In our pursuit of health (the state of being free from illness or injury) we discovered the magic of meditation, the wonderful benefits of prayer, and the infusion of mind, body, and spirit through the consumption of tea. In this pursuit, we have come across various writings, videos, and artistic presentations which can further these efforts. To be of additional service to you, we have compiled an assortment of these works which you may find helpful. Please enjoy as we have.
Quiet, Please! How Staying Silent Can Boost Your Health
10 Canadians share their simple strategies for finding peace and quiet.
Here’s Why You Should Be Embracing Silence
Sometimes it seems impossible to find a little peace and quiet. It’s no surprise that in 2014, almost a quarter of Canadians aged 15 or older said that most of their days were “quite a bit” or “extremely” stressful. Even on vacation, or in retirement, we can have a hard time relaxing and calming our minds.
All this sensory input has a harmful effect on us. The World Health Organization reports that excessive noise can lead to high blood pressure and fatal heart attacks, hearing loss, insomnia and increased rates of anxiety and depression. And Statistics Canada cites “smoking, overconsumption of alcohol and less healthy eating habits” among the consequences of a stressful life.
Meanwhile, we’re so distracted that a Microsoft study of 2,000 Canadians in 2015 found that the human attention span has fallen to eight seconds from 12 in the last 15 years. (Even a goldfish, they report, can now best us by one second.)
Thankfully, there is an antidote to this cacophony: quiet time. As we discovered by talking with 10 tranquility-seeking Canadians, it’s entirely possible to find moments of stillness in a busy life. Here are their simple strategies.
1. Talk Less, Listen More
Fiona Heath, a Unitarian minister in Mississauga, says she spent years feeling guilty and embarrassed about being someone who is happy just staying home and reading a good book. When the 49-year-old finished Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, she was finally able to articulate the benefits of her reclusive side. “Silence is a source of nourishment, and I appreciate the insight, calmness and listening skills it brings.”
Heath was inspired to incorporate more time for quiet in her work, adding two minutes of silence to her worship services each week. She has even organized small groups at the church for congregants to practise listening.
“Listening is hard,” she says. “It’s a skill that takes time to develop because we are used to spending our energy speaking and sharing. Listening well is a strong way to connect, and it’s one of the most supportive things you can do for someone.”
2. Turn Down the Volume
A few years ago, Cheryl Breukelman, an executive and health coach for Epiphany Consulting, stopped taking short-haul flights to see clients and now opts for hours-long drives from her home in Hamilton to visit cities that include Kingston, Ottawa and Sudbury. And when she’s behind the wheel, she never turns on the radio.
“As a business owner, mom and wife, I rarely get any silence, so I’ve found that this time in the car is incredible,” Breukelman says. “It brings peace and calm; it makes me feel centred and relaxed; and I can contemplate all sorts of things.” In fact, she now advises her clients to book regular quiet time to ensure peak performance.
“Quiet increases our self-awareness on every level,” she says. “When we’re quiet, we can gain a clearer sense of how tired we are, of an ache or pain that requires attention, of stress we need to resolve, of how we are feeling emotionally, of how hungry we are or of how eager we are for a good stretch or walk. The quiet informs us and gives us the opportunity to act positively.”
3. Meditate—Even for Five Minutes
“Gone are the days when meditation was seen as a ‘hoo-ha’ idea,” says Good+Hec founder and director Chris Hecimovich, a Nova Scotia native who travels between Canada and the United States teaching mindfulness in corporate environments and to professional sports teams. And he’s right: yoga’s favourite cousin was among the most prominent wellness trends of 2017.
Once a successful sales exec, Hecimovich succumbed to full-scale burnout in 2010. “I felt dead and lonely and without purpose,” he explains. After 15 years of relying on his sharp businessinstincts, that same inner impulse took him instead to India.
“I had never practised meditation, but I knew I needed space and peace,” says Hecimovich. “For 30 days, I sat on my cushion every morning and chanted in my head: ‘May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be happy.’ Those four verses changed my life.” He ended up staying on, living in an ashram for two months.
