5 Ways Gardens Benefit Your Health 

Although most gardeners have long known it, the science confirms it – gardening is good for your health!

And so with scientific data on our side, the time has come to reveal what an hour or two, or a whole afternoon, does to your health; physical, mental and emotional.

rattan direct garden benefits

Gardening reduces stress and anxiety

It’s probably a combination of fresh air, enjoying the sun when it shines and also caring for tender plants and shrubs that make gardening such a great antidote to modern life. Stressful jobs, full social lives and everything we have to deal with can lead to blood pressure rising and a state of stress settling in.

Whilst a little stress may be a good thing, too much has a negative impact on the body; both our physical and mental health. Depression is also an ailment that society is no longer treating as taboo, and studies have also shown that gardening can be part of the solution to managing depression.

The solution is clear for all to see; spending a little time in the garden; either weeding, planting new plants or simply mowing the lawn, will help to lower stress and anxiety levels and benefit your mental health.

Decreases risk of diabetes and heart disease

Who’d have thought it?! Spending time in the garden being active is part of the solution to keeping heart attacks and diabetes at bay.

Of course, keen gardeners have known for some time that gardening can be heavy work. Just think of all the weight you sometimes shift about; the digging and forking over the allotment, the hoeing, the plants and the weeding. Even a brisk mow of the lawn can work up a sweat once a week. Keeping your cardiac system in great shape and your weight in check is done by a variety of means but the best exercise is one that leaves you slightly out of breath and raises your pulse rate a little – and heaving heavy sacks of compost, mowing the lawn, cutting the hedges and so on can all do that!

This point also ties in with the previous point of lowering stress and anxiety too, which is a common cause of heart attacks. Physical and mental health are linked so taking care of your overall wellbeing is essential.

It makes you happy!

There is increasing evidence that the amount spent outside directly correlates with several health and behavioural problems. This is why many specialist schools and educational settings that deal with emotional and behavioural difficulties in children are spending more time out of the classroom, and enjoying settings such as Forest Schools and the like. Of course, it is not the only answer to dealing with behavioural difficulties, depression and feeling fed up but it goes a long way to lift your mood and spirits.

This doesn’t mean you have to work when you are in the garden, either. Why not take half an hour to sit, listen to the sounds of nature around you, the birds sing, admire the flowers, the buzzing bees and other insects that you probably haven’t noticed until now? You could invest in rattan garden furniture, sit back and spend some time in your own green space, no matter how big or small it is, and disconnect from your busy life. Try it for half an hour and see what it feels like.

A tool to stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s?

It has been noted that Alzheimer’s and dementia are the two biggest health issues that will impact on our nation in the coming years. Slowly, the science and medical world are peeling back the layers of these people-robbing illnesses, extending our understanding of both issues. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that various physical activities cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in half – and one of the activities that was recognised was gardening. For those suffering from dementia, it has been found that garden-centred therapy is one of the most powerful in reaching and connecting with people.

It helps you sleep better

Finally, maybe it is something to do with all the activity, the fresh air and the mental stimulation of being immersed in nature, plus the reduced stress and anxiety, but being proactive in your garden helps you sleep better. And of course good night sleep is essential for health and wellbeing too!

Gardening is not just about pretty flowers and tasty vegetables. It is an opportunity to enjoy being outdoors, switch off from modern life and enjoy everything that nature has to offer. Along with their customers, Rattan Direct have long known that the garden has magical powers to relax and de-stress the human mind, body and soul. And now the science concurs.

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

A Look into The Middle East Water Shortage

Currently, the whole world is facing possible future water shortages. However, the water demand in the Middle East has soared greatly along with the rise in population and urbanisation. The geographic distribution of the water resources across the Middle East is highly uneven, which is also a concern. Over 80% of the region is desert and receives little or no rainfall at all. Recent occurrences of erratic rainfall and then prolonged drought periods have added a whole new dimension to the problem, most likely because of climate change.

