5 important life lessons learned at Gwinganna
Overwhelmed from an aggressive battle with my inbox, I decided it was time to check into Gwinganna – a gentle lifestyle retreat in the Gold Coast hinterland – to learn how to reset the corporate clock.
Here are five quick fixes I took away from my stay, for coping with a time-strapped modern life.
1. Sleep to a circadian rhythm of life
Sometime in the last 20 years my circadian rhythm of life and I stopped relating. Where my great ancestors chased after their tucker and then snored their way through a nine-hour sleep each night, I destroyed my body clock and got caught up in all-night storming sessions with books, TV and a 24/7 email inbox.
Sleep stopped being my friend and exhaustion became my companion.
Gwinganna – a place that prides itself on its lack of internet connection and TV – reminded me of the joy of a dawn sunrise, early-morning hikes, gentle yoga, good nosh and above all, the richness of life without the digital distractions.
Sleep made the world of difference. After four nights, my head was no longer foggy, I felt less anxious and I found myself tuning in (kind of like Lassie) to the sounds of nature, with a sharpened sense of smell and taste. Clearly if there is one change I needed to make, it was to get off the ‘machine’, and get more sleep. Hello ‘Half-Nine Nanna’.
2. Heads up! It’s heavy
I’d never thought about it before, but my head weighs a lot. Four-point-eight kilograms in fact – which is about as much as a ten pin bowling ball.
I highly doubt my head is much different to other people’s (heads), but apparently it’s a combination of that weight and the odd angle I hold it while working at the computer that is now causing me terrible back pain.
Our visiting posture guru – a student of the Alexander technique – says good back health begins with the relationship between your head, neck and spine; and most importantly, in learning how to get out of a chair without flinging your noggin’ around.
We spend half an hour learning four easy steps to improved back alignment. And it’s simple: 1. Before rising from your office chair, lengthen your spine; 2. hold your head slightly forward (like you are really curious about something); 3. plant both feet evenly on the ground; 4. raise the entire body from the chair, all without using your hands to lever your body.
That’s 4.8kg connected strongly and purposely to my spine. Take that, Medicare!
3. Do cider shots
You know you’ve grown up when you swap vodka jelly shots at night for organic unfiltered apple cider shots first thing in the morning. But if you’re one of those time-strapped corporate types, this could be the fastest and easiest way to optimise health.
Organic unfiltered cider is said to keep the body’s alkaline pH level at a healthy level. In a nutshell, it heightens energy, binds toxins, stabilises blood sugars, and, what we all want to hear, has the potential to help with weight loss.
Warning: Don’t drink it straight. The organic unfiltered stuff is so acidic it could ruin your tooth enamel.
4. Chew it to a paste
As a six-year-old kid, I often got a clip over the ear for gulping my food. I never understood why. What Gwinganna taught me is that good digestion begins with mastication (yes, there was a “c” in that).
Gwinganna manager, Sharon, advises that we should chew food to a peanut butter consistency. What that does is create a bigger surface area so that our digestive system can enzyme blanket every morsel. It means that our intestines can absorb more nutrients as food passes through.
One more tip: In between cutting that steak (yes, steak! Gwinganna allows the odd juicy animal hit), Sharon asks us to put down our utensils to slow the process of eating. Apparently, it takes 20 minutes for our brain to send the “I’m full” signal to our stomach. So slow things down and give the red light time to go on on.
5. Grow your own
Have you ever met someone who is just beautiful all over? That’s Shelley, the gardener at Gwinganna (not me!). A former chef, she now commandeers the massive garden at the retreat and you can find her plucking geraniums and harvesting zesty wild rocket that goes into the meals.
According to Shelley, growing your own is not only good for the environment, it’s easy, fertiliser free and so much tastier than the supermarket produce.
Everything we eat here zaps with flavour. The shiso leaf is so piquant there’s no need for salt (evil for the arteries), the herbs have medicinal benefits, and mulberries are like those from my childhood. Best yet, you save mega bucks by having herbs on hand and they make the tastiest vegetable smoothies (shown here).
I leave Gwinganna with a bagful of saplings and the knowledge that a resort will give you everything you want, but Gwinganna will give you what you need.