The science that shows how meditation affects your brain and why you should keep meditating

Finally, a book that shows what happens to your brain during meditation!

My mind talks rubbish and I’m sick of it!

That’s one of the reasons my sister and I are writing a book about meditation. Her mind talks rubbish, too, of course. We’re both over-analyse, ruminate and generally look up our own bums with microscopes until everything vanishes up there. It turns out that’s what everyone’s minds do.

Meditation revelation

We’re a couple of months into writing the meditation book and have arrived at the thrilling ‘science bit’. So we are researching, reading and cramming all we can get our greedy little paws on to discover what meditating actually does to your mind – if anything. I mean, you feel instinctively that you’re doing something good for yourself but then, so can drinking a glass of wine. So where’s the proof?

One exciting book we discovered is Altered Traits by New York Times bestselling authors, Daniel Goleman and Richard J Davidson. They dig into how meditating can literally rewire your brain. These guys write about how meditation impacts an area of the brain knowns as the amygdala, the area that lights up when you feel fear, anxiety or love. It’s the danger-sensing part.

Regular meditation calms the amygdala’s stress responses.It’s now proven that meditating also increases gamma oscillations, creating a clear state of mind athletes often refer to as being ‘in the zone’. Funnily enough, laughing also engages the brain in a similar way.

Even if you don’t enjoy it – it’s working!

The book is ground-breaking. And it confirms what we thought already – that even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time, meditating really does make you happier and calmer. The more you do it, the better the results. But even five minutes a day will be enough to see some benefits. Hell, even trying it just once is good if you need a break from your rubbish thoughts!

 

Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) linked to Retinopathy?

are seasonal affective disorder SAD linked with retinopathy

Light therapy

This was the first winter I used a SAD lamp. This one to be specific.

Beurer TL30UK Ultra Portable SAD Lamp

It kinda looks like an ipad, and doubles as a handy tracing device for drawing, too. Took a long time to decide on shelling out almost fifty quid for it – maybe that’s why it took me five years. That’s how long I’ve been getting the SAD twinges in the darker months. But procrastinating, finding it impossible to get out of bed, pointless obsessing, being unfocused – they’re pretty vague or variable symptoms. I just thought life stuff was getting on top of me.

I bought the lamp a bit too late – December. But used it every morning. Just turned it on while I was getting ready to go out or had it shine on my face next to my computer for an hour before it got light – same again before dark in the evening.

It’s now April. I can look back on the past 4-5 months and can clearly see it has not been as rough as the last few winters. Nothing in my life changed dramatically – same old concerns. But on a few memorable occasions I definitely noticed that instead of going inside my worries, I didn’t care about them! I don’t mean I felt numb – where you’re not feeling your feelings but you know you ought to be. I was happy despite them. It was like there was an invisible buffer or membrane separating mind and emotion. 

Usually I have to go through at least eight of these steps to shake off a bad bout of winter, so I know something’s lightened me up. It has to be the light, right?

Are retinopathy and SAD linked?

So here’s the other thing. I’m a Type1 diabetic, insulin dependent. And about five years ago I had extensive laser treatment in both eyes to treat my (quite bad) retinopathy. I was incredibly lucky – kept my sight, tightened my blood glucose control and my eyes are awesome again.

But the treatment has some weird side effects. My eyes are much more light sensitive. I can’t go without sunglasses because if it’s even a bit bright outside, I get a headache. When I go from dark to light – like stumbling from dim bedroom to bright bathroom – the fast contraction of my pupils pulls on the scar tissue left from the laser treatment. This causes blinding random flashes in my vision. The first big thunderstorm I encountered after this started happening was a bewildering experience – it felt like the lightning was happening inside my head!

So my retinas have changed, and as light is absorbed through the eyes, I’m curious – are my scarred retinas getting less light than they used to? And if SAD is a condition  caused by lack of light, is it just coincidence that I really noticed the SAD symptoms after the laser treatment? Hell now I’m even wondering if contact lenses affect the light to the eyes.

I’m hoping someone with a medical background might shed some light on the matter.

 

 

 

 

 

Star sign biscuits – which cookies should you like according to your star sign?

biscuits/cookies for each sign of the zodiac

Here’s a bit of fun I wrote for the quality food and drink awards people  that describes which biscuits and cookies you should prefer depending on your star sign. Something for you to chew on.

