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Smudging Not Only Calms Us, It Reduces Bacteria By 94%

Smudging Not Only Calms Us, It Reduces Bacteria By 94%

If you have ever burned sage as part of a meditation ceremony, or been in a church where incense is burned, you have participated in a smudging ceremony. It is a practice which goes back deep into human history, and has been used around the world in many religions and belief systems as a method of cleansing and purification. While some dismiss this practice as unscientific or “magical”, recent studies have found that there are proven benefits to this practice.

The Ancient Art of Smudging

Smudging is a ritual which uses the burning of herbs or other natural substances to purify or cleanse a person, place, or object and has been an important part of ritual and worship from the earliest eras in human history.

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The history of smudging is similar to the art of burning incense, and this practice has its roots sunk deeply into the past. The oldest known record of this practice is transcribed on a tablet from ancient Egypt that dates back to 1530 BC. From Egypt, the practice spread to Babylon, and then to parts of the Mediterranean basin. This includes Greece, Rome, as well as India. Additionally, it was extensively practiced among various Native American tribes, before and after European settlement.

The practice is still very much alive today in Native American culture. It is also used in Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Christian churches, as well as Buddhist and Hindu traditional worship.

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What the Latest Research Found

Despite its long history, there are those who dismiss smudging as “unscientific”, with no concrete benefits. However, recent research is beginning to show that this ancient technique, used by so many around the globe, actually has clinical advantages:

  • The first study entitled “Medicinal Smokes”, was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, and studied smudging practices from around the world, including 50 different countries on 5 different continents. It found that there are some cultural consistencies for this practice, which largely used smudging to treat ailments of the lungs, skin, and brain. It also discussed the fact that there are many advantages to smoke as a method of delivering medicinal herbs, including that it allows active compounds to be delivered rapidly to the body and is easy to absorb. It was also deemed as a cost-efficient method of medicine delivery.
  • The second study entitled “Medicinal Smoke Reduces Airborne Bacteria”, was published in the same journal. It found that the burning of medicinal herbs was able to reduce the number of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria in the room by 94%, including bacterial species responsible for serious illnesses and infections similar to the Corynbacterium, Pseudomonas, and Staphylcoccus species. The effects of this technique were noticeable in the room even after a day; when scientists went back and studied the room a month later, there were still very low levels of the bacteria present.

Studies like these have given validation to the whole practice of smudging, so much so that a hospital, St. Peter’s in Helena, Montana, opened up a “culture room” adjacent to their chapel. It is decorated with motifs of waterfalls and eagles, which gives Native Americans there the space to perform their cleansing ceremonies. While some hospitals still do not permit this practice on their grounds, more are becoming open to it, and St. Peter’s has been praised for the respect it has shown for native spiritual practices.

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In short, the art of smudging is as old as human history itself. It has been used in many major spiritual traditions and is still widely in use today across the globe. Not only is it a widespread and ancient ritual, science is discovering that there are proven benefits to this ancient practice, including the ability for the smoke to purge the air of bacteria, that commonly spread infectious diseases.

Featured photo credit: PROlatisha (herbmother) via flickr.com

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Brian Wu

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Last Updated on September 15, 2020

4 Ways to Deal With Big Life Changes in a Positive Way

4 Ways to Deal With Big Life Changes in a Positive Way

Life changes are constant. Whether it’s in the workplace or our relationships, nothing in life ever remains the same for long.

Regardless of the gravity of change, it can always be a little scary. So scary, in fact, that some people are downright crippled by the idea of it, causing them to remain stagnant through anxiety.

Have you ever noticed how much of life’s transitional periods are riddled with anxious vibes? The quarter life crisis, the mid-life crisis, cold feet before getting married, retirement anxiety, and teenage angst are just a few examples of transitional periods when people tend to panic.

We can’t control every aspect of our lives, and we can’t stop change from happening. However, how we respond to change will greatly affect our overall life experience.

Here are 4 ways you can approach life changes in a positive way.

1. Don’t Fight It

I once heard one of my favorite yoga instructors say “Suffering is what occurs when we resist what is already happening.” The lesson has stuck with me ever since.

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Life changes are usually out of our control. Rather than trying to manipulate the situation and wishing things were different, try flowing with it instead.

Of course, some initial resistance is natural if we’re going into survival mode. Just make sure you are conscious of when this resistance is no longer serving you.

If you’re feeling anxious about impending life changes, it’s time to practice some techniques to address the anxiety directly. These can include meditation, exercise, talking with friends about how you’re feeling, or journaling.

If you’re worried about a big life change, such as starting a new job[1] or moving in with your partner, do your best to control your expectations. It may help you to talk with people you know about their experiences going through similar changes. This will help you form a realistic picture in your mind of what things will look like post-change.

2. Find Healthy Ways to Deal With Feelings

Whenever we’re in transitional periods, it can be easy to lose track of ourselves. Sometimes we feel like we’re being tossed about by life and like we’ve lost our footing, causing some very uncomfortable feelings to arise.

One way we can channel these feelings is by finding healthy ways to release them. For instance, whenever I find myself in a difficult transitional phase, I end up in a mixed martial arts studio.

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The physical activity helps me channel my emotions and release endorphins. It also helps me get in shape, which generally increases my mood and energy levels.

Exercise is important in cultivating positive emotions, but if you’re struggling with anxiety in particular, it’s important to cultivate a regular exercise routine as opposed to a one-off workout. One study found that “Aerobic exercise can promote increase in anxiety acutely and regular aerobic exercise promotes reduction in anxiety levels”[2].

If exercise isn’t your thing, there are other, less intense ways of cultivating positive emotions and reducing anxiety around life changes. You can try stretching, meditating, reading in nature, spending time with family and friends, or cooking a healthy meal.

Find what makes you feel good and helps you ground yourself in the present moment.

3. Reframe Your Perspective

Reframing perspectives is a very powerful tool used in life coaching. It helps clients take a situation they are struggling with, such as a major life change, and find some sort of empowerment in it.

Some examples of disempowered thinking during life changes include casting blame, focusing on negative details, or victimizing[3]. These perspectives can make awkward transitional phases much worse than they have to be.

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Meanwhile, if we utilize a more positive perspective, such as finding a lesson in the situation, realizing that there may be an opportunity for something, or that everything passes, we can come from a greater place of ease.

4. Find Time for Self-Reflection

Having time to reflect is important at any stage in your life, but it’s especially important during transitional periods. It’s quite simple really: we need our time to step back and get centered when things get a little crazy.

As a result, big life changes are perfect for doing some self-reflection. They are opportunities to check in with ourselves and practice getting grounded for a few minutes.

Take a look at this reflective cycle adapted from Glibb’s Self-reflection guide (1988):[4]

Use self-reflection when facing life changes.

    Self-reflective exercises include meditating, yoga or journaling,[5] all of which require some quiet time to get yourself together.

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    One study found that journal improves “self-efficacy, locus of control, and learning”[6]. A healthy sense of self-control can make the process of change easier to bear, so that in itself is a great reason to try self-reflection through journaling.

    To learn how to start journaling, you can check out this article.

    Final Thoughts

    Big life changes may rock us for a little while, but they don’t have to be as bad as we initially perceive them. If handled in a positive manner, transitional periods can pave the way for some serious self-growth, reflection, and awareness.

    Cultivate a sense of positivity and find ways to diminish the anxiety around life changes. Once you make it to the other side, you’ll be grateful that you made it through in the best way possible.

    More Tips on Facing Life Changes

    Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

    Reference

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