Now a pro helping people bring quiet mindfulness to their day-to-day lives, Hecimovich explains that you can’t really do meditation wrong and that the most important thing is to be consistent. First-timers can ease into the practice by trying a morning meditation in bed or over coffee at the kitchen table. “Start with being comfortable sitting with yourself for five minutes,” he says. “It will evolve from there.”
4. Take a Solo Sojourn
A trip on your lonesome doesn’t have to be lonely. There’s freedom in not being beholden to others and in having the ability to do what you want when you want. In The Call of Solitude,author Ester Bucholz dubs alone time “fuel for life.” That’s something Cheryl Paterson, a 53-year-old teacher and mother of three in Dundas, Ont., has taken to heart.
Paterson says she recharges by taking regular solo treks. Her favourite destination is Ontario’s Algonquin Park, where she’ll swim, read, paddle a canoe and hike or run in the woods every day. She even packs an ergonomic chair for meditation.
“Getting away on my own is awesome,” Paterson says. “I love removing myself from my normal routine and just having the opportunity to reflect on life.”
Here are the 10 best cities for solo travellers!
5. Find Calm in the Community
Toronto photographer Ben Freedman spends a lot of time in hushed art galleries. As artistic project coordinator at the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, installing exhibitions and checking out shows are a major part of his job. As Freedman explains, though, the intense creative energy that surrounds him on a daily basis is almost always paired with relatively minimal noise.
Like libraries and history museums, art galleries provide quietude that isn’t solitary. You’re in the company of other people, but it’s generally understood that these places are for quiet conversation only. “I always prefer my second visit to any exhibition over opening night,” Freedman says. “When I enter a gallery, my intention is to learn or experience something, not dissimilar to the goal of meditation. And today, looking at anything for an extended amount of time in silence is a gift.”
6. Take a Break from Social Media
Uzma Jalaluddin was an “unrepentant Luddite” until she got her first smartphone five years ago. To begin with, she used it only for phone calls and texts but soon was sucked into the digital vortex, compulsively checking her Facebook timeline and trying to keep up with more than a dozen WhatsApp group chats. A teacher, mother of two and biweekly columnist for the Toronto Star, the 37-year-old says spending time on social media meant she was more distracted, read fewer books and found it harder to concentrate on her writing. She uninstalled Facebook from her phone (she still checks it on her laptop) and muted her WhatsApp notifications so she ends up viewing messages less frequently.
“It was easy to disengage,” Jalaluddin says. “I crave quiet, and I realize I need at least 30 minutes of silence a day to feel balanced and energized—and that extends to social media.” She finds these moments of peace in the morning, drinking tea and reading the newspaper. “It makes me a calmer, happier person.”
7. Take a Forest Bath
“We need the tonic of wildness,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden. Now, more than 150 years later, an emerging profession of certified forest guides is answering that call, helping people gain the best benefits from wooded walks by encouraging them to move quietly and deliberately, covering as little as 400 metres over three hours.
“Many of us had a special spot to go sit in the woods, or somewhere else in nature, as children,” says 34-year-old Sky Maria Buitenhuis, a trainer for the Canadian chapter of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. “It’s something we’ve lost in our adult lives. We often believe we can think or worry our way out of a problem, but what we really need is quiet time in nature so our inner wisdom and intuition can arise.”
Forest guides engage participants in a series of “invitations” to soak up nature’s hushed sounds, evocative scents or the sensation of running their fingers over the veins of an oak leaf. This contemplative practice originated in Japan, where Shinrin-yoku—“forest bathing”—was recognized for its therapeutic value in boosting the immune system and improving peace of mind.
8. Silence the Family Circus
One of the reasons why many of us have a hard time relaxing into quietude is that we’re not used to it; no one ever showed us how. That’s why James R.C. Smith, the Vancouver-based Brit behind the daddy blog socialdad.ca, has made sure to integrate this lesson into his parenting. “I grew up in the English countryside, which was always quiet,” Smith says. “I learned to listen to the sounds of nature over everything else.” Now he’s trying to replicate that experience for his two-year-old daughter in an urban environment.