The demand for fresh water in the Middle East has continued to increase at a rapid pace. In order to deal with fresh water management challenges in this region, we should try and bring a balance to both water supply and demand.

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Ground water supplies

Lots of areas in the Middle East have a higher water demand compared to the natural recharge of groundwater reservoirs. Ground water quality has also deteriorated due to an influx of saline water from laterally surrounding areas, excessive use of fertilisers and local sewage.

With many countries approaching the limit of water resource development and others reeling under severe supply shortages, the problem of water scarcity is turning into a crisis. Industry experts are of the opinion that policy reforms are required to address demand issues, while addressing supply problems require practicing integrated water resource management.

Wastewater recycling

From an economic and environmental standpoint, wastewater reclamation and reuse makes good sense. It can reduce or eliminate health and environmental hazards associated with effluent discharges. At the same time, it generates an alternative resource and thereby prevents immediate investment in costly water supply schemes (storage, transfer or desalination plants).

Many private sector residential projects and townships too have set-up wastewater treatment plants, in some cases even with tertiary treatment. At the same time, to address the issue of low demand for treated wastewater, several alternative uses are being considered. Jordan and Tunisia’s experience in wastewater reuse suggests application of treated sewage effluent (TSE) for agriculture, forestry and ground water recharge.

Besides this, in the last few years the water demand for non drinking applications such as landscaping, golf courses, district cooling, construction work, etc… has gone up significantly, thereby providing alternative avenues for wastewater reuse. Initiatives are required on behalf of the local authorities to bring in the necessary changes in regulation, redraft guidelines and open up these areas for use of reclaimed wastewater.

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Supply and demand

Over the last five decades, supply augmentation has been the central approach to deal with water scarcity. Countries with considerable surface water resources, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Morocco have focused on building water conveyance and storage structures.

Jordan’s Disi water conveyance project involves a 325-km pipeline being built through the Jordanian desert to Abu Alanda and Dabuk reservoirs. While in the present context, the importance of measures for water demand management and wastewater reclamation and reuse cannot be understated, these may not be sufficient to plug the demand-supply gap. Although  Jordan has wastewater reuse rates as high as 80%, they have adopted highly efficient irrigation technologies (drip irrigation). Jordan’s Disi water conveyance project is one such attempt.

Water is the source of life and the most precious of commodities. You can help by giving to a water charity that gives access to water sanitation and saves lives. One of the biggest challenges that face areas suffering from poverty, famine or drought is the lack of access to clean water for drinking and sanitation purposes. Water is fundamental to life yet even today millions of people, particularly those living in third world countries, have little to no access to it.

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. 

Top Tips For Hair Care

I will be the first to admit that my hair is not in the best condition it could be. I am a busy mum and too often it just gets scraped back into a ponytail and ignored. However, I have been thinking about various (natural, if possible) ways to care for hair and thought I would share some top tips with you all…

General Healthy Hair Tips
First things first; don’t overwash it! Hair benefits from producing its own natural oils to keep it healthy. Some people even opt to ditch the shampoo completely and let their hair do its own magic! Even if this approach isn’t for you, Wellness Mama has a useful recipe for making your own natural shampoo and Eco Fluffy Mama has written a handy post about DIY natural dry shampoo too. Also, try to minimise the use of products and appliances. We all know that heat and too much styling damages hair. Keep your hair as natural as possible!

Treatments/ Conditioners
There are lots of natural treatments that work well to generally keep hair naturally looking and feeling its best too. Here are some favourites…

Coconut oil is my personal go to method. I find it works equally effectively on both mine and Squiggle’s hair, even though we have very different types of hair. This is also the preferred method of Hollie from Thrifty Mum to keep her hair beautifully soft and healthy.

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Thrifty Mum after her coconut oil treatment.

