by Ellen Scott
Mornings are tough.
As the alarm claws its way through your slumber and all the tasks of the day run through your mind, it’s oh so tempting to just turn back over and retreat back to sleep.
But no, you’re a grownup with stupid responsibilities. You have to get up and face the day – starting with the morning.
We’d all love to be the type of people who jump up and out of bed filled with motivation and joy.
But if that’s a distant dream, here’s a more realistic goal: let’s do what we can to make mornings a bit less sh*t.
To help us in this mission, we asked a bunch of experts to share their top tips for making our mornings better. Here’s what they said.
Prep practical bits the night before
Avoid the mad rush of the mornings by preparing as much as you can the night before.
‘Pack your bag, decide what you are wearing and prepare your lunch,’ recommends consultant health psychologist Dr Sue Peacock.
And plan out your day the night before, too
Write out tomorrow’s schedule in the evening.
‘Doing so will not only save you energy and time the following morning when you already know what your priorities are, but also help you sleep better now that your thoughts have been transferred to paper,’ says Simon Alexander Ong, coach and author of Energize: Make the Most of Every Moment.
‘As a result you are able to protect your energy for what is most important and your most important tasks.’
Start your day with a stretch
‘Stretching first thing in the morning is not only an effective way to open up the body and wake it up after a long sleep, but it also activates your parasympathetic nervous system, increases blood flow to your muscles and release those feel-good endorphins which help to reduce pain and boost mood,’ says Carlos Cobiella, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon.
Keep a bottle of water by your bed
This’ll make it easier to kick off your ‘drink more water’ goal the moment you wake up.
Shaileen Shah is a happiness coach, and lists this as one of his highly effective morning habits.
‘Drink water first thing – we can dehydrate during the night and this activates the stomach,’ he notes.
Ditch the snooze button
Start each morning by setting your intention for the day
Life coach Kerry McLaughlin recommends: ‘Set your intention for the day.
‘I’m not talking about setting goals, but more of an ethos.
‘If, for example, the intention were to be efficient with your time, make decisions from the start to the finish of your day that align with this intention.’
Counselling Directory member Andrew Harvey says: ‘One way of having a better morning is to have a better night before.
‘It’s worth reflecting on how your evening routine is impacting your wellbeing in the morning.
‘For example, are you using alcohol to “wind down” in the evening? This may be having a negative impact the next morning.’
Wake up at the same time each day
‘This keeps your body and mind in a routine,’ notes Dr Sue.
Stick to a routine
Find a routine that works for you and stick to it. What that looks like is up to you – having any routine can help to boost mental health, as long as it’s manageable.
‘Morning routines are proven to increase productivity if they are created around things that are sustainable and maintainable in the long term,’ Avesta Panahi, psychological counsellor for Private Therapy Clinic, tells us.
‘Create a routine that does not feel to pressurising and does not set you up for failure. It may not be easy to maintain a 5am morning start when you have always been used to 9am.’
Have a tasty breakfast to look forward to
Luring yourself out of bed with the promise of something delicious? A stroke of genius, in our books.
‘My mum has always believed in a good breakfast in the morning and I share the same sentiment (plus I can’t think straight when I am hungry),’ says Dr Tina Mistry. ‘Eating a nutritionally balanced breakfast is crucial.
‘I love porridge or overnight oats, some fruit and a scoop of protein.’
Let the light in
The moment you wake up, open up your curtains and let the sunlight flood in.
‘This helps your circadian rhythm,’ Shaileen says.
Do some affirmations
‘Starting the day with positive affirmations will help you alter your brain space for the rest of the day,’ Joanna Konstantopoulou, health psychologist, tells us.
‘Affirmations are simply positive “I am” statements, such as “I am strong”, or “I am loved”.
‘Doing this helps you focus on the positives in your life, and if you get into the habit of doing so in the morning, it will set your day up perfectly.’
Plan to do one thing you enjoy every morning
‘Sometimes, people with mental health issues find that their moods are worse in the morning,’ notes consultant psychiatrist Dr Mohamed Abdelghani. ‘This is commonly seen in those suffering with depression, when it is called diurnal mood variation.
‘For many of us however, if our morning gets off to a bad start, we find that problems or irritation mount up throughout the day.
To avoid this happening, incorporate something you enjoy every morning to start the day in the best way possible.’
What that is is up to you – reading a chapter of a book, making yourself a fancy latte, stroking your cat – but having something to look forward to the moment you open your eyes can be life-changing.
Make your bedroom like a hotel
‘Check into a hotel room every night,’ says Simon Alexander Ong… but he doesn’t mean that literally.
