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Shake your­self out of your com­fort zone and take your pick of the most pop­u­lar pas­times...

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Self Help -

RAISE YOUR VOICE

Singing makes us smile, and has proven ben­e­fits for our minds and bod­ies. Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Gothen­burg in Swe­den found that cho­ris­ters’ heart­beats syn­chro­nise when they sing to­gether, bring­ing about a calm­ing ef­fect that is as ben­e­fi­cial to health as yoga.

‘As well as being a great phys­i­cal workout, singing is known to re­lease en­dor­phins and some peo­ple find it helps re­duce stress lev­els, anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion,’ says He­len Jones of Uk-wide choir gi­ant Rock Choir. ‘In some cases, singing can also help us get a good night’s sleep, as our throat mus­cles tone up, which can re­duce and even pre­vent us from snor­ing. Join­ing a lo­cal choir is a great way to meet new friends and bond with oth­ers, to feel part of a com­mu­nity.’

It has never been eas­ier to find a choir near where you live. Over 4,000 are listed on the web­site Bri­tish Choirs On The Net (up 25% from five years ago). Com­mu­nity choirs are in­clu­sive and di­verse, with reper­toires rang­ing from the tra­di­tional and clas­sic to gospel, pop and reg­gae. Fees vary depend­ing on the choir, but many charge per term and the ma­jor­ity are non-au­di­tion, mean­ing any­one can take part, re­gard­less of singing abil­ity.

Visit www.choirs.org.uk or rock­choir.com.

KEEP DANC­ING

Ball­room danc­ing has al­ready had a huge boost, thanks to TV’S Strictly Come Danc­ing, and now swing dance is taking off across the UK. Dat­ing back to the 1920s, this jazzy, joy­ous style com­bines moves from Lindy Hop, Charleston, Bal­boa and other vin­tage dances. You can turn up solo or with a part­ner, as you cir­cu­late the room ro­tat­ing part­ners as you go. So it’s so­cia­ble, too.

‘When I first started swing danc­ing 30 years ago, there was only one Lindy Hop class a week in the whole of Lon­don and no ded­i­cated swing dances,’ says Simon Sel­mon of Swing­dance UK. ‘Now, there are mul­ti­ple classes most days and in­ter­na­tional camps held every month, where dancers from all over the world get to­gether. It is great ex­er­cise, with aer­o­bic, co­or­di­na­tion and mo­bil­ity ben­e­fits. Dance is like a mov­ing med­i­ta­tion – a bril­liant way to re­lease stress.’

‘Danc­ing stim­u­lates us phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally,’ adds dance psy­chol­o­gist Dr Peter Lo­vatt. ‘You ap­pear to get a much big­ger re­lease of en­dor­phins when you dance than dur­ing other forms of ex­er­cise. For many peo­ple, danc­ing prompts an emo­tional re­lease. It’s cathar­tic – a let­ting go of pent-up emo­tions.’ ❖ Visit swing­danceuk.com or swing­pa­trol.co.uk.

FLOWER POWER

The pop­u­lar­ity of flower ar­rang­ing is on the rise, and in­ter­est is now blooming. ‘In the past cou­ple of years we have had a five-fold year-on-year in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple at­tend­ing floristry work­shops,’ says Sara Gor­don of Bloom & Wild. The creative ben­e­fits of putting your phone to one side and get­ting in touch with na­ture can’t be de­nied, she says. ‘Floristry and gar­den­ing taps into a dif­fer­ent part of the brain than the one we typ­i­cally use in our jobs each day. All your senses are used to cre­ate some­thing that’s your own.’

Floristry can also boost your well­be­ing. Cer­tain stems have proven ben­e­fits. ‘English ivy and an­thurium plants help fil­ter the air in the space around you. Mint and laven­der pro­mote re­lax­ation, and rose­mary can im­prove your mem­ory.’ ❖ Visit hot­courses.com and search ‘floristry’ to find classes.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Cook­ery cour­ses are now a global phe­nom­e­non. Foodie hol­i­days are hugely pop­u­lar, and many fa­mous chefs have set up their own schools, in­clud­ing Rose­mary Shrager (Kent), Jean-christophe Novelli (Hert­ford­shire) and Rick Stein (Corn­wall).

And, of course, we are very proud of our own Cook­ery School at the GH In­sti­tute in Lon­don. Taught by ex­pert tu­tors and us­ing Triple-tested Good House­keep­ing recipes, there are classes for be­gin­ners and ex­pe­ri­enced cooks, in­clud­ing evening, half-day and full-day cour­ses.

‘Since we opened our doors three-and-a-half years ago, classes such as Clas­sic Cakes, Bread Mak­ing and Pasta Mak­ing have re­mained con­sis­tently sought af­ter,’ says cook­ery school di­rec­tor Alexan­dra Hale. ‘In­dian and Mid­dle East­ern cuisines are our most pop­u­lar world cuisines, and gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity are our cour­ses that fo­cus on di­etary groups, like dairy-free, gluten-free and veg­e­tar­ian cook­ery, as we’ve seen a spike in the num­ber of peo­ple who want to know how to cater well for friends and fam­ily who have these needs.’ ❖ Visit good­house­keep­ing. co.uk/in­sti­tute/cook­eryschool.

Floristry taps into a part of the brain that we don’t use in our daily lives.

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