Lesson one: flexibility. “She’s a toddler. If she doesn’t want to be quiet, she’s not going to be,” Smith explains. “But it’s not always about lower volume; it’s about less distraction.”
Smith always has blocks and art supplies handy, making it easy to break away from noisy toys and iPads with an activity that’s still stimulating. He limits television to one hour a day and encourages a low-volume household. “If music is on, it’s not too loud. There’s no shouting, and we take turns speaking,” says Smith. “Quiet periods benefit my daughter the same way they benefit us all. They are times for calm thoughts and understanding. We’re free to let our minds wander.”
Here are five secrets of a stay-at-home dad!
9. Sign Up for Quiet Yoga
Thirty-six-year-old Anna Muzzin lost more than 100 pounds 10 years ago, but she continued to think of herself as a heavy person—that is, until she took up Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga. In this type of class, students work independently within a group setting on a particular series of postures under the hushed one-on-one guidance of an instructor.
“When you’ve been overweight for your whole life, you keep seeing yourself in the old way,” says Muzzin, who now teaches Mysore Ashtanga in Hamilton. “This type of yoga helped make me lean and strong, but the main benefit was that it helped me limit the fluctuations of my mind that had me thinking about myself in a certain way. The quiet nature of this physical practice allows us to hear what’s going on internally and helps us better understand ourselves.”
10. Walk a Labyrinth
Labyrinths are ancient, circular, winding pathways found in cultures worldwide and are often used as a form of walking meditation. By slowly following the labyrinth to its centre and then back out again, says Holly Carnegie Letcher, an occupational therapist in Qualicum Beach, B.C., we allow ourselves to be present in the moment and can clear our mind of worries.
Letcher uses the practice of walking labyrinths—most often found painted on the ground in public spaces—with her clients as a tool to lower blood pressure and manage stress. She also sees it as a metaphor for life’s journey: “This walk of reflection through the twists and turns of our days will bring us to our centre if we simply put one foot in front of the other, breathe and take time to truly listen through the noise and chaos. Trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be,” she says. “The labyrinth represents a way to create quiet—and to listen to the voice within.”
Fasting accomplishes several things. The first? It is the best—the very best—way to control glucose and insulin. If you want to live longer than anyone healthy, control your glucose. Without the constant spikes in glucose and insulin, your body is at leave to burn its own fuel, to run on its own juice. In turn, testosterone levels remain sound. Each time we eat, testosterone levels plummet, which spike glucose and insulin, all of which power inflammation and aging. Yet, it’s ill-advised to push calories away. With fasts, eating habits change because your body no longer needs it. Bodies learn to feed from themselves, and maintain optimal glucose levels. The second accomplishment: autophagy. Autophagy (or “self-eating”) is the process by which the body naturally removes cellular debris. Bad cells (which are not able to adapt to using fat for energy) die off because the body “eats” the bad cells and proteins first. Autophagy has been the shock of shrinking tumors, of magically erased skin tags, dying viruses, and more. All these massive benefits can occur when autophagy kicks into high gear. Researcher Dr. Valter Longo noted in a study1 that a water fast of 4 or more days can trigger a reset of the immune system. You see as we get older, our blood contains too many memory T-cells, each programmed to combat a particular microbe, and not enough naive T-cells, which respond to new challenges. Fasting purges and rebuilds the immune cell population with naive T-cells.
A third reckoning: epigenetics —turning the bad genes to good, powering on the good ones, and shutting off the bad ones. Whether by the force of one-day fasts or elongated fasts, genetics start to maneuver into their natural state, altered healthily and hugely affected by our dietary choices. And, fourth: hormone sensitivity. Like before, gear up your body to listen to those hormones by putting it through a fast, cleansing it, and making room for that physical change.
Even during a short fast there’s a rapid increase in growth hormone, one reason behind my weekly fasts (at least once a week, for a full 24 hours), which we’ll explore later. A weekly mini-fast revolves around a simple idea: optimizing hormones is not about gaining more hormones, but about becoming more hormone-sensitive. Hormones like testosterone, or any that affect healing, are dramatically amped during a fast.