‘The environment of a hotel room is optimised for the purpose of quality sleep and it’s something we can also do to make our bedroom a more inviting place to be in the evening.
‘Given that we spend around a third of our lives sleeping, it makes sense to invest in a better sleep environment.
‘Our happiest and most productive days always begin with getting good quality sleep, as it is this that sets the stage for better decisions, for waking up with greater energy and increased levels of emotional intelligence.
‘When you sleep better, you live better.’
Let go of what doesn’t work for you
You don’t need to get up at 5am to have a good morning. You also don’t need to start the day with a green juice, or immediately meditate, or force yourself to do all the things on this list.
‘The biggest thing you can do you for yourself when it comes to setting yourself up for a great day is understand what works for you and what doesn’t,’ says life coach Penny Haslam.
‘In the past I’ve given myself a hard time for not being a morning person – the fact is I am not particularly dazzling pre-10am.
‘I tried to emulate the 5am yoga sessions, emails read and actioned by 7am, relevant personal development chapter read by 7.30am, all in time to do the school run. It did not work out well for me.
‘After a month of that, going against what suits me best, I was utterly exhausted, with low mood and anxiety. I’m much better suited for high energy at 11am and again at 4pm.
‘It’s extremely hard not to fall into societal thinking that you’re lazy if you don’t spring out of bed and get going at first light.
‘Try out a few different ways to start the day and be conscious of what feels good for you and what sets you up for success – don’t follow the crowd on this.’
Taking care of our teeth should be a priority. Brushing might not be enough. Evidence suggests that even some people who brush and floss consistently may still suffer serious dental problems. One reason for this might be the bacterial biomes in our mouths. As gross as it sounds, the human mouth is one of the most bacteria-ridden places on the planet. Billions of bacteria live inside your mouth. While some bacteria are harmful, others are necessary to maintain health in the teeth and gums.
For reasons scientists don’t fully understand, some people naturally have trouble maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria within the mouth. This is one big reason why people who brush and floss perfectly may still, unfortunately, develop weakened enamel, gum disease, and other troubling dental problems.
How should people with these problems approach their dental health? One solution involves supplementation. Supplementing your diet using some of the pills available in the alternative health industry might help to fill the gaps in your dental health. This approach is popular among millions worldwide due in no small part to the cost-effective nature of supplements. When we compare the price of a month’s supply of dental supplements to the cost of even a single visit to the dentist’s office, it’s hard to deny which option is cheaper.
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As many of us decide to cut back for Sober October, will this really benefit our health in the long term?
Many years ago, I gave up drinking alcohol for a month, and was so impressed with myself, I felt I’d cracked the Da Vinci Code. Of course, once the arbitrary 30 days were up, I returned immediately to my normal drinking pattern of “most nights”. I didn’t think about it again until five years ago, when a combination of nagging headaches and peri-menopausal facial flushing drove me to give up.
I’ve barely had a drink since, so Dry January and Sober October have passed me by. The latter, however, which raises funds for Macmillan Cancer Support by asking people to quit booze in return for sponsorship, is gearing up for a bumper month as many, mindful of drinking too much during the long nights of lockdown, are signing up.
Diageo, the spirits company, recently estimated that by the end of 2022, the UK alcohol industry will be worth £46.7 billion, with an estimated 29.2 million regular consumers, with over-30s in professional occupations drinking the most. In 2020, according to government figures, there were 8,974 UK deaths from alcohol-specific causes; an 18.6 per cent increase on 2019.
Countless studies have shown links between excessive drinking and cancers, heart failure and diabetes, among other chronic health issues.
No wonder, then, that so many of us are reconsidering our drinking habits. But does a month of sobriety really make any difference to overall health – or are habitual drinkers simply whitewashing the problem, without any discernible benefits?
Sober October may not just benefit physical health, says Dr Catherine Carney, of Delamere rehab clinic in Cheshire.
“Alcohol can also affect sleep quality, so you’ll have more energy,” Dr Carney says. “Regular and excessive alcohol consumption can also have a detrimental effect on mental wellbeing. While 56 per cent of the UK say they consume alcohol for relaxation, it’s only temporary relief, and may leave your mental wellbeing in a worse state overall.”
When it comes to physical health, “drinking large amounts of alcohol over a prolonged period of time can increase blood pressure to unhealthy levels”, says Dr Carney, “and result in more health complications down the line. When you give up alcohol, your blood pressure will reduce, which can help to prevent heart failure, strokes and heart attacks.”
She warns however, that “proving” you can quit for a few weeks doesn’t necessarily suggest a healthy relationship with alcohol. “It promotes this negative mindset that if someone can go without alcohol for the duration, it means that they don’t have a dangerous relationship, when in fact, they do have a substance issue,” she says. “Heavy drinkers could use this month of sobriety as an excuse to abuse alcohol for the remainder of the year.”
