22 short­cuts to hap­pi­ness and well­be­ing

Hold on to the feel­good feel­ing of sum­mer all year round with th­ese sub­tle shifts that re­ally work – and most won’t cost you a penny!

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Sure­fire ways to lift your mood and life

1 HAVE A ‘ME’ DAY When was the last time you set aside a whole day to do your favourite things, whether that’s go­ing out in the fresh air or vis­it­ing an art gallery? ‘Tak­ing time for your­self shouldn’t feel like an in­dul­gence, it’s a ne­ces­sity,’ says GP Dr Juliet Mc­grat­tan, au­thor of Sorted: The Ac­tive Woman’s Guide To Health (A&C Black Ad­van­tage, £16.99). ‘Fo­cus­ing on some­thing you love will help you re­lax and dis­tract you from life’s stresses.’

2 SLEEP WELL Most of us have ex­pe­ri­enced the mood-plum­met­ing ef­fect of a night spent toss­ing and turn­ing, and it can be even harder to get to sleep if you’re too hot or cold. The best way to feel just right is to sleep with wool, which can reg­u­late body tem­per­a­ture. Re­search by the Univer­sity of Leeds showed that wool bed­ding was far more ef­fec­tive than feather and down at keep­ing the body comfy dur­ing the night. Clas­sic wool du­vet, from £59.99, The Wool­room

3 USE YOUR IMAG­I­NA­TION ‘If you wish to be hap­pier and health­ier, this is the place to start,’ says Janet Jones, au­thor of Hap­pi­ness Mil­lion­aire (£16.99, hap­pi­ness­mil­lion­aire.com). ‘Treat your­self to a few min­utes, three times a day, to con­sciously vi­su­alise the life you wish to have. Imag­i­na­tion is free, and fun to play with.’

4 WATCH A TEAR-JERKER It might not seem like the best way to boost your mood but re­searchers have found that watch­ing a sad film can ac­tu­ally make us hap­pier. The the­ory is that see­ing oth­ers go through a hard time makes us count our own bless­ings.

5 CHOOSE FACE TIME OVER FACE­BOOK Peo­ple laugh 50% more when they talk in per­son rather than via so­cial me­dia, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study. If you can’t meet up, then us­ing a we­b­cam can be just as ef­fec­tive. ‘Our re­la­tion­ships are not de­pen­dent on the quan­tity of our com­mu­ni­ca­tion but on the qual­ity,’ says Dr Sam Roberts, lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Chester, who led the re­search.

6 DRINK MORE GREENS Mak­ing up a smoothie is a great way to stay healthy and happy on the go. For the op­ti­mum health boost, add a veg­etable (such as av­o­cado or spinach) for ev­ery two pieces of fruit, says nu­tri­tion­ist Will Hawkins (push­doc­tor.co.uk). ‘This cre­ates a smoothie that’s bet­ter for you than fruit juice be­cause it’s not stripped of its fi­bre – an im­por­tant nu­tri­ent that’s vi­tal for a healthy diges­tive sys­tem.’

7 WORK OUT WITH A RE­SIS­TANCE BAND For­get pay­ing over the odds for a gym mem­ber­ship – buy a re­sis­tance band for less than a fiver and you can use it at home to strengthen your whole body, says per­sonal trainer Ju­lia Buck­ley ( ju­li­abuck­ley­fit­ness.com). ‘Bands are an ef­fec­tive strength train­ing tool be­cause mus­cles are forced to work harder through all phases of the ex­er­cises.’ Try Youtube for lots of great work­out videos.

8 MAKE A SONG AND DANCE ABOUT IT You know that feel­ing when you belt out a tune at the top of your voice and dance likes no­body’s watch­ing? Yes, that one! It feels great be­cause it re­leases en­dor­phins, and is such a mood boost that re­searchers have (some­how) found danc­ing makes peo­ple as happy as get­ting a £1,600 pay rise!