CHTV episode 108 shares the experience of Dr. Derrick Dempsey, whose 22-day water fast was the root solution for personal health issues. For Dr. Dempsey, growing up with a pastor father, the ideology behind fasting was when you fast, not if you fast. The biblical ties are a huge gauge for many of us, including myself. The second “why” for fasting stems from his responsibility to family—he’s no stranger to the truth that spousal support and family leading requires good health.
Dr. Dempsey takes us through his fast, a project which started out as a 5-day fast, and evolved into 22 days of only consuming water. Having experienced fasting with whey water and broth previously, he was prepared for the task, which brings us to the first concept in coaching—mental preparation. By days two and three, despite the longing for meals, Dr. Dempsey powered through. Then the switch, a sort of mindset altering, occurred between days 4 and 6, where he developed a slight aversion to food and his mental clarity was re-charged. “You’re fine with water,” he told himself. “Just keep going.”
As the fasting progressed, Dr. Dempsey noticed some erratic changes in his mental capacity. As a youth, bludgeoned down by four head traumas and never feeling fully recovered, he initially notes that his mental clarity skyrocketed. Like many of us, he would have to read and reread things several times over to get the gist. With fasting, however, he found that wasn’t the case—his acuity soared. Such is the case with brain fog. Time and time again, a water fast has proven to scrape away symptoms of the “brain fog.” It reactivates the brain and hones focus.
Another consideration is rapid weight loss. When carefully executed, the fast can reduce large portions of weight, uprooting deep toxins stored in the tissue. However, weight loss isn’t the primary goal for everyone—and for that, there’s good news! The innate intelligence knows and seeks balance: something we call homeostasis. The body knows how to eat damaged tissue and bad DNA while routinely avoiding muscle. This situation is marvelous for tumors—the body will eat those. Endometriosis, a condition which is alive with scar tissue, is swallowed up in the innate feeding process of bad cells. In Dr. Dempsey’s case, chronic snoring and congestion ceased during the fast.
Alongside that weight loss, however, is the audible weight gain. With the rapid healing of the gut, the fast can be a strategic tool for gaining muscle. With growth hormone and testosterone increasing, and the gut healing, the body can assimilate food better. We note YouTube sensations the Hodge twins, whose 19-hour fast, powered by a 5-hour feeding period, is credited as the process for bodybuilding.
Many of us have used cayenne pepper to add a little spice to our meals, but did you know that it has the power to change your health? It has been used for both food and medicine for the last 9,000 years! Cayenne pepper can stimulate your body’s circulation and reduce acidity; it’s a powerful, spicy little pepper that offers many health benefits.
Cayenne pepper is typically added to food in either its natural or powdered form, and some people use it as a cream or capsule in order to take advantage of its detoxifying properties.
Cayenne pepper benefits are numerous and effective; it’s used to help digestion, including heal upset stomach, slow intestinal gas, stop stomach pain, stop diarrhea and as a natural remedy for cramps. It’s also used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels — including to improve poor circulation, reverse excessive blood clotting, lower high cholesterol and prevent heart disease.
When consumed, cayenne pepper has the power to relieve a toothache, seasickness, alcoholism, malaria and fever; it’s also used to help people who have difficulty swallowing. When applied topically, cayenne pepper benefits the skin, too.
The fruit of the capsicum plant contains a chemical called capsaicin. Using capsaicin for different health ailments is more common than ever. Currently, it’s being studied to test its ability to reduce pain sensations when applied to the skin, and research indicates that it would be effective as a remedy for headaches (including migraines), potential solution for osteoarthritis and other painful conditions.
Cayenne Pepper Nutrition Facts
Cayenne is a shrub that originated in Central and South America and now grows in subtropical and tropical climates. Its hollow fruit grows into long pods that turn red, orange or yellow when they ripen. Cayenne chili peppers (or Capsicum frutescens) belong to the genus Capsicum and come from a similar cultivar of Capsicum annuum. Capsicum is an herb, and the fruit of the capsicum plant is used to make medicine.
