How to Do a Foot Massage Before Bed

Not many people follow this yet, but applying oil to your feet before bed is a non-fussy way to invite sleep. Your feet have borne your weight for a considerable part of the day. With so many nerve endings housed in your soles, your feet do feel the stress keenly. A gentle massage can boost blood flow and relieve stress and pain.

Here’s how you do it.

  • After you have taken a bath and taken a few deep breaths, sit down with your feet on a towel.
  • Lift one leg and place the foot on the thigh of the other leg.
  • Take a few drops of sesame oil on your palm.
  • Warm the oil up by rubbing your palms together.
  • Now apply the oil to the top and the sole of your feet in circular and straight strokes.
  • Apply moderate pressure on the ball of your feet and the heel.
  • Massage each toe individually.
  • Wipe off excess oil with a towel.
  • If the weather calls for it, wear socks to bed.

Do this before bed consistently for a few days, and your body will start associating this activity with sleep.

A Short Sleep Routine for a Busy Day

Some days you sail with time, some days you race against it. So on one of those days when you cannot manage to take out time to methodically and slowly pull the brakes and get to sleep, do just the following.

  • Dim the lights in your room.
  • Put a few drops of lavender essential oil in the diffuser in your room.
  • On your music player, or your phone, play calming instrumental music. You may like the South American pan flute or Tibetan singing bowls too for their earthy tones. Or you could play your favorite nature sounds. Some common favorites for sleep time are rainfall, rustle of leaves, and ocean waves.
  • Now head for a quick warm shower.
  • Bath done, wear comfortable bedclothes, sit down and practice deep breathing for about 5 minutes.
  • Finish up with a gentle oil massage on your feet. Wipe off the excess oil. Head to bed.

All of these will take you about 15 minutes tops.

Sleep well!

Fun Things to Do With Your Family on Weekdays

Most people reserve weekends for social interactions, sometimes even catching up with family members. On most days, you have household chores to finish, professional skills to update, or hobbies to nurture, while your kids have homework to deal with. But try to carve out half an hour or so for a few days a week to do things together. It would be a rewarding and memorable experience.

  • Make a game out of household chores. For instance, if you are folding clothes, maybe whoever folds the best gets to play their favorite music out loud or pick their favorite movie for movie night.
  • Bring back the lost culture of reading a book together. Choose a funny book and take turns to read it out in an animated way.
  • Spend time with the world map. Whether you play a quiz or plan a vacation and draw up an intricate itinerary is up to you.
  • Get to know the universe together. Invest in a cheap telescope. Share the responsibility of gathering information. Maybe you track the meteor showers and let your kid find out about the constellations.
  • Keep a night free for TV or movies.

Living away from family or don’t have one? Don’t let it dampen your spirits. You could ask your flatmates or close friends to join in. You could do some of the activities on this list alone too. Try stargazing. Listen to audiobooks when you don’t want to read one yourself. Take up a new instrument or a new language. Challenge yourself with a tough puzzle. If you are up for it, join a hobby club.

Foods to Avoid for Dinner

All food wasn’t created equal. There are some that invite sleep. Some that disrupt it. The rule of thumb is that anything that’s stimulating or energizing is not the best food before sleep. Neither is anything too spicy, fatty, acidic, or carb-laden.

Here’s a list of food and beverages you can remove from your dinner table.

1. Coffee, Chocolate, Soda

Anything that contains caffeine can give you sleepless nights. That includes coffee and chocolates. Caffeine increases dopamine, the hormone that makes you alert, and reduces GABA, the brain chemical that helps you relax and drift off to sleep. There’s another problem with soda. It’s laden with sugar, which reduces the duration of deep sleep.

2. Alcohol

It may seem easier to drift off to sleep with a nightcap, but that’s a false promise. Alcohol eats into your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep – the dream stage of sleep which has a restorative effect on your health.

3. Burgers or Pizzas

No matter how many veggies you put in your burger or on your pizza, dinner is not the best time to chomp on these carb- and fat-heavy foods. Fat is tough to digest and can cause acid reflux in your sleep. Besides, the simple carbs (refined flour) in them affect deep sleep.

If on some nights, you do enjoy a burger or a slice of pizza, put about 3 hours between your dinner and your sleep.

4. Hot Peppers or Very Spicy Foods

Everyone has a different spice tolerance. If yours is low, avoid hot peppers for dinner. The capsaicin in them could trigger heartburn. There’s another reason spicy foods are not good for dinner. Your core body temperature drops when you sleep. Being thermogenic (that is they produce heat in the body), spicy foods can raise the body temperature and disrupt your sleep.

