Life Stacking

 

“Stacking your life involves the search for fewer tasks that meet multiple needs, which often requires that you’re clear on what your needs actually are.” Katy Bowman

Here my daughter and I are ‘stacking’. We are working on a tree house together. On this day I needed to create, to get away from the to do list and to connect with my daughter (without playing another game of magical creatures). She wanted dedicated mummy time and has wanted this tree house for ages.

In this one shared task we got:

– Connection and purpose.

– Much natural movement (I climbed that tree about 50 times).

– Outdoor time.

– Skills development (basic building and problem solving).

– Emotional skills development (exposure to frustration, set backs, negotiation, working as a team, disappointment).

– Nourishment (from connection, creativity, nutritious movement).

– A sweet special spot that my daughter uses to play but also a place she goes for solitude and centering.

Stacking your life is not about doing more. It’s not about multitasking. It about being conscience about what you want in your life and how those things align with each other. It’s about choosing not just reacting.

What do you want more of in your life?

How can you align aspects of your life to get more of those things without adding more to your ‘to do’ list?

Huge props to @nutritiousmovement (Katy Bowman) for her deeply inspiring and very accessible work in this space.

Katy’s work is absolutely worth your time so check her out.

Take your time

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“For fast acting relief, try slowing down.”
― Lily Tomlin

We live in a time where instant gratification and ‘results now’ is the refrain, where ‘hacks’ and the ‘fast wins’ are often the approach we take with our health, wellbeing and experience of life.

While quick results are not inherently wrong, it is important to take time to honour the ‘slow grow’ choices too. We can really benefit by letting go of expecting big dramatic changes in a short time frame and are usually better served working with small incremental changes that keep the big picture in mind.

This is important as big fast changes are often not achievable, particularly when we are looking at deeply ingrained movement, emotional or behavioural patterns. Big changes are also not sustainable long term, eventually growth slows down. The ‘beginners curve’ is a good example of this. When starting a new practice you can achieve some significant results while you are riding the beginner curve, but over time this growth plateaus out and change slows right down, which is where many people get frustrated and stop.

Keeping in mind (or in body) the ‘slow grow’ approach gives us perspective on our choices and helps us think about our actions over a longer period of time. It gives us opportunity to really drop into a practice, to deepen our connection to it, to notice if it does not align with what we actually want in our lives or whether it is something you really feel is worth your time and attention. The slow grow keeps us humble, human and tests our dedication but it is also immensely gratifying when we zoom our perspective out.

Slowing down also lets us hone the virtue of patience, of giving things time to bake, of being ok that effort over time is required. To stop grabbing at instant relief, instant gratification, instant satisfaction and be present with our commitment to ourselves. To be ok with just chipping away at something.

Here is a clip of me working through some of my resting squat practises.

 

Kinda looks like I have an ok resting squat here huh….well five years ago I most certainly did not. Five years ago I could not squat past 90 degrees without falling backwards.

My approach has been regular, little exposures. I worked at being in some variation of the position again and again and again. I worked the edge of my capacity (and patience) in small doses over and over. It took time. Progress was slow.

This ‘squat project’ will never be finished or ‘sorted’ for me but I want to have good hip health and hip mobility options for all my years. I want to squat next to my grandkids and play. So I will take my time, I will do the ‘slow grow’, I will continue to notice how things effect my experience of this position (like the surface I’m on, the weather, my energy, my mood, my hormonal cycle, inflammation levels etc.) and my practice and experience of my body will deepen as I go.

“Slow down. Life is crossing the road.” 
― Debasish Mridha

Yours in slowness

Amber

Suns out, guns out (Part 1)

The ‘WHY’ and ‘WHAT’ of sun exposure and vibrant health

This time of year it is hard not to enjoy the extra light and warmth of the spring sun and given the general enthusiasm for the sun at this time of year I figure now is a good time to talk to the value of regular sun exposure for general health and vitality.

As a culture we are pretty comfortable that a bit of sunlight is a good thing but I’d like to take this further and say that the ‘little bit’ we are getting is usually not enough. That our increasingly indoor lives (dominated by artificial light) has contributed to a nationwide sunlight deficiency that is having serious health implications.

A culture of fear has built up around sun exposure and we are now avoiding, both deliberately but also structurally through the setup of our lives, something that is vital for robust health and critical for a holistic picture of health and vitality.

I’m writing this article because I have a passion for reframing our current relationship of fear with the sun, to one of value and deep respect. I strongly believe we are hurting ourselves with current mainstream approaches to the sun and would go so far as to say that regular and wide ranging sun exposure is the new superfood you aren’t having!

To me our ancient biology evolved in relationship to the sun and through years of research and body exploration I have come to believe that regular exposures to sunlight is actually a critical part of the healthy expression of our greatest biological potential. Basically our current sun avoidance policies are making us ill and blocking our health.