GP Dr Ross Perry lists the benefits of a month off the booze. “After your last drink, the liver starts working overtime and the pancreas starts producing extra insulin,” he says. “It’s important to drink lots of water, as your body will be flushing out toxins via the liver and kidneys, so you’re going to the loo more.”
If you don’t feel better immediately, he adds, “it takes up to 72 hours before you mentally and physically feel ‘normal’.”
After two weeks, “you will likely see a drop in body weight, eye bags reduced and far less overall bloating around the stomach, as well as clearer skin”, he goes on. “After three weeks, blood pressure may reduce. A month in, skin and eyes will look brighter and clearer – liver fat reduces by up to 15 per cent, increasing its ability to flush out toxins.
Mild liver disease, such as fatty liver can be reversed completely [how long this takes will depend on the state the liver is in and how old the person is] over time, if a person stops drinking alcohol altogether, he concludes. “When there is no alcohol in your blood for several months, often, the liver cells can gradually repair and return to normal.”
My own anxiety improved dramatically within a week of giving up alcohol. I can’t pretend I lost any weight (because I replaced the calories with snacks) – but I slept better almost immediately. Now, my moods are more stable, the headaches have gone, and my skin is no longer flushed.
“The main benefit of going sober for a month is breaking a habit,” says pharmacist Abbas Kanani, of Chemist Click. “It takes around 30 days to form a habit so not drinking for four or five weeks can help you stop.” But in the long term, he warns, it’s back to square one if you return to previous habits. “Thirty days without drinking is not long enough to reverse any long-term damage. If you go straight back to drinking, it will have been a waste of time.”
Most Sober October participants might not quit permanently – but for anyone concerned about their health, finances or fluctuating moods, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a step back, and reset their relationship with alcohol – perhaps for good.
Who can help you cut back on alcohol?
- DrinkCoach provides support if you want to give up alcohol. They have treatment specialists, a free test that can tell you how risky your drinking is and an app with tools to help reduce your alcohol intake.
- The Soberistas are a worldwide community of people helping each other to stay sober.
- Club Soda is a “mindful” drinking support group helping those who wish to moderate their intake or give up completely.
- Recoverlution is an online platform that offers information and support for drug and alcohol addiction.
- Alcoholics Anonymous can help you find a local support group
By Laura Potter
The term ‘functional foods’ may be something you’ve heard of, but it can be confusing to know what these hard-working foods are and how they are beneficial to our health. If you’re scratching your head over how to get more functional foods into your diet, then this is what you need to know.
Britons today are taking more of an interest in their health – particularly post-Covid.
According to the government, in 2021, 7 in 10 adults in England were motivated to get healthier due to the pandemic.
And while the country is on a wellbeing kick, Vitality thinks it’s worth knowing more about ‘functional foods’ and how they can benefit our health.
Functional foods should not be confused with the term ‘superfoods’
Of course, all healthy foods have their benefits.
But functional foods are proven to have additional purposes that are part of their make-up, and legislation exists to prevent manufacturers from making unsubstantiated claims.
What are functional foods?
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, functional e foods deliver additional or enhanced benefits over and above their basic nutritional value”.
This should not be confused with terms like ‘superfoods’.
“Superfoods are more of a marketing term used by the food industry to sell foods rich in numerous nutrients at higher price points, whereas functional foods contain nutrients that have been shown in countless studies to improve health outcomes,” explains Rachel Clarkson, Specialist Dietitian and Nutritionist, also known as The DNA Dietitian.
“For example, a typical superfood is a goji berry, rich in fibre, potassium, copper, iron and zinc, whereas a functional whole food would be actual berries [such as a blueberry], which contains anthocyanins (a type of phytochemical), in addition to all the other nutrients,” she adds.
“These have been shown to prevent cancer, reduce heart disease risk and keep your brain in good health.”
Functional foods – the facts:
- Are proven to be able to reach the point in the body where they’re efficiently utilised (such as the small intestine and colon for probiotics).
- Are not expensive or hard to find.
- Include kitchen staples like oats, yoghurt, garlic and tinned mackerel.
Functional vs fortified – what’s the difference?
“With conventional functional foods, the beneficial substance is naturally occurring,” notes Ryan James, Health & Wellbeing Advisor at Vitality.
“Whereas fortified or modified foods have had ingredients added to provide the additional health benefits.”
“Foods are fortified either to boost the quantity of a nutrient present in the food, or to restore a nutrient that may have been lost during processing.”
As a result, many fortified foods will also be classed as functional.
