The Ready Brek Glow
How to Support your Natural Immunity
Many of you will have already heard me talk about your Ready Brek Glow. However, for those of you who do not yet know about it, let me explain. You may or may not remember the advert for Ready Brek, it showed a young boy eating his daily bowl of hot porridge and, as soon as he had finished it, he was surrounded and protected by a bright orange light, his Ready Brek Glow, ready to face the day. Well, we all have a built in Ready Brek Glow!
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), your Ready Brek Glow is called your Wei Qi, which translates as your Defensive Energy. Your Wei Qi is in effect your Immune System and protects you from pathogens, such as viruses. When you nourish your Wei Qi, it grows thick and strong, creating an effective protective barrier around you. By the same token, if you do not nourish it, it becomes thinner and weaker and offers you little protection.
How your Wei Qi protects you
In TCM, pathogens (or viruses) are seen to invade the body from the outside. In many cases these pathogens sneak in to the body via the neck, nose or mouth – in TCM you literally ‘catch’ a cold. However, if your Wei Qi is strong, it can repel the pathogen’s attack. For example, we have all been in a situation where we have been to a party (although I suspect you might have forgotten what those are like!) where one of the guests later finds out they were coming down with something. As a result several other people at the party will also succumb to the illness – but NOT all. Those that do not become ill may already have an immunity to the virus in question, but for others it is because their immune system, or Wei Qi, is strong enough to repel the attack and prevent it from getting in to the body at all. With the advent of COVID-19 it is more important than ever that your Wei Qi is as strong as possible to protect you from falling ill.
How to support your Wei Qi
It would be wise, therefore, to set aside this time to focus on yourself and nourish the strength of your Wei Qi so you are surrounded by a thick, luscious, impenetrable glow. If possible try to incorporate all of the following recommendations into your daily routine. However, please not worry if some slip from time to time, it is not an all or nothing situation – doing some of them is definitely better than doing none at all!
The biggest clue to the importance of breathing is found in the fact none of us can survive for more than a few minutes without doing it! In TCM, every organ has a specific job to keep your body working smoothly, and it is the job of the Lungs to distribute your Wei Qi throughout your body. Therefore, in order to ensure your immune system is working effectively, it is essential to breathe deeply and consciously. This might seem like a ridiculous thing to say, given we breathe all day every day without thinking. However, it is the quality of this breath that is important. By focussing on how you breathe, you can increase the amount of energy coming into your body and boost your immune system. If you do not know where to start, I love the Wim Hof method as his whole focus is to boost immunity.
- Eat a fresh and varied diet
In TCM, it is the Stomach’s job to take in energy in the form of food and transform it into the Qi your body can use. It is simple – if you eat well, you will provide your body with strong Qi. In simple terms, a good diet consists fresh, good quality, home made food, free from preservatives, where your plate is filled with several different colours of vegetables, a portion of protein and a portion of carbohydrate. Imagine you were building your dream house – you would invest in the best materials you could afford knowing the better the materials the better the house will be. In the same way, it makes sense to invest in good quality food – the building blocks of your body. When building your dream house, you would also buy a variety of materials: windows, doors, carpets, pictures etc, not just bricks, as that would result in a very boring house. Again, the same goes for your diet – each different food provides your body with a different nutrient. Variety is the spice of life!
- Eat in a calm relaxed manner
Having said that, it is not enough in TCM to simply eat a good diet. How you eat is just as important. When you eat you need to do so in a calm environment whilst focussing on eating. This is due to the fact, as well as turning food in to Qi, the Stomach several other jobs to perform in the body, such as:
- providing energy to your muscles
- fuelling the emotion of Worry
- sending energy to your brain to help you think
Therefore, if you eat in a stressed environment or whilst walking down the road or whilst studying, your Stomach will not be able to focus on digesting your food effectively.
You can eat the best diet in the world, but if you do not allow your Stomach the time to process it, you will not gain the full benefit from it. This, in turn, will deplete your Wei Qi.
- Ensure you have 8 hours sleep a night
There are numerous Western Medicine studies that irrefutably confirm that a lack of sleep directly weakens your immune system. TCM is no different. A lack of sleep depletes Wei Qi. Night time is the time during which your body restores and regenerates. If you do not get enough sleep, you start the day on the back foot. It is like sending a soldier out to the front line without a weapon. (See my blog on tips on how to get a good night’s sleep).
- Stay hydrated
Your body is made up of approximately 60% water – as long as you are drinking enough to stay hydrated. By not drinking enough water, you are putting your body under unnecessary stress. Imagine for a moment how difficult it is to row down a river if the tide has gone out… make sure you drink throughout the day to minimise physical stress.
- Exercise on a daily basis
By this I do not mean you have to go to the gym for hours at a time. I mean you need to find time to move your body every day for a minimum of 30 minutes – a brisk walk is fine. One reason this is important is because it is the job of the Liver in TCM to move the Wei Qi around your body. If you do not move, the Liver finds it hard to move too, and your whole system will stagnate. The other reason is, the fitter we are, the more resilient we are.
