The Holidays

Well-Being for the Open-Minded Sceptic #15 – The Holidays!

The Holidays for some, lets call them “Group A”, is a bustling time full of activity, merriment and joy combined with a bit of over-indulgence and over spending. For others, “Group B.” The holidays are a non-event. This group turns a blind eye to holiday merriment, an out of sight out of mind concept. And then there is “Group C.” For this group it can be quite a lonely or stressful time of year. There is a big contrast here between the groups. But I will try to touch on some ideas to make it all a bit easier to handle no matter which group you fall under. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Group A: A number of factors can cause stress and anxiety at holiday time with this group, including unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and too many commitments: parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few. Headaches, excessive drinking, overeating, and insomnia are some of the possible consequences of poorly managed holiday stress. For this group, try setting realistic goals and expectations, reaching out to friends, sharing tasks with family members and finding inexpensive ways to enjoy yourself. Stick to a budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Food shopping, maybe you don’t have to make Aunt Betty’s famous green bean casserole this year. Have everyone bring a healthy dish to share. Let someone else help think of a game or two to play with the kids to keep them happy. Have a scavenger hunt, family charades, egg and spoon races etc. Do some brainstorming! Create some new traditions that are not all geared around presents and food!

Group B.) For this group, it seems like the Holidays are an excuse for people to act differently than any other time of the year. And this is true. For many (esp. Group A’s) the holidays are a time to unite old friends and family. Heck holiday songs and decorations have stopped wars for a day during World War I. But Group B people tend to see themselves as being more spontaneous or maybe just too busy! They don’t need a holiday, that doesn’t really matter to them, to do something special. In fact they might purposely do nothing just to prove a point. For this group, if you don’t decide to travel to some far away place, maybe you can try to make it more spontaneous! Try reaching out for friends or family members and give them your time instead of a fancy gift. Maybe you haven’t taken the time to reach out to people all year? Or perhaps you know someone who could use your friendship at this time because they are feeling lonely. You can try it on and see how it feels. Making others happy boosts your Oxytocin levels! Heck you can invite someone to dinner and cook Indian food, wear orange and play a sitar! Now that’s the Spirit!

Group C.) For this group there could be a number of reasons that the holidays make them sad. Perhaps someone close to them has recently died or they can’t be with loved ones. It helps to acknowledge these feelings and realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. But you could try to reach out to people if you feel lonely or isolated. You can seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. Helping others even when you are feeling down lifts Serotonin levels and that alone will make you feel better.

What it all boils down to is pretty much this… as said in a Facebook post that I saw the other day. I know! I know! How trivial, that I should refer back to social media for inspiration. But if you have or haven’t seen it, for me it pretty much nails it! So here it is a Holiday shopping list for all groups. This is a slightly modified version from the one on Facebook. So if you want it or not…It’s lifting my Oxytocin levels to share it with you!

Holiday To Do List: Buy Presents – Be Present – Better for the soul • Wrap Gifts – Wrap someone in a hug – Makes you and the recipient feel better • Send Gifts – Send Peace – Raises the vibration of the planet  • Shop for Food – Donate Food – Spread the love Make cookies – Make Love – Better for the waistline!See the lights – Be the Light – Better for everyone!

The Power of Touch

 The Power of Touch

I Recall visiting my family in California, Wisconsin & Hawaii this past year. I can only say that it was the perfect holiday. I felt so relaxed and happy having spent so much time with my loved ones. It was so nice to see everyone especially my 6 grand nieces and nephews, some that I met for the very first time. I never got enough of their hugs and unconditional affection that they shared so freely. There aren’t words to describe what it feels like to be touched by people you care about and who care about you. So on that note, I feel that this is the perfect segue into the subject of Touch.


Did you know that your skin is your largest organ. In a grown man, it covers about 1.75 square meters and weighs about 4 kilograms. A piece of skin the size of an Australian 20 cent piece contains more than 3 million cells, 100 to 340 sweat glands, 50 nerve endings and 1 meter of blood vessels. No one is exempt from needing to be touched. Humans need to touch and be touched, just like we need food and water.