A ‘whole food’ example would be omega 3, which is naturally found in oily fish, while a ‘modified’ functional food would be eggs that are rich in omega 3 because the chicken has been given omega 3-rich feed.
Some common fortified foods include:
- White bread: It’s mandatory to fortify non-wholemeal wheat flours with iron, thiamin or vitamin B1 [which cannot be made by the body], calcium and niacin (vitamin B3), because these nutrients are lost in the milling process.
- Breakfast cereals: Often voluntarily fortified, these contribute 20% of the average iron intake and 13% of the average daily vitamin D intake of British adults.
Now that we’ve explained the science behind functional foods, here are five that you can easily implement into your diet today.
1. Fermented foods
Function: Digestion and immunity
“Fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, miso and kimchi (spicy Korean pickled cabbage) are a great source of live cultures,” says Clarkson.
“And there’s ongoing research into how certain live cultures support immunity.”
These foods can be more beneficial than supplements due to their variety of live microorganisms, rather than a few specific strains.
We also know that when our gut plays host to a wide variety of helpful bacteria it has a positive effect on our digestion, but growing evidence suggests it also stimulates the immune system and dials down inflammation.
For example, foods fortified with the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bifidum species can help reduce diarrhoea and calm IBS symptoms.
Function: Digestion and mineral absorption
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre that feed our good gut bacteria and encourage them to grow.
“A diet containing a variety of fibrous and fermented foods can promote a healthy gut, which has become increasingly associated with immune function,” says James.
Prebiotics can be found in but is not limited to: artichokes, asparagus, bananas, chicory, tomatoes, garlic, onions and leeks as well as whole grain cereals.
Prebiotic-packed foods, however, are non-digestible, which may sound counterproductive, but bear with us.
By being non-digestible, they pass through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract (part of the digestive system) and reach the colon to encourage growth of beneficial bacteria.
Not only do prebiotics feed the good bacteria, they also inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and help to better absorb minerals – particularly calcium.
3. Plant stanols or sterols
Function: Lower cholesterol
Another functional food is one that you might have seen advertised on the TV.
Special spreads that claim to help bring down cholesterol are another example of functional foods.
These types of spreads are blended with stanols and sterols, which are naturally present in plant-based foods, such as vegetable oils, nuts, fruits and vegetables,
And these compounds’ superpower is to reduce the absorption of cholesterol, due to their naturally similar structure.
Excess and unabsorbed cholesterol is then excreted from the body.
“A plant sterol or stanol-enriched yoghurt has the ability to reduce cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart disease,” adds Clarkson.
And there’s research out there that explains the beneficial functions of these foods.
Usually 30-60% of total cholesterol is absorbed from the intestine into the blood, but when plant stanol and sterol esters are present, that falls to around 20%, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, and the reduction of bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, ranges between 6% and 15%.
Stanols or sterols are often added to spreads, milk, yoghurts, salad dressings and mayonnaise.
4. Dietary fibre
Function: Weight management
Britons over the age of 14 are now being told to consume 30g of fibre a day – and there’s no wonder due to the broad benefits.
More obvious benefits to eating fibre include, preventing constipation and lowering cholesterol.
But there are other lesser known positives to consuming fibre.
These include improving gut health and managing weight, due to the fact they make you feel full.
Research has found that eating a high-fibre diet can also help to cut your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
Fibre is naturally present in fruit and vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and potato with skins, while ‘roughage’ in wholemeal bread, wholegrain breakfast cereals and brown pasta or rice are another good source of fibre.
5. Omega 3 fatty acids
Function: Eye, brain and heart health
The health benefits of omega 3 have been heavily researched.
A recent study even found that regularly eating oily fish can increase life expectancy by almost five years.
And some of the best sources come from oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.
This is because of their high content of fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic , for example.
“Omega -3 fatty acids may have the ability to lower heart disease risk, protect against some cancers and improve cognition,” continues Clarkson.
For those that have a plant-based diet, it can be trickier to get your omega 3 intake.
Foods such as flaxseed and walnuts contain , which the body finds harder to convert.
Thankfully, algae and seaweed are some of the best plant-based options for vegans and vegetarians to get the optimum amount of omega 3.
“Functional foods containing omega 3, such as oily fish, also have a benefit to our cardiovascular system and help to reduce inflammation,” says James.
Mindfulness Practice: The Who, What, When, Where, and Why
Every day is packed full of activities and distractions. It makes it easy to feel like your mind is full instead of being mindful. Now is the time to incorporate mindfulness practice into your daily life.
The Basics of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has become a hot topic, but there is still some confusion about it. Let’s discuss the basics before we get into how you can make it part of your routine.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what you are doing at any moment without being judgemental. It requires conscious attention while letting go of distractions.
