Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares her challenging experience in attempting a plastic free month and some helpful suggestions as to how to reduce your plastic consumption when it is ubiquitous. Prepare to be challenged!
July is ‘Plastic free month’. Its purpose is to raise awareness and encourage people to reduce their plastic waste. Sounds like a great idea and it might just be the reminder and call to action that some of us need to make a change in our plastic consumption and subsequent waste. But how easy is it?
Not so easy. I challenged myself to not buy any new plastic in the month of June. Using plastic products that I already had was okay, I just couldn’t buy any new plastic for a month...I lasted a week. Which in hindsight is quite impressive. I hadn’t realised before I set myself the challenge just how much plastic is EVERYWHERE. Not to mention that in the month of June I was having work done on my kitchen so my only food options were ready made meals or takeout: cue the plastic.
Kitchen work aside, I still thought that if I made the conscious decision to avoid buying plastic, I could. For that first week I deliberately bought take out food from places that I knew used cardboard boxes or, even better, compostable packaging. Another relatively easy choice, which I’ve already been making for several years, is taking my own cloth bags to go shopping. I also buy dry goods and toiletries such as hand soap and shampoo from a zero waste refill shop - more on that later.
All of the above aside, it is quite literally impossible to buy milk (dairy or alternative) without plastic and oat milk is something I consume daily. The only alternative there would be to make my own, and quite frankly I just don’t have the time! The other thing that is impossible to avoid is tags on clothing. I am an avid charity shop goer and I feel that reusing clothes that otherwise would be thrown out is a great waste saver, but you can’t avoid the plastic price tag! It’s in the little details that I got caught out (and those are just a couple of examples) and if I wasn’t doing the challenge I probably wouldn’t even notice them. It has really opened my eyes to just how much plastic is used. We don’t even realise our consumption of it on a daily basis.
If we can’t cut it out completely, thankfully, there are ways that we can REDUCE our plastic consumption and waste. Starting with zero waste refill shops. You bring your own container and fill it with ingredients or products that the shop buys in bulk, therefore reducing plastic packaging needs. Granted, there are some in London that only stock very expensive organic products and ingredients and charge extortionate amounts for them. However there are a few gems in and around West Norwood:
Sustenance - West Norwood (pop up at Portico Kitchen)
Healthier without - Streatham → apparently they now have their own oat milk dispenser!
BYO - Tooting market
Some other great ways to reduce are:
Where you do need to purchase plastic containers see if you can reuse them before recycling them. If you have kids, plastic containers can become all sorts of arty creations! If you are a keen gardener, plastic bottles or lids can become germination pots and plastic bags or sheets can become cloches. Paying a little bit of attention and being more conscious of your decisions in regard to plastic consumption and waste can make a big difference.
Start small and build habits. Good luck!
This week we have a guest post from our dear friend Yinka who used to work with us as an osteopath and yoga teacher and with whom we maintain a strong and respectful relationship. Here Yinka muses on the benefits of her allotment to her wellbeing in honour of 'National Growing for Wellbeing' week 7-13th June 2021.
4 years ago, my name finally came to the top of the allotment waiting list. It was a mess of cooch grass, weeds and dumped bits and pieces. I feel in love with it straight away, and it quickly be-came my happy place. It has been hard work, frustrating at times and mud under the fingernails and osteopathy are not an ideal combination. As we went into the first lockdown of 2020 it really kept me going and became a place that was essential for my wellbeing. I had more time on my hands than I have had in many years but no seedlings or plants and no option to by any. I decided that it was time to put the small propagator that I had bought 2 years ago into operation. I bought a selection of seeds online and set to work. Choosing the seeds was a combination of things I like to grow, what was available and wishful thinking.