Apple cider vinegar is also brilliant; it is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory, it is a natural exfoliator and it is packed with nutrients too. Pretty impressive! Coconuts and Kettlebells has written a post with more detailed information. This is a favourite method of Daisies and Pie.

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Daisies and Pie after apple cider vinegar rinse.

Jade from Raw Childhood uses the ‘Curly Curl Method‘ so doesn’t use shampoo and only uses approved conditioners without drying alcohols, silicones etc… She uses olive oil protein treatment for her hair, which leaves it naturally glossy and tangle free.

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Raw Childhood post olive oil protein treatment.

Banana gets mixed reviews; some people swear by it whilst others find it messy and hard to remove. I think it depends on hair type somewhat, so proceed with caution! Using over-ripe bananas that are thoroughly blended and strained, preferably mixed with oil, is my best advice. 

Dry Hair/ Flaky Scalp
The natural treatments named above also effectively combat dry hair or a flaky scalp. Any of them can help, so find the method that works best for your hair.

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Squiggle’s previously dry curls post coconut oil treatment.

Hair Loss
Hair loss is sometimes caused by having a dry flaky scalp, hence the importance of the above tips. Of course there are also various other reasons for hair loss too; including stress, hormone changes or imbalances, vitamin deficiency, autoimmune issues, and other medical reasons (including cancer treatment for example). Or sometimes it is simply in your genes! But whatever the reason, hair loss can affect a person’s confidence and self- esteem.

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Hair loss

Whilst in some cases hair loss is only temporary and/ or can be rectified by addressing the underlying issue, for example through proper nutrition in the case of vitamin deficiency, in other cases this may be more difficult to tackle. If it is not just a temporary issue, and other methods have failed, then there are also potentially other options to consider; such as hair transplants in extreme cases, or Advanced Tricho Pigmentation Treatment. This is especially worth considering if it is really affecting the person but they are not at the stage of hair loss where a transplant is an option, or if they cannot have one for whatever reason. 

I firmly believe that beauty comes from within and we don’t need to change our appearance to feel good. But I also think that if something is making someone feel stressed or miserable, and bringing them down, then doing something about it is a positive thing. It can really help that person’s overall wellbeing! 

What are your top tips for healthy hair? Tell me in comments!

Now I am off to take my own advice on general good hair care… 

*Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Harley Street Hair Clinic. 

My Pregnancy Care Story: The Highs and Lows

Good patient care throughout pregnancy, birth and post-natal is essential; it affects our body’s ability to heal from pregnancy and birth. Experiencing poor medical care or negligence during this time can not only lead to injury but also contribute to developing mental health issues such as postnatal depression or anxiety, which could potentially affect future decisions. It could also make it more difficult to care for our child (and any older siblings too), delay recovery or impact on enjoyment of life.

Yet did you know that, despite extensive guidelines in the UK about how pregnancy and birth should be handled by professionals, 25% of women felt that they were not always involved in decisions about their care? (CQC Maternity survey). Furthermore, there is limited government guidance on post-natal care for mothers, and Mumsnet aftercare, not afterthought survey reveals worrying experiences in some cases. For example, 45% could not access required pain relief, 61% lacked food when needed and 21% had no access to water, plus 19% did not have access to washing facilities.

On this note www.yourlegalfriend.com wants to help raise awareness of what to expect from healthcare professionals, and what to question, in order to empower new parents to know their rights as a patient during pregnancy. They have done some research into women’s experiences of pregnancy and birth on the NHS, and have pulled together some interesting statistics on how some women were treated during their pregnancy and labour. You can find further details on their blog.

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My own maternity care had its ups and downs. I had a fairly smooth pregnancy but there was a small bump in the road when, during my 20 week scan, I was told that my baby had a severe cleft lip. We were referred to a consultant but it turned out to be a false alarm. I understand mistakes happen but I did feel that it was not dealt with very well, and it left me feeling quite nervous for the rest of my pregnancy. 

