsychology, that are investigating the periodic phenomena in living organisms and their adaptation to solar and lunar related rhythms. Chronopsychology is the scientific study, of the way changes in our daily sleep-waking cycles, can adversely affect our ability to work well. Chronopsychologists found that during a 24 hour day, a person’s mental, physical and emotional aptitudes, that depend heavily on biological clocks, vary according to the time of the day. There is a ‘favourable’ time for most of these abilities.

Swar yoga says the same and even tells us what these best times are. Since these abilities depend on the hemispheres of your brain, and the predominance of the hemispheres depends on whether you are breathing with your right or left nostril, you can choose to breathe the right way, to get the best result. Organising your tasks according to your breath will make you more efficient.

The Science of Breath – 2

It has been said that all organisms are but subsystems of the One. Our individual selves are only part of the universal self. Each organism contains all the elements present throughout the cosmos. That is why all the spiritual gurus tell us to know ourselves, in order to know and understand the cosmos.

We have been gifted with certain mechanisms that help us experience life in this world. The most important of these mechanisms are the two nostrils. You breathe from the moment you are born till the moment you die. Breath keeps a man in continuous contact with the energy in the world. It is an important part of staying healthy.

Under normal conditions, electrical activity in the brain, i.e brainwaves are concentrated more in one hemisphere than the other. What are brain waves? The brain is made of billions of brain cells called neurons, which use electricity to communicate with each other. These charges are measured in frequencies. There are 4 kinds of brainwaves, namely, Beta (13 – 40Hz), Alpha (7 – 13Hz), Theta (4 – 7Hz) and Delta  (0 – 4Hz). There is also a Gamma (>40Hz).

It is believed that at the alpha level, the brain waves of those of the right hemisphere and that of the left hemisphere are synchronised. When this happens, man is able to consciously tap the tremendous powers of knowledge hidden in the subconscious mind. So then it follows that, one should be able to cultivate a theta brain wave or to diminish the brain rhythm to alpha, when needed. How do we do this?

Research has shown that each hemisphere of the brain has certain forms of behaviour and that those forms of behaviour are present only when electrical activity centers in that hemisphere. When energy concentrates in the left hemisphere, one becomes more active, verbal, intelligent, extroverted and creative. It is also considered to be a channel of solar energy.

The right hemisphere is characterised by passivity, orientation to sights and sounds, emotional responses, introspection and is a channel of lunar energy. As a result of the movement of energy from one hemisphere of the brain to another, the nature of our responses also change. Perception, actions and even involuntary bodily responses vary according to the dominance of one hemisphere over the other.

The movement of energy from one hemisphere to the other occurs simultaneously with the change of breath from one nostril to the other. The nostrils, are connected with the neuromotor responses, and hence with the autonomic nervous system. These neuromotor responses influence the hemispheres and activity of the brain.

When we observe our breath, we notice that the breath does not come out through both nostrils in equal volume, except for very brief periods. Normally one breathes through one nostril at a time. Breath alternates between the two nostrils, according to a regular pattern. When there is airflow in the right nostril, left hemisphere of the brain dominates and viceversa. When both operate, both the hemispheres operate in unison. This happens only at certain times, for a short time. This usually happens when the transition from one nostril to the other takes place and also at dawn and dusk.

By simply changing the breath from one nostril to the other, we can change brain hemisphere dominance, thus altering chemical reaction taking place throughout the organism. Therefore control of the pattern of breath enables conscious control of body chemistry, such as pH of the blood leading to both short term and long term effects on physical and mental functioning. Most diseases are the product of body chemistry and thus can be prevented by controlling the breath.

Knowledge of the play of breath in the nostrils forms the basis of the ancient discipline of ‘Swar Yoga’ which means unification through breath, which is a topic for another day.