Wellness Wisdom That Still Holds True Today

Live in rooms full of light
Avoid heavy food
Be moderate in the drinking of wine
Take massage, baths, exercise and gymnastics
Fight insomnia with gentle rocking or the sound of running water
Change surroundings and take long journeys
Strictly avoid frightening ideas
Indulge in cheerful conversation and amusements
Listen to music.

- Aulus Cornelius Celsus, Roman encyclopedist, 25 BCE – 50 CE

See below for my take on why I think Celsus was so wise.

Live in rooms full of light

auntie stress sunlit room

Why? Simply because it's good for you! Exposure to natural light is important for your circadian rhythms. If your sleep schedule is turned upside down, ensure that you have adequate exposure to daylight to turn your world right side up.

A new study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reports that:

"Office workers with more light exposure at the office had longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and better quality of life compared to office workers with less light exposure in the workplace."

Countries with a paucity of daylight during the winter months have evolved to make up for it by adopting strategies that help brighten the spirits of its residents. Hygge in Denmark, koselig in Noway and mys in Sweden.

Learn to love winter

While there is no hip term to help people cozy up to winter in Canada, short celebrations are found in many of the "winterized" provinces. Carnavale in Quebec City, Quebec, Festival du Voyagueur in Winnipeg, Manitoba and I even remember the arrival of Rudy the Raven at Winterfest in Thompson, Manitoba. If you know of other winter festivals, please leave a comment below!

Even through the darkest days, take a step - a baby step counts - to lighten up your room, your heart, your mood.

Worth reading: Your hygge-obsession is weird and misunderstood, please stop

Avoid heavy food

auntie stress food flatlay
Photo by Gor Davtyan

Do you notice how you feel after over-indulging in that decadent celebratory meal? How about after having not one heaping helping of Turkey Dinner, but a second or third? As good as it is while gobbling down the gobbler and all the trimmings, there is often a price to be paid. Indigestion, sluggishness, weight-gain and mood by food are items that can appear on your "bill."

Instead, choose to eat well and learn to use moderation, if avoidance of those "off-limits" foods is out of the question.

Be moderate in the drinking of wine

auntie stress roberta sorge wine
Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash

Dependent upon the research, wine is either good for you or bad for you. That's for you to decide.

What is known is that resveratrol, a polyphenol which acts like an antixodiant, is present in the skin of red grapes. Red grapes turn into red wine. However, you can also find polyphenols in red grape juice, peanuts and berries, as well as in supplements.

According to this WebMD article, there are benefits to be had from white wine, as well.

But, drinking more wine doesn't mean you'll have more benefits. After all, Celsus did include the word "moderate" in this recommendation.

Take massage...

auntie stress massage
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sometimes all the stretching in the world doesn't seem to release those tight muscles, so I turn to massage therapy to get me back on my more mobile way. Dependent upon what I need at the time, I sometimes ask for a gentler relaxation massage, where I succumb to the soothing sensations of the RMT's (registered massage therapist), hands.

One of the benefits of massage therapy is that it releases the "love horomone," oxytocin. During massage, bloodstream levels of oxytocin rise, which contributes to a reduction in feelings of anxiety.

For you DIY types, here are detailed instructions on how to massage a loved one. Take what you need to address the concern. Just remember to set the intention and listen to the "massagee." How much pressure to apply, what needs attention, what feels like more.

Don't underestimate the power of self-massage, either.


auntie stress bubble bath
Image courtesy of Karla Alexander

Some of the benefits of a hot bath include:

  • The lowering of blood sugar spikes, as reported in Science Alert. You'll need an hour, though.
  • Pain relief, especially with the addition of Epsom salts. Check out my flotation tank experience here, plus a DIY option.
  • Improved sleep when an essential oil such as lavender is added to the tub. I find that a bath wakes me up. Perhaps all my "water years" spent swimming signifies action, instead of sleep.
  • Itch relief with the use of colloidal oatmeal. Here's how to do it.
  • Self-care - luxuriate in the water. Set a mood by lighting some candles and adding some essential oils to the water. You may have a playlist that you like, or perhaps quiet is the way to go. Use the time to re-calibrate, to envision a different future, to simply be. Ahhh, doesn't that feel better?