Seeds were sown and I waited, I have a very small but much appreciated garden and really en-joyed using the space for sowing seeds potting on, and “designing” what was going where. It was a place of calm and when the world felt chaotic and uncertain. Having the time to think about the layout of beds helped to keep me focused and grounded, digging and weeding took on a new zeal as it was time out of the house when there was very little opportunity to do much else apart from work. In years gone when time was short; I have bought what I can get my hands from garden centres and shops to plant out so quite haphazard about things. Last year I thought more about colour, variety and protecting my seedlings and plants from foe like foxes, slugs, snails, and pigeons (more on that later). Checking my plants became a daily relaxing ritual. Go-ing to the allotment most days became my regular exercise, quietly whiling away the hour(s) out-doors and feeling relaxed whilst forgetting albeit temporarily about the pandemic was blissful. Our allotment is not pretty, it’s my higgledy piggledy happy place and its design is ever changing and forces me to accept what I cannot change (the elements, pests, dud seeds) and keep trying new things.
Yinka runs her osteopathic clinic from her home in Brixton and online yoga classes. Visit her website at https://www.holmewoodosteopathicpractice.co.uk/ and find her on instagram @theosteopathyogi
Acupuncturist Philippa Summers shares some tips on getting ready for hayfever season with spring around the corner in her helpful blog with links to articles and suggestions for natural courses of action to help support yourself
It may be a while yet but the early signs heralding the end of winter are beginning to show themselves. Spring bulbs are pushing through the soil and catkins are dangling from the trees. For most of us these are uplifting very early signs of spring, this year more eagerly awaited and welcomed than ever. But for hayfever sufferers the joy is tempered. Hayfever can take the pleasure out of a day in the sun, limiting activities and for some severely impacting on quality of life causing considerable misery. Symptoms can begin as early as March and treatment is often more effective when started before, hence this early post, ahead of the season.
Seasonal and Perennial
According to the Met Office, who publish a pollen forecast along with other useful information on hayfever, tree pollen allergies generally start from late March running to mid-May, grass has from May until July and weed pollens run from the end of June to September. The UkAllergy website is also a useful source and lists trees and plants by species. People with allergies to one or more of these pollen types have hayfever or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Those with allergies to other sources such as house dust mites, mould or animal dander which often persist throughout the year have perennial allergic rhinitis. The symptoms are similar for both types of allergic rhinitis.
Many people rely on antihistamines along with nasal steroid sprays and eye drops to relieve the symptoms of hayfever and for more severe symptoms immunotherapy may be an option. However, not everyone is comfortable taking medication and all have side effects. Antihistamines, the most widely used treatment, can leave you feeling drowsy, sometimes with dizziness and headaches, and they dry the mucous membranes thickening the mucus and often causing greater congestion.
Acupuncture can help to reduce the impact of allergic rhinitis (seasonal and perennial) without the side effects. It is especially good at relieving nasal and sinus symptoms, most effectively as a treatment before symptoms begin but is also effective in reducing symptoms once they have started. A review of 13 research studies which included 2365 people with allergic rhinitis found acupuncture to be a safe and efficacious treatment improving their quality of life.
What else can you do to help?
Reducing exposure The most effective way to help is to reduce exposure to the pollen or other allergen.
For Seasonal Pollen Allergies:
Massage therapist Erika Zettervall shares her joyful and varied experiences of walking her dog Alfons in the winter and explores the benefits of getting out and about with or without a furry friend.
This month is national walk the dog month, supposedly due to the bad January weather dog owners are in need of encouragement to walk their dogs(!?). I find this a bit baffling since my experience of weather in winter is that it’s more dog walking friendly than summer weather. The heat is worse than sleet if you are a dog. There is, of course, the maddening amount of mud at the moment, resulting in muddy paws and boots to clean, but walking my dog has never been a chore, rather a great source of joy.
It was the main reason for getting a dog and I take great pleasure in walking, I enjoy long country walks as well as exploring urban environment.
With this winter lockdown, dog or no dog, walking will be an opportunity to meet and spend some time with friends. Don’t let the temperature put you off and prevent safe socialising and friendly support but sitting on a park bench is chilly and is not great for the kidneys. Instead, keep on moving, the walking will build your inner heat and you will keep warm. Walking and talking is very therapeutic, the gentle movement brings softness and flow to thoughts and conversation. It lends itself to a deeper conversation and is often preferable to facing each other stationary when touching on sensitive topics or resolving a delicate issue.