We live in “Touch-starved Culture”  that’s made affection with anyone but loved ones taboo. While you might not notice the effects of not being touched right away, it can negatively affect your mood, your confidence and your health. Touch influences our ability to deal with stress and pain, to form close relationships with other people, and even to fight off disease. The need for touch is the one thing that all mammals require…humans included. We are only beginning to understand the holistic way that our bodies work and the relationship between our emotional well-being and our physical health.

So…Here are 6 reasons why you need to be touched on a regular basis.

  1. Feel connected to others. We are social beings, some of us might be more introverted, others more extroverted. It doesn’t matter, we all need to have that sense of connection to other members of our tribe. While some of that connection can come from having conversations with others, touch also plays an important role in human communication.
  2. Reduce anxiety. Simply touching another person can make us feel more secure and less anxious. Touch triggers the brain region called the insula, which is involved in emotional processing, and can help ease a person’s irritation in the moment. It can make us feel grounded and safe and not so all alone. It’s not just children who could use a warm, reassuring hug to make things a little better, so if you’re feeling like your at the end of your rope, go ahead and ask for a hug. Better than striking out verbally at someone.
  3. Bonding. Touch is one of the ways romantic partners bond with each other and parents bond with their children. When partners and families get busy and let touch go out the window, they’ll often find that they don’t feel as close and relationships suffer. Regular touch is one of the ways that we continually renew our bonds with those we love. Hug your partner or your children. Be daring and hang on maybe just a bit longer and see how it goes.
  4. Lowers your blood pressure. Studies have shown that those that get regular touch often have lower blood pressure than those that don’t. Even having a pet can have beneficial effects! Touch can also slow the heart rate and help speed recovery times from illness and surgery. One study from the University of North Carolina found that women who hugged their spouse or partner frequently (even for just 20 seconds) had lower blood pressure, possibly because a warm embrace increases oxytocin levels in the brain.
  5. Improve your outlook. It’s harder to get into a pessimistic funk when you feel the confidence of being connected to others. Touch can make people feel more optimistic and positive and less cynical and suspicious. A positive, trusting attitude towards others can reduce tension in our daily lives and improve our relationships. A hug, pat on the back, and even a friendly handshake are processed by the reward center in the central nervous system, which is why they can have a powerful impact on the human psyche, making us feel happiness and joy,” explains neurologist Shekar Raman, MD, based in Richmond, Virginia. “And it doesn’t matter if you’re the toucher or touchee. The more you connect with others — on even the smallest physical level — the happier you’ll be.”
  6. Give us the sensory input that we crave. Scientists are just discovering how truly important it is to exercise all our physical senses for proper brain and emotional development. All the various kinds of touch from butterfly kisses to massage send our brains the physical inputs it needs to make sense of the world. So, along with touching other people and pets, make time to explore different textures and touch sensations such as letting cool sand run through your fingers or taking a warm relaxing bath.

Don’t let yourself get too busy that you starve yourself of touch. It’s important for your physical, mental and emotional well being to touch others and let others touch you.

Michelle Ball Massage Therapist & Gokhale Method Teacher Ph: 0428 223 271 Email:

Foot Problems and how Proper Alignment can help

Bunions: occur when the big toe bone is misaligned, which can lead to extra bone growth or the growth of the fluid-filled sac at the base of the toe. Bunions can cause redness, swelling, calluses and corns, soreness, and/or pain. Conventional treatment involves avoiding tight, pointed shoes, or accommodating the bunion with felt padding, or by cutting out a hole in the shoe. In severe cases, surgery is required, in the form of a bunionectomy. **One cause of bunions is inappropriate weight distribution, with poor posture forcing too much of your weight onto the front inner part of the foot. Proper leg and foot alignment that reduces excessive weight over the bunion area can help prevent and even treat bunions.

BeanshapingfeetCalluses and Corns: consist of thick, hardened skin appearing on the feet (or occasionally hands) as a result of pressure or friction. They may provide useful information about where the weight of your body is falling over the feet. You may reduce the discomfort with corn plasters, orthotics, or even by getting the callus or corn scraped off. ** By adjusting the pattern of weight distribution on the feet. This will not only help prevent calluses and corns, but may also help prevent or address other musculo-skeletal problems.