The pepper also contains vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, potassium, manganese and flavonoids – which provides its powerful antioxidantproperties. On the Scoville Rating Scale, cayenne pepper is rated typically anywhere from 30,000 to 190,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). (Pure capsaicin has the highest SHU rating.)
Here are the cayenne pepper nutrition facts, listed in recommended daily values; 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper contains:
- 17 calories
- 1 gram of fat
- 2 milligrams sodium
- 3 grams carbohydrate
- 1 gram dietary fiber
- 1 gram sugar
- 1 gram protein
- 44 percent vitamin A
- 8 percent vitamin E
- 7 percent vitamin C
- 6 percent vitamin B6
- 5 percent vitamin K
- 5 percent manganese
- 3 percent potassium
- No cholesterol
15 Cayenne Pepper Benefits
1. Helps Digestion
One of the major cayenne pepper benefits is the positive effect it has on the digestive system. Cayenne pepper helps produce saliva, which is important for excellent digestion as well as preventing bad breath. Consuming cayenne pepper stimulates our salivary glands, which is needed to begin the digestive process. (1)
Cayenne pepper also stimulates the flow of enzyme production, which is essential for our digestive system to work properly. It also stimulates gastric juices that aid the body’s ability to metabolize food and toxins. (2)
2. Relieves Migraine Pain
Researchers suggest that cayenne pepper, due to its spice, is able to stimulate a pain response in a different part of the body. Once this happens, the brain puts its attention on that new site and will no longer concentrate on the pain in the head, which causes the migraine headache.
After this initial pain reaction from the cayenne pepper, the nerve fibers have a depleted substance P, or pain chemical, and the sensation of pain is lessened. You are basically tricking your body to “feel pain” somewhere else, so that the head is no longer the main focus for pain chemicals. (3, 4)
3. Prevents Blood Clots
Blood clots are blockages in your arteries and blood vessels that limit blood flow through your circulatory system. Cayenne encourages fibrinolytic activity and helps prevent blood clots. This is also the reason why cayenne pepper is effective in preventing heart attacks. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper helps to clear away artery-narrowing lipid deposits, and dilates arteries and blood vessels to clear away clots. (5, 6)
4. Provides Detox Support
Cayenne pepper benefits include its ability to stimulate circulation and eliminate acidity. Cayenne pepper restores the circulatory system by opening the capillaries and regulating blood sugar; it also helps the digestive system that moves bacteria and toxins out of the body. Cayenne pepper also increases body temperature and boosts your metabolism. (7, 8)
5. Relieves Joint and Nerve Pain
Cayenne power has very powerful pain-relieving properties when applied to the skin. It reduces the amount of substance P, a chemical that carries pain messages to the brain. When there is less substance P, the pain messages no longer reach the brain and you feel relief.
Studies have found that cayenne pepper relieves pain after surgery, such as a mastectomy or an amputation. It also alleviates pain from nerve damage in the feet or legs from diabetes, lower back injuries, neuropathy, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as fibromyalgia symptoms like joint or muscle pain. (9)
6. Supports Weight Loss
Studies have found that consuming cayenne pepper for breakfast creates less appetite, so people eat less calories during the day. It also burns excess fat because it’s a metabolic booster. As one of the key anti-inflammatory foods, cayenne pepper benefits also include weight loss. Cayenne pepper has the power to soothe inflammation and bloating that comes from allergies, food sensitivities and infections. (2, 8)
7. Works as Anti-Irritant
Cayenne pepper benefits include its anti-irritant properties, making it effective in easing ulcers, upset stomachs, cough and even potentially stop diarrhea. The common belief is that cayenne pepper, when consumed in excessive amounts, leads to gastric ulcers because of its irritant and acid-secreting nature. People with ulcers are actually advised to limit or avoid using cayenne pepper; however, investigations carried out in recent years have revealed that chili, or its active principle “capsaicin,” is not the cause for the formation of ulcer symptoms but a benefactor.