However with a dog or two put in the mix the focus will shift suddenly and abruptly, when urgent canine matters occur. Like balls needing to be thrown or to stop for a close inspection of a wall that may require a signature in the form of quick cock of the leg! It can be a good interlude at
best or a bit jarring if you are mid-sentence. I used to find it a bit annoying before becoming a dog owner myself. But the patience required, something I have had to cultivate with my dog, makes me slow down and notice my surroundings a bit more.
This disrupting and also playful quality of dogs is great if you are like me a bit prone to drift and disappear in thought. My dog, Alfons, keeps me firmly in the present by his demand for attention and in so doing prevents me from rumination and overthinking the many anxieties of the world and him from fox poo rolling or munching on unsuitable discarded food bits.
I can understand the hesitation to venture out for a walk when there is no dog insisting on an excursion, especially when the weather looks a bit wintery. Unless of course you are like me and love crisp cold weather, find a long brisk walk energising and crave that sweet feeling of returning home with legs tired and cheeks rosy. Then the enjoyment of staying cosy indoor is delightful, but without the exertion and fresh air you can end up foggy headed and sluggish.
London has many fantastic parks, big and small, as well as the commons. Many streets have beautiful trees and small patches of greenery and its apparent numerous Londoners are keen gardeners making pavement walking very interesting and pleasant. Most places are very accommodating and friendly towards dogs, then there are also the waterways to get to know; rivers and canals with paths running alongside. Lately I have exploring areas along the river Lea and East London and they are absolutely great. You can walk for miles on paths and marshes with very friendly crowds. Even cyclists are friendly!
If you not keen on roving and since we are all encouraged to stay close to home this winter, much discovery can be had repeating a favourite route. If you carry the mindset ‘you never cross the same river twice’ you can begin to cultivate awareness in the small changes in every day.
On a clear winters day the views are good and very different to the summer. With very little or no foliage you can see though the trees and what in the summer is obscured by leaves is now visible. You might also notice the naked branches’ beautiful structure, maybe there is a hint of preparation for new growth, stems tuning purple and swelling buds signalling a turning towards a new season.
If you still don’t fancy winter wandering and are dog free, take pleasure that you don’t have to take the dog out in the cold and be grateful you can choose. Then you cultivate a bit of gratitude! Although the wise part of you is hopefully aware a daily walk is would be a great benefit for maintaining good health and supporting your immune system.
Put a hat and gloves on, step out and enjoy winter walking, with or without a dog.
Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares her journey with veganism and how it is a lifestyle as much as a diet choice and encourages an open attitude to how we relate to our consumption.
I’m going to start this blog with a quote from the Veganuary website: “Since 2014, Veganuary has inspired and supported more than one million people in 192 countries to try vegan for January. Last year, more than 400,000 people took the pledge to try a vegan diet, while more than 600 brands, restaurants, and supermarkets promoted the campaign, and launched more than 1200 new vegan products and menus in the UK market alone.”
It is safe to say that Veganism has grown considerably and swiftly over the past 6 years or so. That is a very short amount of time for something that was unknown to many people to have become so popular and dare I say, trendy. Of course, a vegan lifestyle is a lot more than a trend to those that follow it, but I do think that its rise in popular culture has helped vegans navigate meals out and quick dinners with a lot more ease. I say ‘vegan lifestyle’ because it is not just about the food! Veganism cuts animal products out of all things that we use, from shampoo to the clothes that we wear. Vegan leather is now becoming fairly mainstream with some big brands, such as Dr.Martens footwear.
I have a personal story with veganism. I didn’t really understand what it was and when I first heard that people ate food without using anything that came from an animal I thought it was impossible! Then I worked on a cruise ship for 6 months and my cabin mate was a fully fledged vegan. I couldn’t comprehend how she did it on the ship as we had to eat from the Officer’s mess - buffet style - and everything at least contained dairy or eggs if not meat, apart from the salad bar at the end. She would duly eat some salad at meal times and then back in our cabin she had stashes of vegan cereal bars, dried fruit, nuts, and most importantly of all, peanut butter. Just the jar and a spoon, that’s all that was required!
