Disclaimer: Please note, the content of this website is intended for educational and informative purposes only, and should not be substituted for individualized care from a healthcare professional. Contact your naturopathic doctor or healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have.
5 Ways to Kickstart your morning.Dr. Alison's morning favourites
"Wake up, and smell the endless possibility."- Unknown
Actively making the choice to wake up on the 'right side of the bed' is possible, and actually essential for a successful day.
Here are some of my favourite ways to do so.
1. Making my bed, as soon as I get out. This includes cleaning up my immediate space, if needed. Starting the day off with an accomplishment, however little, can mentally set us up for a day full of accomplishments. Plus, a tidy space does positively support our mental state.
2. Gratitude journal. Many top spiritual leaders of our time rave over pen-ing our gratitudes to paper. Click here for my take on the 5-Minute Journal, adapted from https://www.intelligentchange.com. When we trying something new for 21 days, its more likely to become a habit. Make note of how you feel following this activity.
3. Water with lemon. My go-to is a pint-size glass of warm water with 1/2 a squeezed lemon, prior to breakfast. If I feel the need to change it up, I do a lemon chia water – click here for it.
4. Quality food. Your body should be treated as a luxury, import car – both require quality food and fuel, respectively, to perform. Here are some of my simple favourites:
- Smoothies, like a simple green smoothie, or a matcha green tea smoothie. If I’m feeling something more decadent, I go for the chocolate avocado pudding, usually opting for the added spinach if I’m having in the morning.
- Classics like bacon, eggs, and avocado, usually on weekends.
- Leftover dinner. Although it is changing, there is still this idea held by some that breakfasts should be desert-like, with sugary pancakes, refined cereals, bagels, loads of syrups. A quality breakfast can actually be your leftover dinner, assuming it was a relatively healthy one.
- Need caffeine? I have my spin on the ‘bulletproof’ coffee available here, or the matcha smoothie does the trick.
5. Spreading kindness. For anyone who knows me, knows how much I respect those that are kind to others. Here are a few things we can all do, not necessarily just in the morning, but throughout the day:
- If you wake up next to someone, have someone special in your life, or have some great close friends, share some kind words – tell them how much they mean to you.
- Call your parents more often, if you’re able to.
- Connect with someone. Everyone wants to be loved, and feel appreciated. Unfortunately not everybody has the opportunity to connect as often as we might, which is often common among the elderly population. Share asmile, connect over small talk (understanding that it is easier to make small talk in a small-town, contrasted to the city).
- Volunteer. Not just for them, but for you too. Especially if your someone who has been fortunate to have so much -what a privilege it is being able to help the next.
Cheers – my coffee cup to yours – to a great morning.
Bowel movements / stools / poops / # 2’sWhatever you call it, it needs to be talked about
"All disease begins in the gut"- Hippocrates
Talking bowel movements can be uncomfortable for some to discuss, even with their doctors. This is problematic because when we’re not talking about digestive health, there tends to be a lack of understanding. One of the easiest and best ways to assess your health, is to assess your bowel movements.
We spend time and energy making sure we’re feeding our bodies with good, quality foods, yet often disregard how our body reacts to those foods, with the stool that is produced. Thus it is important to assess our stools. And by assessing, I mean simply looking into the bowl – not getting out the gloves and hazmat suits.
Why should you care / do this? Its important to know your baseline; knowing what your usual looks like. Two reasons this is important, 1) we can make corrections if your ‘usual’ is not considered ‘optimal’, and 2) you’ll know when / if there is a problem. When we know what to look for, we become our own best advocate by knowing when we should be seeking care.
Here is the Bristol Stool Chart. Type 4 is ideal and optimal, once or twice daily, possibly Type 3 if easy to pass. Smooth, all one colour – dark-ish brown, or slightly dark green if you’ve had a lot of green veggies. It should be easy to pass, not feeling like you need to strain. If you see a few little bubbles coming up, that can indicating that your microbiome is doing its job – active in food breakdown.
Here are some ways to encourage a healthy bowel movement:
1. Using a foot-stool. Slide a stepping stool under your feet, when on the toilet.
Heres why: There is a muscle that wraps around the base of our rectum, that naturally creates a kink when standing, called puborectalis muscle. One of the purposes of this muscle is to act as an additional security measure, giving us more control over when and where we’re having this bowel movement. When we’re in a squatting position usually with the help of a foot stool, this muscle is able to relax, allowing the stool to ‘slide out’ more effortlessly. This is particularly important for individuals who are chronically constipated, in conjunction with appropriate dietary adjustments.