Flat Feet: occur when your foot loses its arch. Normally, they are treated with various orthotics, wedges or arch supports. In other words, under the traditional approach, you are encouraged to find ways to live with the condition. **Rather than adapting to your flat feet, you can work towards altering problematic foot structure. By redistributing most of your body weight over their heels rather than over the front of your feet, strengthening critical muscles in the feet, and walking in a way that builds up muscles in the foot arch. Insoles can help and can be easily upgraded as the foot structure improves.


Morton’s Neuroma: is the result of a pinched nerve in the foot, causing a tissue buildup (called a neuroma) around the nerve. Pain is often felt between the third and fourth toes of the foot. Wide shoes, foot padding, oral medications, and cortisone injections may help. Surgery to remove the neuroma is occasionally recommended.**The body is designed to build up bone and other tissue where there is continual stress. In the case of Morton’s Neuroma, this build-up is unhappily adjacent to a nerve, and therefore causes significant pain. A solution is to relieve stress on that portion of the foot when standing and walking – learning to carry your weight mainly over the heels, which are the sturdiest parts of the feet, rather than over the more delicate balls and arches.

Plantar Fasciitis: is inflammation of the thick tissue bridging the arches on the bottom of the feet. The plantar fascia has limited elasticity and is not constructed to take a significant portion of the body’s weight. If it is overstretched it can become inflamed or even torn. People carrying excess weight and pregnant women are especially at risk of the inflammation, which can cause severe heel pain. This may be especially notable after exercising or when you get out of bed in the morning. The pain is usually mild at first, but increases over time if left untreated. Rest, cold therapy, pain relievers (NSAIDS), orthotics, and stretching exercises may help. If they don’t, your doctor may prescribe injections of corticosteroids, or in rare cases, surgery.**When we evolved from being Quadra pedal to bipedal, the foot changed significantly. We developed a much sturdier heel bone. The bones in the front of our feet are relatively delicate. The heel bone is constructed for weight bearing. We are designed to stand with our weight primarily on our heels.

Exercises to strengthen the foot: 1. Grab the Towel- Put a hand towel on the floor using just your foot, gather the towel under your foot using toes and arches. 2. Grab the Ball. Place a small ball on the floor. (25mm or so) Try to grab the ball with one foot. You may initially only be able to grab it with your toes. As your arches grow stronger you may be able to grab the ball under your transverse arch. You can then move to larger balls.

Information From: “8 Steps to a Pain-free Back” By Esther Gokhale &   

Contributed by Michelle Ball- Gokhale Method Teacher                              Ph: 0428 223 271     Email:


Long Flights – Staying healthy, getting comfortable and keeping your back in tact.

I just returned to Australia from Hawaii on a 10 1/2 hour flight. I was fortunate to have secured an isle seat. This works well as it allows me to get up easily to stretch and move around often without disturbing the people sitting next to me. In case you haven’t heard, movement on airplanes is recommended to prevent blood clots in the legs known as Deep Vein Thrombosis. “Motion is Lotion.” Sitting for long stretches on a plane or anywhere can reek havoc. Some statics on the subject of sitting for long stretches of time: As soon as you sit down electrical activity in the leg muscles shuts off; Calorie burning drops to 1 per minute; Enzymes that break down fat drop 90% and after 2 hours Good cholesterol drops by 20%. So the message here is MOVE and stay healthy whether on a plane, at a desk or watching TV. Stand up as often as every 20 minutes to keep things circulating. Increased circulation increases your bodies healing power.