It proves just how hard it was not so long ago to be vegan. You had to prepare in advance, otherwise you would be stuck with nothing to eat. It seemed to me at the time that you would be giving up so much and that it must be a constant struggle to live a vegan lifestyle. But I think subconsciously my cabin mate inspired the beginning of my interest and enthusiasm for veganism. I then read the book, ‘Eating Animals’ by Jonathan Safran Foer and it pushed me over the edge to make a change.
After trying to commit to being fully vegan for about a year and a half back in 2017/18, I have now settled into what some might call a flexitarian. At home, we eat plant based most of the time and buy organic free range eggs from the farmer’s market along with an occasional bit of cheese (mainly from sheep/goats). My main motivation of wanting to adopt a more plant based diet is now my carbon footprint and the impact that mass meat and dairy production is having on the environment. We make exceptions on meat for special occasions and really celebrate the cooking and eating of a good quality piece of meat, bought from a small, family owned farm.
We don’t need meat in every meal, or as a convenience product. What we choose to eat is very personal, but sometimes I think our choices are not conscious ones. We are shown what to eat from years of marketing and perhaps from what we learned at the dinner table as kids. But we can make a conscious change, or we can at least try, little by little. I think one of the best things we can do for Veganuary is to educate ourselves a bit. There is a whole lifestyle behind the movement and it is for the good of our fellow animals and the planet to pay it some attention. If you can give it a go for the month of January that is amazing. If you can commit to one fully plant based meal a week then go for it!
Acupuncturist Philippa Summers shares some local ways to enjoy the outdoors this coming festive season and encourages you to find beauty in the cold and sometimes grey winter
You may have seen Erika’s inspirational blog encouraging us to experience and appreciate the darkness of the long winter nights. By cherishing not just the dark but winter itself, the cold, the beauty of early morning frosts, long shadows, later sunrises and earlier sunsets, naked trees against crisp blue skies we can wrap up and allow ourselves to be drawn outside. And there is nothing like returning home to be embraced by the warmth, feeling refreshed and enlivened.
Christmas this year will be like no other. I imagine many people will be staying local and postponing gatherings. Not easy decisions and I know that even within families there are conflicting ideas and hard choices to be made between our dearest wishes and the risks. For me the getting together will be all the sweeter when we are through the worst of this pandemic and we have something to celebrate with gusto. Simply being together will be a joy and my focus is on a simple Christmas and a summer gathering to make up for all we have missed.
So, for those of you that will be spending a quieter than usual Christmas at home, maybe with children climbing the walls, I encourage you to wrap up warm, embrace the cold and get outside. Like many I have had more walks in Brockwell park this year than ever before and still it holds delight, with longer walks taking in Dulwich Park and Sydenham Woods. There is something new to discover each time, a different route brings a different view, the seasons create a changing landscape and our senses are drawn to the subtle transformations. So, even the familiar can hold surprise and nourish our souls and senses with new sights and smells. It’s good to get out and move, not least of all with all the feasting and indulgence that goes with Christmas.
So, for a change of scene here are a few outdoor events and activities, festive and otherwise, that may add some sparkle and fresh air. You never know what you’ll stumble upon along the way.
Embrace the winter, much as you may want to wish this one away, and maybe by spring or summer we can gather more safely in larger numbers, maybe even hug one another again. Virtual hugs for now. Wrap up warm, get outside and have a good time!
Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares why she is celebrating Thanksgiving this year and the benefits she's found in regularly practicing gratitude, even when - and perhaps especially when - things are hard.
Thanksgiving is a tradition celebrated by the United States and Canada. It began as a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. I have never personally given much thought to Thanksgiving but as I now live with an American who hasn’t seen his family in over a year, I’m giving it some thought this year!
This year has been a crazy one for all of us, at least in the sense that we were not expecting a full blown pandemic. Some days it might be hard to think about what we’re thankful for. So with this blog I want to remind myself and hopefully some readers to think of the small things that we have in our lives to be thankful for everyday.