Buddhist and Eastern communities were the first to practice mindfulness. It was later introduced to the Western world and combined with other therapeutic techniques like mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
Why Is Mindfulness Important?
Daily life is busy with work, household responsibilities, staying fit, and socialization. It creates stress which results in anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness allows you to overcome these mental health concerns because it draws attention to your mental state. It encourages you to slow down, clear your mind, and concentrate on your current thoughts. All of this allows you to regulate emotions better.
Who Should Practice Mindfulness?
Everyone can benefit from mindfulness practice. It’s suitable from childhood right into old age. So yes, that means you can benefit from mindfulness too.
Mindfulness is especially helpful for anyone who feels their emotions are out of control or who is feeling overwhelmed by their current situation.
When Should Mindfulness be Used?
Mindfulness can be practiced any day, any time. In fact, many people use mindfulness techniques throughout their day, incorporating it into every part of what they do. This can seem like a lofty goal for a beginner, but it does help to make a little bit of time for it each day.
Where is Mindfulness Practiced?
You can practice mindfulness at home, at work, inside, outside, or even in your car. Anywhere you go is suitable for mindfulness practice; all you need is yourself and your mind.
Learn More About Your Mind
The more you know about the mind, the more you can use it effectively. Mindfulness is just one aspect of this—there is still much more to learn.
Join us at the Brain-A-Thon to find out how your brain works and how you can better leverage its abilities. Experience mindfulness and meditation in action, take control of your life, and steer it in a favorable direction!
Preparing for Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation is something that you might incorporate into your day already. If so, you can take it a step further by joining the two concepts so that you are practicing mindfulness meditation.
First, you need to prepare yourself mentally for the process.
Make It Easy
It’s best to start small with your mindfulness practice. There’s no need to jump in and try and practice it the entire day. Even a few minutes every day is sufficient to help you reset your mind and have a calming effect on your nervous system.
You don’t need to commit to a time period either. Instead, commit to being mindful for a specific activity. For example, observe the unique details of a plant or listen to the sound of a bird chirping.
Accept that you will get distracted during your mindfulness practice but realize that it’s not a reason to give up. Your mind may wander or something else could get your attention. When this happens, acknowledge the distraction, then turn your focus back to your mindful activity.
It’s normal to start judging yourself when you become distracted. You might even experience intrusive or negative thoughts. Being able to step away from these judgments is crucial for mindfulness.
As soon as you realize you are judging yourself, take a deep breath, and name the thought or judgment. Observing thoughts in this way allows you to let go of negativity so that you can continue your journey.
Quick Mindfulness Exercises
Are you ready to be more mindful?
Great! Here are a few exercises you can try to help guide your mindfulness practice.
STOP for a Moment
The STOP technique is the ideal mindfulness exercise if you don’t have much time.
Follow these steps:
- Stop doing whatever you are busy with.
- Take several deep breaths.
- Observe what’s happening in your body—your thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
- Proceed with what you were busy with before.
This simple exercise allows you to break from what you are doing and become more aware of your thoughts and how your body feels. It requires conscious effort to slow down and be mindful.
Mindfulness can be helpful in maintaining motivation when you feel negative or uninspired. Mindful exercises allow you to center yourself and reignite motivation.
The following Innercise™ can help you to refocus and get ready for the task at hand.
Concentrating on your breathing is one of the easiest ways to boost mindfulness. Breathing is essential to keep you alive, but it also plays a big role in awareness.
Do this breathing exercise for mindfulness, awareness, and to clear your head:
- Sit or lie down somewhere comfortable.
- Set a timer for one minute. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Concentrate on how you feel emotionally and physically. Identify any sensations and thoughts.
- Reset the timer. This time, focus on your breathing specifically. Feel your chest and abdomen expand as you inhale. Experience your body deflating as you exhale.
- Reset the timer. Concentrate on how breathing uses your entire body. Shift your focus from one body part to the next as you breathe and feel the air circulating through you.
Stimulate Your Mind
Mindfulness practice and meditation require active use of your brain. Exploring the different ways you can use your mind is necessary if you want it to function optimally.
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Daily Mindfulness Practice
Every time you are mindful, you stimulate your brain, which is why you should incorporate mindfulness in as many ways as possible. It doesn’t have to be difficult; even small acts of mindfulness will do.
Meals are often eaten in front of the TV or while using digital devices. Snacks and coffee are consumed while traveling from home to work or school. Eating in a rush or while multitasking means you aren’t being mindful.
When you practice mindful eating, you take the time to enjoy your food. You get a chance to smell, feel, and taste the food. It makes it possible to experience different flavors and textures, and you might realize you like something more than you thought.