Taking the Biscuit

Your astrological star sign influences many aspects of your personality including your likes and dislikes – even your taste in biscuits! Marion Williamson, prises the lid off the biscuit tin of the zodiac to see what delights lie inside…

Aries

Aries people are ruled by hot-headed, competitive planet Mars. These bold, impatient characters barely have time to chew their food and tend to wolf down their chosen biscuits on the go. They love crunch and convenience – and they like it spicy. As the zodiac’s first Fire sign, they’re the least likely to dunk!

Zodiac biscuits: Ginger Nuts/Belvita

Taurus

Luxury loving, placid Taureans are ruled by sweet-loving Venus. They take their biscuits seriously, often chewing hypnotically slowly. Traditionalists at heart they prefer well-established brands and the biscuits should look as good as they taste. These possessive characters can be a bit stingy with their sweets, so get stuck in quick – if offered!

Zodiac biscuits: Viennese Sandwich, Chocolate Hob Nobs

Gemini

Chatty, dual-natured, Gemini people blow hot and cold and see things in black and white. They’re influenced by changeable, jittery planet Mercury, and love a good gossip with friends over a mug of tea and a quality snack – preferably one with two halves.

Zodiac biscuits: KitKat, Oreos

Cancer

Cancer the Crab is a clingy Moon-ruled sign and a notorious food-hoarder. They’re the most likely sign of the zodiac to own an array of well-stocked biscuit tins with more stashed away in case someone pops round unexpectedly. Tenacious by nature, when Cancerians get their sticky claws into a packet, they find it hard to let go…

Zodiac biscuits: Custard Creams, White Chocolate Fingers

Leo

Ostentatious, extravagant, Sun-ruled Leonine biscuits are all about the show. They’re generous with their tea-time treats but be sure to admire the carefully arranged biscuit ensemble, or else you won’t impress your bossy host. Leos like all their possessions to reflect their glamorous fabulousness and biscuits are no exception.

Zodiac biscuits: Empire Biscuit, Florentines, anything new e.g. Leibniz’s new Choco Moments 

New biscuit ranges such as Leibniz's Choco Moments in crunchy hazelnut or crunchy mint are sure to be favourites with Leos.

Virgo

Modest, workaholic Virgos are ruled by analytical Mercury. Their taste in biscuits is refined, but humble and probably preferred with coffee. This super-organised character rarely has time for a break but, when they do, they like their biscuits light, crisp and portable.

Zodiac biscuit: Lotus Biscoff, Nice

Libra

Ruled by Venus the goddess of love, Libra has the sweetest, fluffiest taste in biscuits. The most romantic of signs, Libra loves to share their sweet treats with the people closest to them. But their indecisive nature can make choosing which types to munch a time-consuming challenge.

Zodiac biscuits: Jam Mallows, Pink Wafers

Scorpio

Wilful Scorpios are ruled by intense, broody Pluto. These all-or-nothing characters have strong opinions on biscuits, which tends to veer towards the sophisticated dark chocolate side. Mysterious Scorpios prefer to nibble alone in secret, unless they plan to seduce you.

Zodiac biscuit: Dark Chocolate Gingers/Dark Caramel Wafers

Sagittarius

More is more with jovial Jupiter-ruled Sagittarians. They’re generous to a fault and lack discrimination, lavishing their full-on biscuit choices on anyone who comes close to the kettle. Packets are usually bought wholesale.

Zodiac biscuits: Wagon Wheels/Party Rings

Capricorn

Traditional, status-conscious Capricorn characters are influenced by ambitious, hardworking Saturn. They’re most likely to be the biscuit snob of the zodiac and prefer classic, subtle flavours and respectable heritage. Money is no option if their biscuit preference shifts their neighbours’ eyebrows a touch.

Zodiac biscuits: Rich Tea/Duchy Originals

Aquarius

Aquarians are influenced by eccentric, erratic Uranus, which imbues them with a downright odd taste in biscuits. These quirky characters can be both traditional and yet, before their time, depending on the phase of the Moon, day of the week or the company invited round for a cuppa.

Zodiac biscuits: Garibaldi, Happy Faces

Pisces

Pisces is often unkindly referred to as the ‘dustbin of the zodiac’, as they are supposed to contain a little of the previous 11 signs. Piscean people are ruled by confusing, dreamy Neptune which suffuses them with chaotic, indulgent taste in food and drink. As Pisces is a water sign they’re the most likely sign to dunk – preferably in whisky-laced coffee!

Zodiac biscuits: Broken Biscuits, Jammie Dodgers