Some time half way through this year I started a morning ‘ritual’ where I would write down my ‘24 hour win’, three things I am grateful for, and an intention for the day. It really grounds me right at the beginning of my day before I read any ‘doom and gloom’ news or expose myself to anxiety-inducing stimuli. Often, my three things I am grateful for are the same or similar to the day before or things I wrote last week. That’s OK. I am grateful everyday that I am healthy, everyday that my body is strong and carries me, everyday that I get to speak with a friend or family member, everyday that I take a walk outside in nature, everyday that I make myself some good food, everyday that I enjoy a cup of tea. The list goes on. I can be thankful for these things every single day. Being grateful and giving thanks for these everyday things reminds me of just how abundant my life is.
I, as well as many others, have lost work because of the lockdown. This is really hard, and in modern society we attach a lot of self worth and purpose to our work. So when we lose this work, we can lose our sense of purpose along with it. By being thankful for things in our lives every morning, we see that there is so much more to our purpose and self worth.
This Thanksgiving I encourage you to give thought to what you can be thankful for. If it is a certain friend or someone that has shown you kindness, show them that you are thankful with a little message or card (you will also feel happy from saying thanks!). As for me, I am celebrating my own Thanksgiving with my little family this Sunday, cooking and eating great food as a little gift to ourselves at the end of a hard year. Thankful that we have each other and the means to create and enjoy a good meal.
Happy Thanksgiving from ours to yours!
Massage therapist Erika Zettervall thoughtfully considers the importance of engaging with the physical darkness that surrounds us at this time of year as the days get shorter and encourages us to balance how we value light with dark.
Darkness. It’s that time of the year again. The daylight hours are reduced day by day until we reach the winter solstice at that point the day hardly begins before it starts to get dark again.
Seasonal darkness during our winter is inevitable. Our planet will travel continuously, journeying through the universe orbiting the sun with its axis tilting the way it does, whether we like it or not. In a world of uncertainty that is pretty certain.
These short winter days can of course be avoided by relocating to the other side of the planet for the winter or permanently move closer to the equator where there the daylight hours do not alter in the same way over the year. The longing for winter sun and light is a strong incentive for travel this time of the year seeking out longer, brighter days. I have been able to do so past but not for while, and this year that option is more unattainable than usual. But I often work in the evenings and have the benefit of time to be outdoors during the day.
With the wisdom of seasonal light/darkness being something that cannot be altered and, in accepting that, perhaps it’s possible to explore a different relationship to darkness.
I recently heard somebody on the radio being interviewed talking about the scarcity of darkness. The increased popularity of illumination of not only buildings but also trees and gardens, the dark night sky is being endangered. He related to darkness as visual silence and something to treasure.
True, we do relax better in darkness - putting an eye bag over your eyes in savasana deepens the relaxation. Our eyes are our most dominant sense and there is strong focus on visual stimuli in our society. But in the dark we need to slow down and rely on other senses. Feeling, listening to find the way, elevating our presence of mind. Slowing down and easing into the darkness, eyes adjust and sight is expanded so shades appear.
One of my favourite things this time of the year pre covid was walking through St. James’ Park early evening in the dark. Stepping into the peace, silence and darkness of the park contrasting with the busy West End streets sparkling with Christmas lights and bustling with shoppers. Letting the eyes adjust to the dark, enjoying the quiet calm and heading for Victoria station with my small dog in tow. Happy to see fellow commuters and a few tourists braving the dark.
We need the darkness as a contrast to the lights. Like stars in the sky only visible in the dark and that is the most beautiful sight to have. Milky Way or, as we call it in my language, Vintergatan Winter Street like the way you travel this time of year since in the summer the sky’s lightness obscures the stars.
In accepting the scarcity of light and immersing in the darkness, there is room to discover its own particular beauty. Begin by exploring the edges getting up before sunrise (not too early in November), light a candle and let the light come slowly. Go out before sunrise or at sunset experience the shifts. Let the eyes adjust.
There is also the other darkness. The internal darkness. That also needs befriending and that will be topic for another blog.
Blogs from the WNT team. For our blogs from before June 2020 please see individual profile pages - it's a good way to get to know practitioners too.