The next thing I concern myself with on any flight is getting comfortable without doing my back in. I had just finished an intensive training on Posture with Esther Gokhale, the author of “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back.” So I had my “Stretchsit” cushion placed on the back of my seat about mid back to support my posture and give my back a nice stretch for the long hall. This is a little miracle device that allows you to stick yourself to the seat back and put yourself into a gentle form of traction. You can also use a blanket or a jacket behind your mid back for the same effect. Unlike a lumbar support cushion, this method elongates rather than compresses your low back, giving you the natural, healthy spinal shape shared by children, athletes and people in traditional societies the world over. No more compression, no more pain. You can sit your way to a pain-free back!StretchsitcushionUntitled-1

On this particular flight, I was sitting in the middle section of a full flight. There were two young girls sitting next to me and a young couple in front of me. They were all wiggling about during the flight trying to find a way to get some rest and feel comfortable. They would go from slumping to contorting their bodies sideways, pulling their legs up and sort of getting into a fetal position. I was happy to sit up-right and relaxed for most of the trip as the cushion made it comfortable. Although when I did want to rest, I put the tray table down, hinged forward from my hips, placed my elbows on the tray with my hands on either side of my head allowing my chin to rest in my palms. I then rested my head against the seat in front of me using my jumper against the seat to add a bit more comfort. I was relaxed and very much at ease… However, the girl in front of me kept moving and jiggling the seat that I was leaning on. She was so desperate to get comfortable, she couldn’t sit still. I was relaxed enough to go with this movement. But I felt bad for her. I dozed off and upon waking from my little rest noticed her partner was mimicking me using his neck pillow against the seat in front of him. He looked very comfortable. I was happy to be able to influence at least one person. I wanted to get up and share this information with everyone on the plane! Maybe next time. I felt great after the flight no stiffness or pain… I hope this helps you on your next long trip!

Contributed By: Michelle “Mickie” Ball 0428223271 – Aloha Dreaming Massage & Gokhale Method Teacher  Email:


Body Language

I have just returned from Melbourne where I did the Foundation Course for the Gokhale Method on Posture. It was a fantastic weekend of learning about primal posture and carrying one’s self in a way that is intrinsically well positioned and balanced. I was told that by working with this method you can make yourself a 1/2 an inch taller. Even though that is not why I did it. I found that to be very interesting. Making one-self taller. It led me to the thought of Body Language and how we carry ourselves. I am always talking about how the mind affects the body. But how can the body affect our minds…

I will ask you to audit your body right now. How are you sitting, standing or lying while you are reading this? Are you sitting cross legged, are you standing slightly slouched or lying in a position that causes you body to hunch?

I ask this because we are always watching how other people around us carry themselves. What is a person’s body language saying about them? What is yours saying about you?  Is someone going to think positively or negatively about us based on our non-verbal communication?

How do we judge others by their non verbals? How do they judge us? Interesting food for thought! But an even more interesting idea is, how does our own non verbal body language influence us?

Well here’s what I’m talking about. Take for instance, you win at something. Say you win a race! You cross over that finish line and throw both your arms up in the air! This is a natural sign of victory, a sign of power! It’s all about expanding. Making yourself bigger in some way. Head up & proud. When you feel powerful overall you have the tendency to expand.

Does the same hold true for a situation where we are feeling powerless.  Are we walking down the street with our arms up in a victory dance or are we shuffling along head down perhaps making ourselves small and less visible. Most people when they are feeling powerless have a tendency to close up, make themselves smaller and less expansive.

So this is where I’m going with this. We are influenced by non verbal like body language. Our thoughts, our feelings and our physiology are all affected. So if you wish to feel more powerful and confident. How about unfolding your arms from around your waist. Try standing up a bit taller or really expand yourself in a pose that makes you feel invincible. The “Wonder Woman or Superman”pose. Hands on your hips feet spread wide. Even if you only do it in your own home. Posing like this actually causes hormonal changes in the body that can raise your confidence and self esteem just by holding them for a few minutes. This is about you telling yourself non verbally that you are powerful. It has been proven to actually raise the good hormones and reduce cortisol or stress hormones. When we actually walk taller or expand into a power pose, we can trick ourselves into becoming more confident, passionate, enthusiastic and more powerful. Actually we become more of who we authentically really are. Our bodies can change our minds….and our minds can change our behavior, and our outcomes.

Photo: Walking tall using the Glide Walking Technique from Gokhale Method Posture Training

Glide Walking

This article was based on a speech given by Amy Cuddy at a TED talk. It is very inspirational. You can find it at