Mundane tasks like doing laundry, sweeping, or grocery shopping are done without a second thought, but they are ideal for mindfulness. Take note of what you are doing instead of working on autopilot.
Smell the laundry detergent while doing laundry, listen to the sound of the broom as you sweep, and stick to only buying the items on your shopping list. Paying attention to what you are doing can stimulate your mind.
Appreciating the Little Things
Mindfulness is all about focusing on the task at hand and taking note of the little things in life. Whenever you feel your mind wandering or your motivation waning, spend a few minutes mindfully.
Use your senses to identify something you can smell, taste, feel, hear, or see. This is an activity you can do anywhere, anytime. As you draw attention to your surroundings, you also incorporate your body and brain, which intensifies mindfulness.
Using Innercise™ for Meditation
Mindfulness, meditation, and mental exercises have a shared goal: to stimulate the brain.
When this happens, your brain functions better. It copes well with daily stress, strengthens neural connections, and provides clarity. You learn to be compassionate and kind to yourself even when things aren’t going right.
Boost Your Brain
The more mindful you are, the more it becomes a habit. Besides daily mindfulness in small tasks, you also want to spend quality time on mindful activities or meditation.
Innercise™ is one of the best ways to meditate mindfully because it requires your undivided attention. It also focuses on switching off negative emotions, visualizing your success, and calming yourself intentionally.
Schedule a few minutes in the morning, evening, or during your lunch break to do Innercise™ like Take 6: Calm the Circuits, or Awareness, Intention, Action (AiA). The great thing is that our Innercise™ activities tell you exactly what to do, and some are guided meditations so they are suitable for everyone, even beginners.
Every time you are mindful, meditate, or do Innercises™, you take control of your mind and your future. It boosts your brain power and that has a domino effect in other areas of your life.
Unlock Your Hidden Mental Power
It’s the small things you do that have the greatest impact on your abilities. Mindfulness is one of those small things and practicing it frequently will add up to huge benefits.
This is just one part of the puzzle because there are many other ways to improve your mind, but it all starts with understanding how your brain works.
Our Brain-A-Thon event is the place to get all that information. Presented by top brain experts, this one-day experience teaches you to harness your mental power through mental stimulation like Innercise™ and meditation.
Reserve your free seat today and find out how to change your life!
By Hattie Parish
Summertime brings warmer days, longer nights and that feel-good factor, so there’s no better time to tune into our self-care routines. This is how you can make the most of the sunny season.
It seems we really are happier during summer.
A study from the University of Michigan found that warm weather improves mood, memory and creativity, while another study, published in the British Journal of Psychology, revealed that hotter temperatures have the potential to lower anxiety.
What’s more, with longer, warmer days, summer provides more opportunities to switch up your routine and enjoy what the season has on offer.
So, while enjoying the hotter months and switching up our routines, now is the perfect time to think about summer self-care.
What is self-care?
“Self-care describes and covers the deliberate things you do for the benefit of your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing,” said Belinda Sidhu, Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing at Vitality.
This will look different for everybody, but ensuring a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle is going to help. Crucially, “self-care isn’t about being selfish,” added Sidhu.
“Practising self-care can help you manage stress and anxiety and increase energy, and a general sense of wellbeing.”
And summer, according to Sidhu, is a great time to start introducing these practices into your everyday routines.
“Summer can be a good time to introduce the outdoors into our self-care regimes – as long as the British weather holds out,” said Sidhu.
“For example, try doing yoga outdoors, or swapping the treadmill for your local parkrun. Through this, we can also top up our vitamin D intake – which research suggests contributes to regulating our mood.”
Here’s how to capitalise on all that the season has to offer and make this your best summer yet.
1. Embrace the great outdoors
“Being in nature has huge benefits for our wellbeing; from reducing stress and anxiety to easing muscle tension and reducing blood pressure as we relax,” Sidhu added.
One study, which measured the influence of green environments on stress levels, found that those who strolled for just 20 minutes within a park or woodland setting were significantly more relieved of stress compared with those who walked in a city centre.
“During summer, we can also top up our vitamin D levels outdoors, plus sunlight is thought to help increase our serotonin levels. Serotonin, which is often called the ‘feel-good’ chemical, helps regulate our mood,” said Sidhu.
While the benefits of exercise for both body and mind are well documented, these are often heightened when exercise is taken outdoors. Studies have shown that outdoor exercise, compared with indoor activity, promotes greater feelings of revitalisation, positive engagement and improved self-esteem.
Make it happen:
- Embrace your local area – there might be woods to stroll in, coastline to explore or hills to hike.
- Limit your screen time – try to spend time outdoors without tech and enjoy the world around you.