...exercise and gymnastics

auntie stress swimming

A sedentary lifestyle is not advisable for so many reasons. Use it or lose it.

Granted, when you live with a chronic debilitating condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, it can be hard to get moving. However, move you must. Start with something simple - range of motion exercises, then get into the pool where you are unencumbered and weightless, painless, too, as described in this excerpt from The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver (I think):

"André, who turned eighty last year, takes her swimming every day. Occasionally, he goes in himself; mostly he hovers on the dock. Sometimes the other women come swimming with her - Jane, Holly, Caroline on the Fourth of July. The men and boys jump in, get out; it's always been that way. Only her father used to stay in for any length of time, and only now does Helen truly understand why: antigravity, your limbs return to you, the pain recedes. Horizons flatten, grassy green. And to be touched all over, to be touched without it hurting."

Here are some of my "get moving" posts:

Fight insomnia with gentle rocking or the sound of running water

auntie stress bedroom
Image courtesy of Maggie Smith at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maybe I ought to add gentle rocking and increase this list to 19 tips to improve your sleep hygiene. If it works for babies, why not adults? Time to dust off that rocking chair!

The sound of running water is not a good gateway into sleep for me. It'll have me running...to the bathroom! However, the melodic sound of waves tumbling onto the shore is hypnotic - even better when it's in real life!

Never mind FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), this excerpt from The Science is Extremely Clear: You Need to Prioritize Sleep is why you need to turn over your pillow to uncover and resolve your sleep issues:

"Rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep - the phase during which we dream - usually gets the most hype. But Prather says all phases, from the lightest slumber to the deepest unconsciousness, are important processes that allow our brains and bodies to recover from the previous day and can help us learn and remember information better."

Do you need more convincing? A recent study conducted by Laura Lewis, showed that a process that occurs during non-REM sleep is like turning on your brain's garburator to remove toxins. As reported in Scientists Now Know How Sleep Cleans Toxins from the Brain:

"What she discovered was that during non-REM sleep, large, slow waves of cerebrospinal fluid were washing over the brain. The EEG readings helped show why. During non-REM sleep, neurons start to synchronize, turning on and off at the same time. 'First you would see this electrical wave where all the neurons would go quiet,' says Lewis. Because the neurons had all momentarily stopped firing, they didn’t need as much oxygen. That meant less blood would flow to the brain. But Lewis’s team also observed that cerebrospinal fluid would then rush in, filling in the space left behind."

Change surroundings and take long journeys

auntie stress centennial beach

A common aphorism states that "a change is as good as a rest." You may not always be in a position to partake in a long journey, but you can change your surroundings. It could be as simple as moving to another room, or taking a different route home from work.

If you're working on a problem, physically change your position. Stand up to look at it or stretch out on the floor. With a change in perspective, which is what happens when you change your surroundings, new information becomes available. That precious "Eureka!" moment may suddenly arrive.

For added benefit, think about getting out in nature when you want to change your surroundings. Tune in to the rhythm of nature! A study shows that spending time in nature makes people feel more alive:

"In recent years, numerous experimental psychology studies have linked exposure to nature with increased energy and heightened sense of well-being. For example, research has shown that people on wilderness excursions report feeling more alive and that just recalling outdoor experiences increases feelings of happiness and health. Other studies suggest that the very presence of nature helps to ward off feelings of exhaustion and that 90 percent of people report increased energy when placed in outdoor activities."

A journey doesn't always have to be literal. What would your figurative journey look like? Mastering a new skill. Adopting a new habit. Letting go of an old one. The wisdom gained as you age.

Strictly avoid frightening ideas

auntie stress lightbulb
Photo by Rohan Makhecha

Remember that how you think and feel impacts how you think and feel. To avoid frightening ideas, you need an antidote. Train yourself to recognize when they are on replay. Often you are rehashing things without awareness. Then spend time reliving your wonderful experiences by engaging all your senses.