The birth itself was somewhat traumatic; my plan was to have a natural water birth in a midwife-led unit, but I wound up having an emergency c-section instead. I’ll try to keep a long story (fairly!) short but basically my waters broke at home, before I had even noticed any real contractions, and there was very clearly meconium. So I headed straight to hospital and was sent up to the labour ward to (reluctantly) be hooked up to monitors. I was not allowed to eat during this time as they were already preparing for the likelihood of me going into theatre sooner or later, which made me feel impatient, stressed and miserable to be honest because I was really hungry!

However, the midwives and consultant respected my preference to give birth naturally if possible, but I was induced to speed things along. My contractions then started coming fast and strong very suddenly and at this point it became more obvious that my baby was in distress. They waited as long as possible but I failed to dilate at all (I was not even at 1cm!) so it was agreed I would most likely be needing to head to theatre sooner rather than later. I was being closely monitored and waiting for an available anaesthetist, but then a crash c-section happened so they were rushed in ahead of me. By the time the team were available again, I was fast heading towards a crash situation too.

It all happened so quickly I honestly cannot remember how much ‘choice’ I was given at this time, but I did feel like I was kept informed and I fully understood that it was just a difficult situation that had limited options. I was wheeled to theatre so hurriedly though that they almost forgot that they hadn’t given me an epidural! It wasn’t an issue as such, it just meant that I had to have a spinal block instead, but I did panic for a moment at their ‘oversight’! I remember my partner being sent off to put on scrubs and me screaming that they could not start until he was in the room. Then I recall him worrying that my heart dropped so low, but everything was abit of a blur after that.

One negative thing that did stand out for me happened straight afterwards, once I had been stitched up and was ready to leave theatre. The spinal block had meant that I lost the use of feeling in my arms and upper body too; this is apparently not usual. However, when I tried to tell the midwives this they dismissed me. I then got worried that they placed my baby in my arms to head to the recovery suite but I really couldn’t feel her, let alone safely hold her, so I asked for my partner to take her instead under the circumstances. But the midwives gave each other a ‘look’ as if they didn’t believe me, which understandably made me feel stressed about the total physical numbness, as well as helpless and guilty about something that in reality was entirely beyond my control and not my fault.

However, there were some positives too; it was obvious that they were trying to salvage any scrap of my birth plan that they could, which really helped me to cope better and it made it feel all abit less out of my control. For example, they played my CD in theatre and asked her dad if he wanted to cut the chord, as I had requested. Little things like that made all of the difference; it helped me to feel respected and valued. The simple fact is that things don’t always go to plan; it is what it is.

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My hospital postpartum care was a mixed bag of contradicting advice and unsympathetic midwives with some who were absolute gems. I regained feeling after several hours but my mobility was still limited from the op and also from a drip in my elbow. (It got pulled from my hand several times until there were no other veins left!) However, I had drink and food available, plus washing facilities and pain relief so that ticked most of the boxes. My daughter was also extremely fractious throughout our 48 hour postpartum stay and had to have blood tests, which made things more challenging than they might have otherwise been. But to be honest I think she just needed a more comfortable environment – she just wanted to get home as much as I did! We both just couldn’t wait to be discharged!

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When it comes to pregnancy care there are a few points to remember:

  • Pregnant women have the same rights as everyone else when it comes to making decisions about their body. 
  • Genuine and informed consent must be given for medical treatments (unless you are unconscious or otherwise unable to). You should be told the risks, and should not be bullied or pressurised into decisions. 
  • Your birth partner can be a great advocate, so make sure they understand your birth plan and rights. 
  • A final point I would add is that I asked for a de-brief with my midwife and a copy of my maternity notes, but this did not happen. I think that is a massive shame as it would have really helped me to process everything better. I really recommend that mums request this if they think it would be helpful and please definitely do pursue it if you get fobbed off at first or forgotten. I wish I had! 

    How was your pregnancy care? Share your story in comments!