- Find your local lido or wild swimming spot.
- Skip the bus; walk or cycle instead.
- Try a summer sport, like tennis or cricket.
2. Make the most of your morning
How do you start your day? With partial working from home the norm, too many of us are guilty of foregoing an energising morning routine in favour of a few more presses of the snooze button.
Not only does getting up and about set you up for a better day, it also ensures a more peaceful night’s sleep.
“Our eyes use and need light to help set our body’s internal clock, so early morning sunlight can actually help us to sleep better at night,” said Sidhu.
“This is because when we’re exposed to sunlight in the morning, our nocturnal melatonin production occurs sooner, so we enter sleep more easily at night.” (Melatonin is the hormone that naturally helps control our sleep cycle.)
Getting moving in the morning (when it’s a little bit cooler) can also help you beat the heat in summer and enjoy your exercise with a clear mind that is free from distractions.
One study found that morning exercise improves attention, visual learning and working memory, while another indicated that morning movement is associated with more physical activity throughout the day.
Make it happen:
- Unfurl your mat and make yoga a part of your morning routine. Even if it’s just ten minutes, focus on the breath and enjoy the stretch.
- Take a morning stroll, through a green space, if possible.
- The morning is a great time for reflection – try repeating affirmations, meditation or work on your gratitude list.
- Read – not the news or anything work-related, but something that you enjoy or that inspires you.
3. Get gardening
Gardening is well-known for being beneficial for our mental and physical health. “A report in the Mental Health Review Journal referred to gardening as being able to reduce stress and improve mood,” said Sidhu.
“Gardening can also contribute to non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, meaning activities that utilise energy which aren’t specifically exercise.”
Make it happen:
- If you’re new to growing your own, plant some summer veg: runner beans and beetroot can be planted in summer.
- Not got a garden? Not to worry. Search online to join a community garden or sign up for an allotment – both are also great for socialising, and you can learn the secrets from other green fingers.
- Make any space your garden – window boxes, doorsteps and windowsills can all be planted with colourful petunias and geraniums.
4. Make socialising a habit
Feeling less confined to our homes opens the doors (literally) for more socialising in summer – and this has big benefits for our wellbeing. “Some studies show those who have social connections live longer and have a lower chance of developing heart disease,” noted Sidhu.
“Fostering social connections can help increase our mental wellbeing, reduce stress and develop a sense of meaning and purpose in life.”
Make it happen:
- Don’t fall into the socialising-equals-drinking trap. Instead, head to the beach, find an outdoor cinema, go strawberry picking, explore open gardens, or go on a bike ride.
- Try a new activity or learn a new skill with friends, a life drawing class or pottery making, For inspiration, search for workshops in your area.
- With the sun shining, you are less likely to want to rush home from the office. Set up a ‘weekly social hour’, a dedicated minimum one-hour slot on a set day every week where you meet up with friends.
5. Do what’s best for you
One of the most important ways we can practise self-care at any time, according to Sidhu, is by setting boundaries.
“While there are lots of benefits for socialising and getting out in the summertime, for some people, it might still feel overwhelming considering Covid-19 numbers are still high.
“Being kind to ourselves and practising saying ‘no’ when we don’t feel ready to go out and attend that summer barbecue can be just as helpful for our mental wellbeing.”
Juggling studies and work is a real struggle, as many students know. It is difficult to maintain a study-life balance, but it’s not impossible. Learn the fundamental principles of healthy productivity to avoid burnout, stress, and anxiety! You’ll see how your productivity depends on how you spend your free time. This article offers our top productivity tips to help you become the best version of yourself. You’ll find out how rest rejuvenates your motivation.
Check out the additional materials we’ve gathered – read more
Nature’s Bamboo Toner-A hydrating Mist For Your Face Or Body That Gives You Healthy Glowing Skin. It Tightens Pores, Enhances Radiance, Adds Moisture And Delivers Healthy Anti-Aging Skin Nutrients
Bamboo Toner Is A Refreshing Mist, That we make by extracting nutrients from fresh bamboo leaves, fulvic acid mineral rich clay and organic fruits. It Hydrates, Nourishes And Tightens. Just Lightly Mist To Get Your Skin Glowing With Some Of Nature’s Lifeforce.
The main nutrients in this hydrating toner are Silica, Food Extracted Vitamin C Complexes And Fulvic Acid Minerals. These nutrients are powerful for antiaging and increasing the health of your skin. They will firm and add a beautiful radiance to your skin.
Just lightly mist to refresh, set makeup, tighten and moisturize. You can also use this natural, chemical-free toner to enhance the effect of other products like moisturizers, creams, masks and others. Just lightly mist after applying those products and the Bamboo Toner will aid deeper absorption.
