My current book is all about the art of Chinese Self-healing. As women, we are often pulled between being caregivers: mothers, aunts, daughters, sisters, often being torn between family commitments, work commitments and the pressures of modern life. This means we are not always at the top of our priority lists, and so here is where one-minute self-care practices from Yang Sheng like and Facial Gua Sha and Body Gua Sha can fit into the busiest of lifestyles.
Rituals are one of the most beneficial spiritual practices for your mind, body and soul. You do rituals every day by mindfully sipping your tea, by consciously bonding with your dog on your morning walk or by having a coffee with a friend. We also attend graduation ceremonies, weddings and family reunions that honour tradition.
When we do daily tasks mindfully, they add substance and meaning to our lives — enhancing daily routines and becoming rituals. Rituals both support and honour the changes we experience during our lives, increase our capacity to overcome adversity, strengthen our relationships, and enhance our ability to experience joy and abundance.
Research in brain science now confirms that rituals have great power and influence over our minds. If we do a ritual of release, a part of our brain reads it as if it were true. When you participate in a ritual, in essence, you tell your brain that you have already completed whatever you have chosen symbolically — that is, you have already won!
Here are my favourite rituals to try this summer.
1. Eat yourself happy
That's right, eat nourishing food to boost your mood! Researchers have found that a diet rich in vegetables can give you a dose of long-lasting happiness. So while you may think that snacking on chocolate, biscuits, or crisps is giving you an energy lift (we've all been there), turning to a veggie-based treat instead will keep you feeling better for longer in both body and mind.
2. Gua Sha
Gua Sha is a therapeutic massage technique that you can do on yourself using a round-edged tool. The healing principle of Gua Sha is the same as cupping - you might remember the media discussion of Gwyneth Paltrow's cupping marks? What I find interesting is that every treatment is different. Gua Sha is about clearing heat - or inflammation - out of your body, so the amount of Sha (redness) that shows us will depend on the amount of heat you have.
All the body's meridians have direct or indirect connections somewhere on the head and scalp, so combing the head - usually with a Jade Comb - stimulates them. It increases circulation, delivering more nutrients to the hair follicle, which promotes hair growth. Best of all, a head massage is a speedy stress reliever.
3. Journal away stress
Worrying takes a lot of effort, so set aside some time to dump all your worries onto paper, leaving your mind free to enjoy the little moment's summer brings. Carve out some time to journal in the summer months, and you'll head into autumn with a new awareness about your body and mind.
If you're wondering what to write about, then take some inspiration from the sun. Think about when your energy peaks during the day or what you need to feel nourished today. Consider what you need to let go of. What no longer serves you in summer that did in winter. It could be a job, relationship, or even a new hobby that you've fallen out of love with. Give yourself 10 minutes first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, to reflect on the day before, and you'll experience new gratitude for everything around you.
4. Meditate Mindfully
Summer isn't an endless holiday for everyone. It can be hugely beneficial to add a 10-minute meditation routine into your morning at this time of year, so make this the summer that you get to grips with this ancient practice. Mediation is all about sitting still, being present and focusing on the breath. If this is new to you, you may struggle to start with, but if you practice for long enough, you can find that your sleep improves, your stress levels decrease, and you feel happier.
Since it's warmer than usual, find a nice spot outside in the shade where you can enjoy the fresh air and keep yourself grounded in nature. There are many ways to meditate, from mindfulness meditation to focus on the breath to loving-kindness meditation. Guided meditation is a good place to start, and there are podcasts or apps, such as Headspace, found on the app store, which has hundreds of meditation exercises and offers reminders and quotes to keep you motivated.
5. Take a morning purification shower or bath
Each time you step into the shower or take a bath, set the intention that the water will wash away all negative thoughts and energy that no longer serve you. Symbolically scrub off all the heaviness of the day and watch it go down the drain. Feel the water cleansing your physical and energetic bodies. The mind will treat this ritual as if you have let go of everything that isn't serving you. Now you can start fresh, welcoming health, happiness and abundance into your day.
Your breath is the key to finding inner peace and harmony. It connects our bodies and the world. For most of us, breathing is something we never think about, yet we are breathing shallow breaths into our chest for the most part. This shallow breathing creates a stressful pattern in our minds and bodies. By slowing down your breath, you will instantly relax your body and bring calmness into your mind.
Imagine that you can breathe into your heart centre. Lightly place your hand over your chest. Take a few slow deep breaths. Inhale to the count of four, hold, and exhale to the count of four. Do this for one minute. Feel free to increase the time you do this exercise for up to five minutes a day as you get used to it.
7. Salute the Sun
You may be familiar with sun salutations if you practise yoga. In ayurvedic culture, it warms, strengthens, and aligns the entire body. Each of the 12 positions has its own mantra, each celebrating an aspect of the sun's divinity. They are traditionally performed at dawn, facing the rising sun. Practised daily, it brings greater flexibility to your spine and joints and helps keep your waist trim. If you want to start yoga at home but don't know where to begin, the sun salutation can be a good foundation – it's an easy and quick routine that you can manage even on your busiest day.
"Carve out and claim the time to care for yourself and kindle your own fire." - Amy Ipolitti.