If you are already stirred with cries of  “sun = cancer” then you should probably read on…

Sunlight and epigenetics: Turning on our vitality

Our skin has its own human form of ‘photosynthesis’. It convert sunlight into a healing and regenerative steroidal hormone precursor, called vitamin D. Vitamin D, which we obtain primarily through sun exposure, not via diet, is responsible for supporting over 2000 bodily functions to work optimally and in the form of vitamin D3 can activate over 300 genes.

Exposure to sunlight and the production of vitamin D is literally written into the healthy expression of our genes. For example one study conducted by Dr. Michael Holick’s Ph.D., M.D. (an American endocrinologist, specialising in the field of vitamin D) showed that healthy volunteers who increased their vitamin D by 2,000 IUs per day for a few months up-regulated 291 different genes that control up to 80 different metabolic processes (ranging from improving DNA repair, boosting immune system function, to improving autoxidation – which has implications for aging and cancer).

We have receptor sites for vitamin D (called Vitamin D Receptors or VDRs) on EVERY part of our skin and when these receptors are not filled with sunlight there is an increased chance that sticky bacterial adhesions (bad news) glue to and bind up these VDRs, switching them off, which then down regulates our immune function, causing inflammation as well as interfering with our healthy gene expression (potentially turning on a large number of disease causing genes).

Sun spectacular-ness (aka the benefits)

So what are the benefits of regular healthy doses of sunlight?

  • Improved sleep quality and quantity: Too little light during the day and too much artificial light at night negatively impacts our melatonin production (the sleep well hormone) and therefore our ability to sleep well and rejuvenate at night.
  • Improved daytime wakefulness: Sunlight signals your hypothalamus and all related organs and glands to be alert and produce optimum levels of your ‘wake up’ hormones (especially early morning sun).
  • Improved immune function: Getting more sun increases the efficiency of your immune system (think flus, colds and infections of all kinds). This is a big one because not getting enough sun leaves you wide open to a bunch of viruses, fungi, bacterial infections as well as reduced ability to heal from injury and every day stresses.
  • Prevention of autoimmune diseases: Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Improved cardiovascular health: Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of heart attack by 50 percent according to one study (ref below). Further to this, the study found that if you have a heart attack – while being vitamin D deficient – your risk of dying from that heart attack is nearly 100 percent! VDRs amazingly are also present even in our cardiac muscle and respond positively to sunlight on the skin improving cardiac function. Cholesterol, sulfur and vitamin D from sun exposure all work together to protect your heart, brain, and blood vessels, so it’s important that you have sufficient amounts of all three.
  • Emotional balance: The neurotransmitter serotonin (known as the happy feelings and well-being neurotransmitter) rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. Sunshine also causes a release of endorphins. There are also multiple studies that show a relationship with low vitamin D levels and depression.
  • Healthy, vibrant skin: The skin’s cellular renewal process is dependent upon vitamin D. Broader than just vitamin D, sunlight itself can help with skin blemishes, acne, eczema, bacterial/fungal infection, even psoriasis and can actually reduce fine lines and wrinkles through reducing inflammation and improving skin function and resilience.
  • Improved gut health: Our intestinal integrity has a strong relationship with the sun. Our skin and our guts have a complex intimate relationship and if one is down regulated it will usually show up in the other as well. Our access to vitamin D is integral to this relationship and the health of the mucosal barrier of our gastrointestinal wall. A vitamin D deficiency increases susceptibility to a number of conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Decreased likelihood of osteoporosis: It is well understood that vitamin D is a crucial component of healthy bones and teeth and the utilisation of minerals such as calcium for building and maintain strong bones.
  • Improved thyroid function: Both cortisol and melatonin (which are supported by sunlight exposure) influence healthy thyroid hormone production. In addition a vitamin D deficiency is also associated with autoimmune thyroid disease.
  • Cancer prevention: Yep, slathering ourselves in chemically laden, hormone disputing petro creams to protect against skin cancer might not be as straight forward as it seems. The Journal of the American Board of Family Health says There currently is little evidence that sunscreens are protective against CMM {Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma}. A number of studies suggest that the use of sunscreen does not significantly decrease the risk of CMM, and may actually increase the risk of CMM and sunburns.” Cancer is increasingly being linked to sunburns, not sun exposure – an important distinction. There is also much research that points to the protective nature of healthy sun exposure to life threatening skin cancers!
  • Longevity: Yep higher vitamin D levels are associated with longevity and low vitamin D level have been found to be significant indicator of mortality!

There is more but this article is already too long! The reality is that we are only just beginning to understand the full spectrum of nutrients we receive from the sun (it really goes beyond just vitamin D synthesizing), but there is more than enough evidence to get us thinking more about (and feeling into) how we would like to relate to the sun in the future.

In part two of this article we will explore the ‘How’. How much is enough? How do you go about doing it strategically (avoiding the burn)? And how to start.

Love and sunshine

Amber

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