Studies have found that cayenne pepper does not stimulate, but inhibits acid secretion, stimulates alkali and mucus secretions and particularly gastric mucosal blood flow, which helps in the prevention and healing of ulcers. (9)
8. Treats Psoriasis
Psoriasis occurs when skin cells replicate too quickly, and it results in swollen patches under the skin covered with whitish scales on top. The scaly patches are areas of inflammation and excessive skin production.
Two trials showed that 0.025 percent capsaicin (cayenne pepper) cream used topically is effective in treating psoriasis. The first study showed a significant decrease in scaling and redness during a six-week period in 44 patients with moderate and severe psoriasis. The second was a double-blind study of 197 patients; psoriasis was treated with the capsaicin cream four times daily for six weeks, with a significant decrease in scaling, thickness, redness and itching. (10)
9. Boosts Metabolism
Cayenne pepper benefits also include its ability to regulate your metabolism. Cayenne pepper has been found to effectively suppress hunger and normalize glucose levels. It keeps blood pressure levels normalized, and helps the body lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. (11, 12)
10. Fights Cold and Flu
Cayenne pepper benefits include being full of beta carotene and antioxidants that support your immune system. It aids in breaking up and moving congested mucus, and once this nasty mucus leaves the body, the symptoms of the flu or cold will diminish. Besides helping as a natural remedy for the flu, cayenne pepper also raises your body temperature, which makes you sweat and increases the activity of your immune system. As a vitamin C food, cayenne pepper may also help you to kick that nasty cold.
11. Source of Vitamin A
Vitamin A plays a critical role in maintaining healthy vision, neurological function and healthy skin; it is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation by fighting free radicals. Studies have repeatedly shown that antioxidants like vitamin A are vital to good health and longevity; they benefit eye health, boost immunity and foster cell growth. (13)
Lucky for us, cayenne pepper is a great source of vitamin A; in fact, with just two teaspoons of cayenne pepper, you are getting your fill of vitamin A for the day!
12. Contains Vitamin E
Vitamin E benefits include helping many organs in the body function properly and is extremely useful in naturally slowing the aging process. This important and beneficial vitamin has the power to balance cholesterol, fight free radicals, repair damaged skin, balance hormones, repair damaged skin and hair, improve vision and increase energy levels … and cayenne pepper is an important provider of vitamin E.
13. Prevents Allergies
Because cayenne is an anti-inflammatory agent, it has the power to prevent allergies and the symptoms related to allergies. A food allergy, for example, is a measurable response to consuming a specific food. Food allergies, or intolerances, can be caused by a condition known as leaky gut (intestinal permeability), when proteins and food particles pass through the gut and cause systemic body inflammation.
Leaky gut is like having the gates broken from your intestines to your bloodstream so that toxins, microbes and undigested food particles can now get through. (Take my leaky gut test if you want to know if you have it.) When this happens, it causes inflammation throughout your body, leading to a variety of diseases.
14. Possible Anti-Cancer Agent
Studies suggest that capsaicin may have a role as a natural remedy for cancer, including in the management of prostate cancer. One study conducted at University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine found that this important ingredient in cayenne pepper is able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent the activation of new dangerous formations. (14)
There is also data from California’s Loma Linda University that suggests that cayenne pepper benefits include being effective in helping prevent lung cancer in smokers. Cayenne pepper’s high amounts of capsaicin serves as a substance that can stop the formation of tobacco induced tumors in the lung. Similar effects have also been found in liver tumors when they were exposed to cayenne pepper.
15. Anti-Fungal Properties
The final cayenne pepper benefit is its ability to kill fungus and prevent the formation of fungal pathogens. Cayenne pepper was investigated to determine its in vitro antifungal activity, and the results found that it was active against 16 different fungal strains, including Candida.
Candida is a fungus that aids with nutrient absorption and digestion, when in proper levels in the body. When it overproduces, however, the typical candida symptoms may appear; this includes hormone imbalance, joint pain, digestive problems and a weak immune system. (12)