Take some time to discover what sort of exercise you enjoy. If you are having fun you are more likely to do it every day. At the moment, there are so many wonderful classes available online – find one that appeals to you. To help you on your way here are my absolute favourites:
- If you love yoga I cannot recommend We are Blessed yoga more highly, set up by the brilliant and inspiring Niki Perry. Classes are currently £9 reduced from £17 and are free for NHS workers. A £1 donation will also be made from every class you book to the Africa Yoga Project.
- Or if you love Barre classes and more, try Heartcore – their teachers are fantastic. Until Wednesday 8th April use the code HEARTCOREMOVES at checkout to receive a free 3 class pass.
- If Pilates is your thing, you cannot go wrong with the expert guidance of the gorgeous Marie Kidwell. All of her classes are free until Easter and will remain free for NHS workers.
- Or if you are looking for a fantastic women’s health and fitness coach, who specialises in pelvic floor, core and women’s wellness then ex Team GB rower Baz Moffat is your woman! Use the code JUSTINE10 for a 10% discount on any of her courses.
- Go outside
This is really important. Even if the weather is bad, it is vital to go outside every day. You can obviously combine this with your exercise, but if you are exercising at home, please also go for a walk around the block. Connecting with nature is good for the soul which, in itself, boosts your Wei Qi and provides your body with Vitamin D – even on a cloudy day!
- Take a cold shower every day
This might seem like a terrible idea, but give it a go! Again, studies show that cold water helps to boost your white blood cell count because the body is forced to react to changing conditions. Which means that, over time, the body becomes better at activating its defences. Start slowly – 30 seconds under a cold shower is enough. Importantly, do not do this if you have any underlying health conditions without discussing it with your Doctor first. If you would like to learn more about how exposure to cold water can help you, the best person to learn from is again Wim Hof – he combines breathe work with cold showers.
- ·Reduce Stress
People tend to underestimate the physical effect of emotions on the body, but in TCM, they are a very real cause of disharmony. It is completely natural and healthy to feel hundreds of different emotions during the course of a single day, but these should be passing emotions, e.g. if you are frightened of something, you run away and the fear disappears. However, should you get stuck in one particular emotion for a prolonged period of time e.g. feeling stressed day after day, it can result in very real physical symptoms, such as headaches, insomnia, PMT etc. This in turn puts more pressure on your body and hinders the smooth flow of energy and weakens your immune system. Western Medical research has come to the same conclusion. Studies have shown that, when you are stressed, your immune system’s ability to fight antigens is reduced, making you more susceptible to infections. In fact the stress hormone corticosteroid can physically suppress the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering the number of white blood cells. Therefore, if you are feeling stressed, try out some of these techniques which can help reduce these feelings:
- Meditation/Mindfulness – Practising Meditation/Mindfulness has been found to be effective in reducing levels of stress, increasing resilience and emotional intelligence. What is not to love?! If you have not tried this before, give it a go. There are many Apps available, but I love Headspace and The British Mindfulness Institute.
- Stay in touch with your friends – Even though you cannot see your friends in person at the moment it is so important to stay in touch. Humans are social creatures and having a laugh with your friends has been proven to boost your immune system – so tap in to the multitude of systems that help us stay in touch. Personally I think using Zoom/FaceTime/Houseparty etc, where you can see the other person, is better than just talking on the phone.
- Get creative – Lose yourself in creativity – whether it is baking a cake, drawing a picture, creating a flower arrangement, sewing – it does not matter what it is or how good you are at it. Creativity has been found to decrease levels of stress. One study gave participants art supplies and asked them to create anything they wanted over the course of 45 minutes. The results found that, no matter what the artistic experience of the participants, 75% of the participants experienced a decrease in their levels of cortisol.
- Write a gratitude journal every night before you go to sleep. I know everyone is talking about gratitude journals at the moment – but that is because they really work!! Find an exercise book you can dedicate to this task then, every night before you go to sleep, spend a few minutes reflecting on and writing down three things that you have been grateful for today and three things that have made you smile. Proven benefits of keeping a gratitude journal include improved mental health, increased happiness and better sleep.
And last, but very definitely not least, the treatment that would usually be at the top of my list: Acupuncture! Given you are unable to see an acupuncturist at the moment, try the next best thing – acupressure. Try massaging the acupuncture point called Zusanli which is found on the Stomach channel. To find it measure 4 fingers breadths from the bottom of your kneecap, it is located just to the outside of your shin bone. I have attached a picture to help you find it.
This is an important point in TCM. It strengthens the immune system, nourishes the energy of the entire body and has a calming effect.
In order for acupressure to be effective is it important to be consistent, please find time to massage this point on a daily basis – once is great, twice a day is better!
- Set aside 5-10 minutes
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position
- Relax, close your eyes and breathe deeply
- Use firm, deep pressure in a small rotating movement in a clockwise direction
I hope these tips help you boost your Ready Brek Glow!! It is always there protecting you to the best of its ability, but should you find yourself is a tricky situation, you can give it an extra boost by closing your eyes for a moment and imagining a brightly coloured glow all around you, over your head and under your feet – and it will then glow even more brightly for you! Stay happy, healthy and at home! I can’t wait to see you on the other side.
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