2. Lots of water. Most of us know we should be drinking more water. My baseline bench mark is 2L per day, adding more with caffiene consumption, if you’re a larger individual, or sweating (in the summer, or via working out).
3. Fibre diet. There are different types of fibre; insoluble and soluble, both of which are important, and help us to bulk up our stools, bind to and get rid of unwanted waste, and can help us pass our stools with more ease, when appropriately taking the right amount, with adequate water. Two ways I like to get fibre in are through a veggie-based diet, eating the rainbow, especially getting those green veggies in, and through seed-based fibre – the type and amount differs for each individual, and best to check with your naturopathic doctor or healthcare provider for which is best suited for you.
4. Relax. Seems simple, but if we’re feeling tense or anxious, its likely that our digestive tract is also tense – thus being an inhibitor to complete bowel evacuation. Our digestive tract or gut, is considered to be our second brain, as it is so heavily entangled with our nervous system. The best time to have a bowel movement is when we’re in a parasympathetic state, or the ‘rest and digest’ state, as oppose to the sympathetic ‘fight-or-flight’ state. Both can trigger a bowel movement – when we’re relaxed at home in parasympathetic mode, or the more unfortunate way, right before a big presentation or meeting in the ‘fight-or-flight’ state, which is urgent and tends towards diarrhea/loose stools. Thus, we want to make sure we give ourselves the opportunity to be in a parasympathetic, rested state to encourage a bowel movement – so first thing in the morning, while in the comfort of our own homes is the ideal rest time for most.
If something doesn’t feel right, trust the ‘gut-instinct’, and seek the care you deserve.
Finding your ConnectionWith yourself, others and nature.
'There is no wi-fi in the forest, but I promise you'll find a better connection'- Unknown
Somewhere along the way, we’ve become disconnected. Whether its social media to blame, our busy work schedules, over-scheduling ourselves, there are likely several factors.
Here are some ways I like to connect back with the moment;
1. Being present. True connection happens when we are present – when the moment has captured our full, undivided attention. It can bring a sense of comfort and ease, as we’re not worrying about the future, or reminiscing about the past. Right now, this very moment is all that truly matters. Being in nature – hiking with a couple close friends, or even alone – is a time for me when being present can come with such ease.
- FOMO. Being present with something you’re passionate about can also help with FOMO (the fear of missing out). When I was studying for board exams months on end, I ended up having to miss many fun events and outings, for the sake of studying. One of the reasons I was able to remain so dedicated and not concern myself with all the fun everyone else was having, was because passing these exams were really important to me. When we’re passionate with what we’re doing, being present becomes second nature. You don’t concern yourself with what everyone else is doing, because really, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else – what you’re doing matters to you.
2. Connecting in person. Opt for the in-person interactions when possible, and to go further, dig deeper than the hey-how are you. And if you’re able to, hug someone. Get that dopamine rush, through the power of touch. If not a hug, an encouraging pat on the back. This in-person communication is what so many of us are missing, when its so easy to convey that message via our phones.
3. Screen-free time. Social media can almost be thought more of as a pseudo-connection, as we’re communicating yes, but that personal connection isn’t really all there. A positive correlation does exist between social media time and mental well-being; increased social media time is correlated with self-rating health as ‘poor or fair’, and reporting high levels of psychological distress and low self-esteem, among adolescents see CAMH study. Are there times during the day you’d be willing to go screen-free?
4. Body-Mind connection. Meditation or yoga are tried-and-true ways of connecting our mind with our body. The University of California, Los Angeles has a great set up for guided mediations available here. I also enjoy doing some deep belly breathing exercises, which can also help strengthen this body-mind connection.
5. Gratitude Journaling. This is one way to put our thoughts to paper, allowing us to understand these thought patterns better, while practicing gratitude, setting goals, and holding ourselves accountable to what truly makes us happy. Here is my take on that journal.
6. Connecting with nature to support mental health. One of my favourites is going for a trail walk or hike, if I’m not exercising at the gym. This is usually my form of break from work and patient research, and I find my productivity in the afternoon significantly greater following this mind-afternoon walk/hike break. It doesn’t have to be long, even 20 minutes in nature does the trick. From a mental health perspective, even low levels of physical activity, like walking or gardening for 20-30 minutes per day, can be enough to ward off depression in people of all age groups see study here.
Get back in nature, and go for that hike – its a connection you’ll be happy you made.