Follow this simple tip. To sleep well, think moderation. That means first choosing foods that are not too heavy in refined carbs, fats, and proteins and then eating a smaller portion than you would for lunch.

How to Stay Close to Nature in a City

Would you like to feel healthy, calm, and content with life? (Don’t answer that. We know it’s yes.) You could by spending just 2 hours a week in nature. It doesn’t matter if you are young or not so young, from an urban space or a rustic one. You don’t even have to perform any activities (of course, if you do, that’s a bonus). Just sitting in a park and watching nature is good enough. We are genetically wired to find peace in nature.

But the big question for people in urban spaces is: how does one get close to nature?

It’s not that difficult.

Find a Park

You don’t have to hike out of the city to find spots of natural beauty. Look around. Find a park nearby. Let’s say you are returning from work. If you have a personal vehicle, stop at one en route to home. If you’re taking a public vehicle, stop at the nearest park from your home. Then, if it’s feasible, walk home.

Sit on the grass. Spend some time noticing the different trees. Note the foliage – their colors, their shimmer in the sun, the way they spread out and dance. Notice the insects scurrying around. Or a block of sunlight. Pay attention to birdsong.

Or stroll around. Take off your shoes and walk on the grass. This is called earthing or grounding. It can improve your mood, sleep, and immunity and relieve pain and muscle tension, possibly by tuning your body clock to that of nature’s.[1]

Build Your Own Garden

If you have enough space for a small kitchen garden, go ahead and grow a vegetable patch. Not only would that keep you close to nature, it would contribute to your organic meals too.

Even if you don’t have a spot of spare land to grow plants, get indoor plants that are known to act as air purifiers – for example, spider plants and English ivy. Put planters, pots, and bottles in your balcony or on the windowsill. You could also keep a small birdbath on the porch or the lawn.

You could also bring a touch of nature to your office space. Keep a couple of small planters on your desk.

Don’t feel disheartened if none of this is possible. Nature isn’t just trees, remember. Keep your eyes open. Look at the clouds, the stars, sunlight, or rain. All of them have a calming effect.

Don’t forget to give back to nature too. Plant more. Conserve water. Recycle as often as possible. And find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

References

[1] Oschman, James L., Gaétan Chevalier, and Richard Brown. “The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.” Journal of Inflammation Research 8 (2015): 83.

5 Things You Need to Do at the End of a Workday

Ever had a long day at work when as soon as the clock struck 6, all you wanted to do was scram? In a place with a good work culture, though, such days ought to be few and far between. A proper and methodical end to the workday is just as important as a methodical beginning. Here’s what you ought to do.

1. Check Your To-Do List

It’s good to reflect on and take stock of your big and small victories. Congrats if you’ve checked all the boxes. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t. Maybe you over-committed. Or maybe, you need a different strategy. Sleep on it. Meanwhile, finish a task that takes less time, even if it appears later on your priority list. It could even be replying to emails or returning phone calls.

2. Make a New To-Do List

With a good understanding of how much you can get done the next day, draw up a new to-do list. Prioritize your tasks, set realistic deadlines, and prepare in advance. Fine-tune the list the next morning.

3. Prepare for the Next Day

It could be as simple as filing documents neatly into a folder for the next day. Or if you’re at home, chopping up vegetables and sealing them in ziplock bags for breakfast the next morning.

4. Catch Up

This is relevant if you work in an office. Briefly discuss what you or your team members have done that day, the progresses and the challenges, and what remains to be done. It’s a good time to reassess deadlines. You could also delegate or redistribute responsibilities so that the team gets a chance to approach it with a fresh mind the next day.

5. Clean Up

Tidy up your work space. Not only does it help you start the next day on a clutter-free note, it also gives you a sense of closure.

Now enjoy the rest of your day!

What’s Your Cup of Herbal Tea?

Tisanes or teas made by brewing herbs have been around for thousands of years, with the recorded histories dating back to the ancient Chinese and ancient Egyptian civilizations. Some of the tea recipes have been passed down generations, becoming part of our standard home remedies. Don’t you reach out for ginger tea when troubled by indigestion or chamomile tea on sleepless nights? Some, however, have been lost into oblivion.

But now that there’s a resurge of interest in herbal teas, here are a few pointers for you to make the most of them.

Choose Your Tea by Mood

Lifting your mood was never so easy. There’s a tea out there for every mood of yours. Feeling slow? Choose yerba mate, Siberian ginseng, or rooibos. These are perfect pick-me-ups. Feeling stressed? Choose lemon verbena or passionflower.

Fragrance can be your guide. A tea with a warm, nutty, and strong smell is likely to be a pickmeup. Anything that has a mild flowery smell is better for your hours of sleep and relaxation. Fruity smells are in between. They can relieve stress.