    *Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Your Legal Friend.

    Five Reasons to Love Hemp

    Hemp is a highly sustainable plant that can be used for a wide range of purposes. Whilst in some countries it is illegal to grow hemp, many feel this is a very outdated view based on misconception and innaccurate facts. Here in the UK, hemp is legal under government regulations, with a license. So why is it not better utilised? Good question! There are many reasons why hemp is the answer to a more sustainable future.

    Here are five reasons to love hemp…

    ● Hemp is able to grow in different climates, does not require pesticides or herbicides and only needs moderate amounts of water and fertiliser. It only takes approximately 4 months from planting to harvest. So it is relatively quick and easy to grow!

    ● On an annual basis, more than twice as much hemp fibre vs cotton can be produced so it is a great source of material for clothes, linen and textiles. Also, 1 acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 2-4 acres of trees. Think how many trees hemp could save!

    ● Hemp is actually better quality than many other materials. For example, hemp paper can last hundreds of years and be recycled far more times. Hemp can also produce fibreboard that is stronger and lighter than wood.

    ● Hemp is environmentally friendly. It does not require as many toxic chemicals to produce paper, compared to tree-based paper. It can produce high quality substitutes to many plastic products, which would solve our ever-growing plastic pollution problem. Hemp oil can make non-toxic ink, paint, varnish and other things. It could be also be a highly efficient source of clean energy/ fuel.

    ● Hemp is highly nutritious and high in protein, it could be used to make a wide range of food. It can also be medicinal too.

    So hemp could be used effectively in every aspect of our lives; from our clothes and our homes (including floors, curtains, bedding etc…) to our food, from fuel for our homes and cars to making the car itself, provide us with jobs and be used in our workplace, even our technology devices could be made from hemp… what an amazing plant!

    If you would like to find out more or shop for hemp products, here are some websites with a good range of items…

    www.yaoh.co.uk

    www.thehempshop.co.uk

    #Blogtober 2016 – Day 13: What’s In My Fridge

    Does anyone seriously want to read about what’s in my fridge? Hmmm, doubtful! So let’s make this a quick one! 

    Food, drink, vegan food, healthy eating

    Basically there is a selection of fruit and veg, potatoes, pure sunflower spread, violife vegan cheese, flaxseed, innocent smoothies (I make my own daily with a nutribullet using fresh ingredients, but Squiggle likes these so we sometimes buy them), condiments and almond milk. Oh and there may also be a few beer bottles tucked in the corner there too! 

    We try to eat as much raw food as possible and we are also what is apparently known as flexitarians (and/ or reducetarians?) because we eat a primarily plant based diet and have mindfully reduced our consumption of meat, yet we are flexible about it. I would say we are about 90% vegetarian and 75% vegan. 

    Squiggle has personally chosen not to eat meat from a young age, which is actually what initiated changes to my own diet in the first place, in order to respect her wishes and still accomodate both of our dietary needs. This later led to the further developments, both for our own health and the benefit of the environment. Prior to this I ate a reasonably healthy diet, but it did include far more meat and processed food, and less proper nutrition!

    #Blogtober16

    30 Days Wild – Day 24: Microbeads 

    What are microbeads?

    • Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic found in some personal and beauty care products, such as toothpaste, scrubs, sunscreens and make-up.

    • The microbeads used are mainly made of polyethylene (PE), but can be also be made of polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon. If any of these are listed under ingredients then the product contains microbeads.

    • Microbeads wash off your body and down the drain, then end up in oceans.

    • Microbeads, and other microplastics absorb harmful chemicals like a sponge. They become over a million times more toxic than the water around them.

    • Fish and other marine life mistake them for food and eat them.

    You can pledge to go #beadfree by only choosing products that are free from microbeads.

    For more information about microbeads and plastic pollution, check out the following websites:

    www.5gyres.org

    www.beatthemicrobead.org