Here are two of mine:

1. We were in Hawaii where I had a new-to-me body treatment session. Being a water-lover, it was as if Watsu had been custom-designed for me. In chest-deep, body-temperature water, the practitioner gently moved, stretched and massagd me as she pulled me around the pool.

When I need to unhitch from those frightening ideas, I recall the warmth of the pool as I am pulled through the water. Add in the sounds: singing birds, the distant waves crashing against the shore and a warm Hawaiian breeze kissing my face. Deep relaxation and feeling cared for by someone who does indeed care.

2. Cross country skiing along trails that lead to discovery and possibility. Alternating patterns of glistening snow and deep shadows as the trail winds through the snow-blanketed trees. I can still feel the wind on my face and hear the the rhythmic schussing sound of my skis as I glide along the trails. Being outside in that cold fresh air certainly awakens the senses!

What are your feel-good moments? When? Where? How?

Indulge in cheerful conversation...

auntie stress friends
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

What is the general tone of your conversations? Are they all doom and gloom or a catalog of what ails you? After you've play conversational catch-up, which may include weighty subjects, based on whatever is going on in your life at the time, consider lifting the heavy cloak of darkness to venture into more light-hearted topics. If you're not sure how to do that, here are some conversation starters.

"Try and leave this world a little better than you found it." - Robert Baden-Powell

What if you adopted this as a mantra for your interactions? Leave the person feeling a little better after you've said good-bye. It doesn't cost much - a smile, a hug, a few gentle words can make a difference.

...and amusements

auntie stress thumbs up
Photo by Jude Beck

What brings you joy? Too often when you're stressed, the first thing that is parsed from your day is the very thing that helps you to address and undress your stress.

You have obligations, work, family concerns and you are tired. How are you supposed to fit one more thing into your day?

Look carefully at where you are leaking time, then take steps to plug the hole.

Social media is a huge drain for a lot of people. Perhaps time spent reading about another "charmed life" (is it really?), could be better spent on the people, places, activities and things that enrich your life.

Give yourself a month and commit to fitting what you love into your schedule on a regular basis. Isn't January the ideal time to conduct this experiment? See how you feel after the month.

Turn this practice into a family activity so that you equip your children with skills that they can carry into adulthood.

Listen to music

When I was in my 20s and I encountered turbulence in my life, I always turned to I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. (Am I dating myself?) Belting out the chorus with Gloria gave me strength to attain a more tranquil altitude. Even all these years later, it empowers me whenever I hear:

"I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive...."

If I had a "pity party," sad songs were the way to go. There are a number of different theories as to why listening to sad music makes you feel better. Everything from the release of specific hormones to downward social comparison - you feel better about yourself when someone is doing worse than you are.

The soundtracks and playlists are as diverse as the people who listen to them. They also reflect the emotional needs and activities of the listener. Think about what you like to listen to while preparing dinner, working out, driving or studying. That can change over time, too.

In Why Music Makes Us Feel, According to AI:

"In addition to helping researchers identify songs for the perfect workout, study or sleep playlist, the research has therapeutic applications - music has been shown to calm anxiety, ease pain and help people with disabilities or dementia."

Get Rhythm

In an episode of The Nature of Things called I Got Rhythm: The Science of Song, Dr. David Suzuki discusses how music is so much a part of the lives of humans by showing that as long as 40,000 years ago musical instruments were uncovered in what is now Germany!

There's a musical score to accompany every occasion, from births to birthdays, weddings to funerals. Music unites, incites, excites and uplifts. Approximately 42 million people sing in choirs in North America alone! That's a lot of "uplifting!"

Babies love music. It helps to increase the bond between caregiver and baby. Nor are the old and infirm excluded from the benefits of music. People with Alzheimer's, dementia and Parkinson's disease are now receiving music therapy.

Deaf people, like hip hop artist Sean Forbes, are making music. As he says on The Nature of Things:

"I feel that I've developed the sense where I could relate with the music, even though I can't, I can't hear everything that's going on."

Penn Medicine discovered that music can be a viable alternative to medications in reducing anxiety before anesthesia procedures.

Along with your daily helping of fruits and vegetables, prescribe yourself some music for health and well-being.

Come to think of it, a little more Celsus wisdom could do you a world of good, too!

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