It doesn’t matter whether you have fresh herbs or dried ones. The only thing you need to remember is that for the same strength of tea, you need to use a smaller amount of dried herbs than fresh ones.

Cover the tea while steeping it. Drink your tea hot. A tea that is left exposed for long loses its antioxidants.

Skip sugar in your herbal teas. It could cancel out all the goodness of the antioxidants. You could use honey, but then you should wait for the tea to cool down slightly. A dash of lime might be a better flavoring enhancer.

Choose Your Tea by Weather and Season

Again, go with your mood. You may need more energizing and warming teas during cold or clammy weather. Also look for immune-boosting herbs. Turmeric, holy basil, and Siberian ginseng are good examples.

Hot summers would need you to hydrate more frequently. So choose fruity and flowery teas which have an inviting flavor and cooling effect. You could even infuse your drinking water with cooling herbs and spices like cilantro and fennel seeds.

Stick to a couple of cups a day at the most.

How to Hone Your Creative Thinking

Whoever said artists are the only creative people around? Remember that teacher from school who had unique ways of making you remember your lessons? Or the friend who fashions delectable dishes out of leftovers? They are creative too.

You could be too. It’s all about keeping an open mind, an observing eye, and an eagerness to draw connections. You could hone your creative thinking too. Here’s how.

1. Really, Really Try

Thinking is exercise for the brain cells. It’s great to brainstorm in groups to come up with creative ideas, but make it a habit to think when you are on your own too. Note your ideas down, draw mind maps, and sketch diagrams. The weirder the better. That’s your thinking becoming flexible.

Creativity happens in two steps. First, you are exposed to ideas. Then you form connections. So there’s no shortcut to becoming a creative genius. Enrich yourself. Read up, look at art, watch talks, or talk to others. Literature and the arts can help you explore new situations and new perspectives. Experiences of others could give you fresh ways of looking at the same old things too.

2. Look for Patterns

Everything has a pattern. From the serial killer in the detective novel you are reading to the way your body reacts to food. You just need to observe keenly. Look out for similar patterns in unrelated objects – think of analogies or metaphors. Then when you are quite adept at recognizing a pattern, break it. You will come up with something new.

3. Learn Music or Sketching

Both music and sketching require you to notice the tiniest details. They hone your skills of observation – it can be a great advantage when you need to converge two (or more) ideas at a distinct point.

No time to learn either? Listen to happy music. It’s known to improve divergent thinking.[1] To put it simply, divergent thinking involves finding a different use for a common object.

4. Meditate Daily

Unlike popular quizzes online tell you, you don’t have to be right-brained to be creative. Creativity is a function of the whole brain. So the more well-connected a brain is, the more creative it is.

Mindfulness meditation is known to strengthen the corpus callosum, the bridge between the two hemispheres of your brain. In layman terms, it gets your brain talking more.[2] So you are better at aspects of creative thinking like divergent thinking (finding a different use for a common object), convergent thinking (finding the best possible solution), working memory (quick recall), and cognitive flexibility (welcoming new ideas and experiences).[3]

5. Rest Every Now and Then

We are bombarded by information every day. Not all of it is useful. Switch off every once in a while. Take a break from phone calls, emails, or social media. Spend the time relaxing your senses. Do nothing, for a change. When you come back, you’ll have pulled your mind out of the rut.

Here’s to looking at the old world in a new way!


References

[1] Ritter, Simone M., and Sam Ferguson. “Happy creativity: Listening to happy music facilitates divergent thinking.” PloS one 12, no. 9 (2017): e0182210.

[2] Luders, Eileen, Owen R. Phillips, Kristi Clark, Florian Kurth, Arthur W. Toga, and Katherine L. Narr. “Bridging the hemispheres in meditation: thicker callosal regions and enhanced fractional anisotropy (FA) in long-term practitioners.” Neuroimage 61, no. 1 (2012): 181-187.

[3] Colzato, Lorenza S., Ayca Szapora, and Bernhard Hommel. “Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking.” Frontiers in psychology 3 (2012): 116.

3 Tips for a Peaceful Nap

Waht hapnnes wehn you dno’t nap?

You read the sentence above. Understand it too. But maybe, you don’t notice the words are all jumbled up. Ah, you’re reading it again, now!

Maybe, had you taken a nap, you would have perhaps noticed those jumbled words right away and had a good laugh over them too.