*results may vary from person to person*
We make this product using the nutrients extracted from fresh bamboo leaves. Which contain high amounts of silica (which can make your skin stronger) and other healthy nutrients. The fulvic acid minerals are extracted by us from a rare clay where all of the minerals are bio-available to your cells.
You’ll enjoy using this product to instantly refresh, hydrate, set makeuup and nourish your skin.
Also you can use this product to help enhance the effect of any other product like moisturizers, peels, lotions, masks and more by helping those products absorb deeper into the skin. Just mist a few times before applying any skin care product.
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Magnetically charged fresh spring water, clay extracted fulvic acid mineral complexes, bio-extracted fresh bamboo leaf, organic orange essential oil, grapefruit extract, potassium sorbate, bioferment (preservative).
How to use
Hold about 8 inches from face and lightly mist. Repeat anytime throughout the day, suitable for all skin types.
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Try these small changes to improve your health in 2022
Set yourself overly-ambitious or vague New Year’s Resolutions and you’re likely to fail. This year, aim for progress not perfection as the best healthy changes are those that you can keep for life. Don’t forget to be safe in any new health routine, and always follow any advice from your GP.
Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for 2022
These simple suggestions will have a positive impact on your health…
1. Walk more
Brisk walking, even for just 10 minutes a day, can improve your circulation, boost your mood and improve your sleep. If you want to start walking more in 2022, try doing it in 10 minute chunks to make it less daunting.
Remember, you can tell if you’re walking briskly enough if you’re able to talk, but you’re breathing faster than usual.
If you’re worried about spending too much time on your phone, here are some things you could do instead.
2. Experience nature
Mental health charity Mind found that proximity to nature can have positive wellbeing benefits, including helping you feel more relaxed and less angry.
If your able visiting green spaces more often can be really beneficial. One study found, for example, that just hearing birdsong can boost mental well-being for four hours or more.
You can bring nature into your everyday life by having flowers in the house, looking after house plants, growing your own food or exercising outdoors.
3. Spend less time sitting down
Sitting is the new smoking – the body wasn’t built for spending hours at a desk or in front of the TV. It increases your risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and breast, colon and colorectal cancer. Why not try the Pomodoro method to break up desk time.
Set a timer to break each hour into two 25-minute blocks separated by two five-minute breaks. Work intently during the work periods and move about during the breaks. Use your breaks to stand up, do a quarter squat, do some rotations, or just go for a walk round the office. This technique can also boost your focus when you’re working.
4. Get good sleep
Being sleep deprived can negatively affect your mental and physical health. It can even make you prone to major illnesses, from obesity to depression. Reducing screen time before bed, sleeping in a cool room, and going to bed at the same time each evening all help with a good night’s rest. Apps such as Sleep Cycle can help you pinpoint any issues and help you to improve your sleep. For more tips, see our article on how to improve your sleep.
Many of us want to become more flexible and introducing stretches into your daily routine can help you achieve that. Dynamic stretching can help improve flexibility and range of movement, and decrease the risk of injury.
Make a habit of stretching when you wake up, or while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Discover more ways to boost your flexibility, including stretches to try.
6. Make food more fun
Challenge your self to cook and eat something one new recipe every week. As well as vitamins and minerals, there are hundreds of micronutrients known as phytochemicals in food. Eating a wide variety of food is an easy way of ensuring we get a good nutritional mix. If you’re looking to shake things up, why not try one of our delicious, healthy recipes, with ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
7. Plan meals
A focused food shopping list cuts calories and waste, and saves money, as you only buy what you need (and throw nothing away). Take the time to plan your meals, and write out a list before you go to the shops.
8. Reach out to others
We’re all busy, but in 2022 take time out for your relationships. The Mental Health Foundation says that having good quality relationships can help us to live longer and happier lives with fewer mental health problems.
Try to schedule calls (or in-person meetings) with your friends on a regular basis rather than leaving it up to chance. You can increase your sense of belonging by joining clubs or volunteering in your area. If you can’t get out and about, there are plenty of online communities you can join – from book clubs to parent/grandparent groups. For your romantic relationships, reflect on whether you’re in a healthy relationship.
9. Drink plenty of water
Drinking enough water is crucial to good health. The NHS recommends drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day (or 1.5 to 2 litres in total). This includes lower fat milks, and low sugar or sugar-free drinks, tea and coffee within this intake.
You can meet this target by buying a reusable water bottle and keeping it with you throughout the day. If you know your bottle holds 500ml, you know you have to refill it 3 to 4 times to drink the recommended amount. Don’t forget that you need more water if you exercise, or on hot days.