Blimey! Another week past, another week in isolation. And so continues our alphabet soup.
I have decided to write this weekly newsletter to reach out to you and hopefully give you some tips to get through this incredibly trying time. It is in no way designed to be preachy or diminish what you are currently experiencing. It does not take the place of medical advice, nor will it offer up cures and misinformation about corona. It’s alphabetical in nature. I am taking wagers to see which letter we reach (hopefully not very far). Any guesses as to what letter we’ll reach before life returns to ‘normal’?
‘B’ is for boredom
I keep waking up thinking I have something to do and then I remember, I don’t really HAVE to do anything. Suddenly the day looks very loooong indeed. Many of us are so used to being busy (and wear it as a badge of honour) that it feels foreign to suddenly have all this time.
I can’t say I’ve hit boredom yet, although I can bore myself when I start having a rant and a whinge to anyone who will listen!
It turns out there can be some benefits to being bored (and research will back me up on this).
It makes you more creative
During a study by UK psychologist Sandi Mann, researchers gave subjects various boring tasks to complete and then asked them to use their creative thinking. The subjects who had the most boring task — reading the phone book — came up with the most interesting uses for plastic cups, which is a standard test of divergent thinking.
It turns out that boredom allows our minds to wander, leading to more associative and creative thinking.
It may make you a nicer person (so you can improve on perfection…)
Researchers in Ireland found that bored people are more likely to engage in ‘pro’ social behavior. Blood donation anyone? Meals on Wheels driver anyone?
It could be essential to our happiness
As Bertrand Russell said:
“A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure.
A person accustomed to too much excitement is like a person with a morbid craving for pepper, who comes last to be unable even to taste a quantity of pepper which would cause anyone else to choke. There is an element of boredom which is inseparable from the avoidance of too much excitement, and too much excitement not only undermines the health, but dulls the palate for every kind of pleasure, substituting titillations for profound organic satisfactions, cleverness for wisdom, and jagged surprises for beauty.
I do not want to push to extremes the objection to excitement. A certain amount of it is wholesome, but, like almost everything else, the matter is quantitative. Too little may produce morbid cravings, too much will produce exhaustion. A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.”
It turns out that ‘doing nothing’ is a bit of a skill, one that I think many of us are developing (once we get past the guilt).
Want to read more? Check out this article.
‘B’ is for Vitamin B
I’ve got a complex and it’s known as Vitamin B! As most people who know me will attest, I loves me vitamin B. Why? Because not only will it help pep you up and give you back your ‘b b bounce’, but it helps make you more resilient to stress – something we all need in these uncertain times.
You see, when you get upset, anxious or worried, you need vitamin B to have a healthy stress response. It’s like standing at the ATM of life. If you are constantly making withdrawals and never putting back into your account, pretty soon you will need to take out an overdraft or your bank will stop giving you money. In order to continue to cope with what life throws at you, you need to make the odd deposit. Enter vitamin ‘B’.
A good vitamin B complex may help with:
- Energy production
- Neurotransmitter synthesis – helps make the brain chemicals so we feel okay about ‘stuff’.
- Improving your mood
- Converting carbohydrates to glucose (hello brain power, goodbye 3.30itis)
- Building healthy red blood cells –needed to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all your other cells
- RNA and DNA synthesis (read: healthy ageing)
- Improving cognition – or ‘what did I come in here to do?’
Remember, vitamin Bs generally like to hang out with their mates. So,if you are supplementing with say, B12 (needed by vegans and vegetarians) or B6 (wonderful for anxiety), taking a complex reduces the likelihood of imbalances
It’s the Riboflavin (B2) that makes your wee look so neon!
- Beef – especially B12
- Leafy greens – especially folate, essential during pregnancy
- Liver – not many people eat it these days but I’m a huge fan. You can take the girl out of the country…
- Legumes – remember to add the asofoetida.
- Wheatgerm and whole grains
‘B’ is for black cumin seeds (aka Nigella)
‘It is a remedy for every disease, except death’ – so say the Prophets of Islam.
I learnt about the wonderful Nigella in Morocco. If you can get hold of some peppermint crystals (oil may work), make yourself a little pouch with a pinch of nigella and peppermint. Rub between your thumbs and inhale. Great for clearing sinuses!
More than that, researchers in South Carolina noted its ability to help boost the immune system, especially…in the elderly! You see, as we age our immune system declines, known as immunosenescence (try saying that after a few drinks!). In one study, people treated with black cumin oil for four weeks (sorry, I couldn’t find dosages) had a 30% increase in natural killer cells – the cells that slay viruses.
I use black cumin in my clinic is to assist with allergies and it seems the best way to ingest is as an oil. Personally, I think we should all be using spices in our cooking on a daily basis as I’m of the opinion that every little bit helps.
Aloo Posto – Potato in poppy seed paste
I tried this dish for the first time in India earlier this year. I became totally obsessed with it. Potato is the traditional way, but I was also served it made with a vegetable called, ‘parwal’ or ‘pointed gourd’. You can fry onion at the start, add turmeric, use different spices, basically, whatever the heck you like!
Remember! I’m no food photographer, but I’m handy with a knife…in the kitchen of course!
- 500gms potato (about four), cut into cubes
- 4 tablespoons white poppy seeds – ground to a fine powder (coffee grinder works best)
- 1 teaspoon nigella (black cumin) seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 whole green chillis (optional)
- ½ – 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons mustard oil
- Salt to taste
Heat oil in a pan, add nigella and cumin seeds. Fry until fragrant
Add potato and stir to coat for 2 minutes.
Add poppy seeds, chilli and water.
Cover the pan and cook until potatoes are done.
Serve with rice or chapatti.
Note: You may need to add more water. Start with half a cup and add a little more at a time to stop it sticking.
‘B’ is for broccoli
Broccoli with miso butter
It seems I made a lot of food starting with ‘b’ this week. I also made banana bread, which wasn’t bad, given I’m no ‘master baker’.
I’ve included this recipe because it was super quick to make and broccoli is great for breast health, in keeping with my ‘b’ theme. If you like to BBQ, then your Brassicas can counteract some of the effects this form of cooking can have (i.e carcinogenic – couldn’t go without letting Debbie Downer pop in to say ‘hi’).
She’s a rough and ready recipe (a bit like me).
Steam half broccoli for about four minutes.
Heat EVOO in a pan, fry garlic and chilli flakes. Add about 1 tablespoon each of butter and miso, stir to combine. Add in your broccoli and stir a bit more. Enjoy.
Before I sign off for the week, just one last ‘B’.
‘B’ is for Be kind to yourself
Remember, we are in uncharted waters. Go easy on yourself. I said last week we should all try to keep a routine. Ha! I now say to you, ‘just take each day as it comes and be gentle with yourself’.
‘C’ you next week.
P.S If you’ve made it this far, well done! Can I ask a wee favour. If you don’t want to miss out on these weekly updates and you haven’t already done so, please sign up for my newsletter. I will never spam you (unless of course you want me to???)