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