A nap can improve your focus, alertness, and mood. And while not getting enough sleep at night weakens your immunity, taking a couple of short naps the next day can make it strong again. Heart doctors also have a good word to put in about the afternoon nap. A recent study found that those who napped once or twice a week had a 48% lower risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure, than those who did not nap at all.[ref]Häusler, Nadine, Jose Haba-Rubio, Raphael Heinzer, and Pedro Marques-Vidal. “Association of napping with incident cardiovascular events in a prospective cohort study.” Heart 105, no. 23 (2019): 1793-1798.[/ref]

Here’s how you get your siesta right.

1. No Later Than 4 o’Clock

The later you take a nap, the more likely you are to mess up your night sleep. That in turn will make you sleepy in the daytime the next day. Avoid this vicious cycle. Schedule your nap between 1 and 1:30 pm.

2. No More Than 30 Mins

The ideal nap is about 20 minutes long. That’s enough to freshen up your senses without making you feel groggy. Grogginess or sleep inertia is what happens when you wake up in the middle of deep sleep. Beyond 30 minutes, you could enter the deep sleep phase.

Now, if you are really tired and need more sleep than that, aim for a full cycle of about 90 minutes. Sleep with a sleep tracking alarm clock that can wake you up once the deep sleep phase ends.

3. No Light, No Noise

You have only 20 minutes to charge yourself up. Don’t let distractions cut into this time. Find a dark place. It could be your darkened bedroom if you are at home. If you’re at work and have no dark place to crawl into, stretch yourself out on your chair – as horizontal as you can – and use an eyepatch. To keep out noise, use earplugs. You may think you are too sleepy to be bothered by the noise, but it can disturb your sleep. Keep a light stole handy. Put your phone on silent and drift off.

On some days, you could skip the nap and take a short stroll instead. Or sleep for 20 minutes and then stroll about for the next 10.

5 Lunch Rules to Keep in Mind

Ayurveda says, lunch is supposed to be the most important and the heaviest meal of your day. With reason too. You need a substantial energy boost during midday to avoid an early evening crash. Here’s a lowdown on 5 things to keep in mind as you gear up for your lunch.

1. Never Skip It

No matter how busy you are or how badly you want to lose weight, missing your lunch is a no-no. Your body is ready for food and the stomach acids have started pouring in in anticipation of food. In fact, digestive juices begin to be secreted long before you actually taste food. The first thought, sight, or smell of food can be enough. In the absence of food, these attack the inner lining of your digestive tract. The result is pain, bloating, and nausea.

Another problem with skipping your lunch is that you’d willy nilly overcompensate for it in the next meal. That’s like throwing your metabolism off balance.

Not hungry at lunchtime? Oh no! What did you eat for breakfast? Or as your mid-morning snack?

2. Don’t Eat What You Don’t Like

Don’t force yourself to eat healthy but insipid food. You can carry on for only a few days before you attack junk food with a vengeance. Besides, unless you like what you are eating, your digestion doesn’t work as well. Like we said, the thought, sight, and smell of food can be enough to kickstart the digestive process.

Agreed, some healthy foods don’t taste that great. And it might take you years to develop a palate for them. Do not despair. Turn around boring food with flavorful spices and seasonings. A dash of black pepper and roasted cumin powder and a drizzle of lemon juice can add a lot of oomph to a broccoli soup. An orange vinaigrette dressing can lift the most boring of leafy salads. Get the drift?

3. Don’t Eat the Same Lunch Everyday

No, not even if you are eating the healthiest salad in the world. You need a variety of foods to get the variety of nutrients required to keep your body up and running; so repeating the same foods can easily lead to deficiency. Not to mention boredom.

Keep the macros constant – carbs, proteins, fat, fiber – but change the sources. For instance, you don’t need to get your protein from a braised chicken breast every day. Switch it up for some kidney beans. Looking for a source of fat in a salad? Switch up the olive oil for avocado. Play around with your many many food options.

And do cheat once in a while.

4. Don’t Eat Too Little or Too Much

Nobody ever lost weight for good by starving themselves. Rather, eat wisely to build muscles so that your metabolism gets a boost and you burn more of what you eat.

Don’t eat all you can at lunch if your job or life situation doesn’t need you to stay active for the next 2–3 hours. Eat till you are about 70% full – that is, when you feel you could eat one more helping if you tried. Don’t try.

5. Don’t Eat at the Desk or on the Go

Again, no matter how busy you are, enjoy your lunch. Give it your full attention. Chew every morsel mindfully. Savor the flavor. Only then would you digest it perfectly and feel satiated. None of these would be possible if you eat at the desk, your mind occupied by work, or on the go, worrying about future tasks.

Your brain takes about 20 minutes to realize you are full. So if you eat too fast or mindlessly, you’d already have overeaten by the time you realize you are full. You’d also be less likely to binge-eat in other meals.

Bon appetit!