9 LEARN TO MED­I­TATE Med­i­tat­ing will lower stress lev­els, says fit­ness coach Laura Hog­gins (lifted.fit­ness). ‘For me, it’s es­sen­tial to plan just 10 min­utes ev­ery day to sit and breathe deeply. I also like the Headspace app – down­load it on to your phone so you can use it at home, or on your work com­mute.’ (£4.99 a month for an an­nual sub­scrip­tion).

10 MOVE MORE Fit­ness coach Laura says be­ing aware of how much we’re mov­ing ev­ery day can make all the dif­fer­ence to our ac­tiv­ity lev­els. ‘It’s not just about smash­ing a work­out for max­i­mum calo­rie burn, it also means tak­ing the stairs in­stead of the lift, get­ting off the bus a stop early, or tak­ing a lunchtime stroll to raise your heart rate and clear your head.’

11 GET ON YOUR (ELEC­TRIC) BIKE! Cy­cling is a great way to get out and about, but if you’re wor­ried about get­ting out of puff, then jump on board the new elec­tric bike rev­o­lu­tion. You’ll get the ben­e­fits of cy­cling, with a bit of ex­tra help for hills and tired times. The new Pendle­ton Somerby Elec­tric Bike (£750, Hal­fords), de­signed by Olympic medal­list Vic­to­ria Pendle­ton, is stylish and light­weight, and has a three-power mo­tor that makes ped­alling feel ef­fort­less. Mud­guard, lug­gage rack and comfy sad­dle help make it prac­ti­cal, too.

12 SPIRALISE! Avoid the en­ergy slump that comes with over­do­ing the carbs by swap­ping spaghetti for spi­ralised veg­gies. ‘Veg­eta­bles con­tain less sugar than pasta, as well as more wa­ter, nu­tri­ents and fi­bre,’ says nu­tri­tion­ist Karen Austin (topaz­fit­nes­sacademy.com). ‘They’re ideal if you’re watch­ing your waist­line and bal­anc­ing blood sug­ars.’

13 JUMP TO IT Skip­ping is an easy way to re­lease en­dor­phins. ‘I’m a big fan be­cause it builds speed, agility and power,’ says Ju­lia. Us­ing a weighted rope will make the up­per body work harder, and there­fore burn more calo­ries. ‘The Domyos rope (£14.99, De­cathlon) is great – you can add and re­move the weights to vary work­outs.’ ➺


Nu­tri­tion­ist Will Hawkins says pow­dered fruit and veg should never fully re­place whole fruits and veg­gies in our diet, but for an oc­ca­sional short­cut, you can add them to wa­ter for a boost of vi­ta­mins and an­tiox­i­dants. He rec­om­mends beet­root pow­der for ex­tra en­ergy and stamina, and acai berry pow­der to im­prove the im­mune sys­tem. Pow­ders, from £2.99, Nutriseed

15 CRE­ATE A PACKED LUNCH It might be con­ve­nient to grab a ready-made sand­wich for lunch but it’s not just costly for your wal­let, it also makes for a dull meal. ‘Eat­ing at the same out­lets ev­ery day means you’re get­ting a nar­rower pool of nu­tri­ents. Va­ri­ety is the spice of life, and the key to good health,’ says Becky Alexan­der, au­thor of Packed (Nour­ish, £12.99), which is full of quick and nu­tri­tious ideas for home-made packed lunches for grown-ups.

16 LOVE LAVEN­DER Laven­der has been used to soothe the mind and body for cen­turies, aid­ing sleep and re­lax­ation, says aro­mather­a­pist Emma Cole­man (in­ner-soul.co.uk). ‘I burn laven­der oils around the house, and ap­ply a laven­der-scented balm to my face and pulse points if I’m hav­ing a busy time.’ Heal­ing Night Balm, £25, In­ner-soul

1 7 GET UP EV­ERY HALF HOUR Hav­ing an of­fice job means many of us are desk-bound for hours at a time, which is harm­ful to our health. Get up and move around for just two to three min­utes ev­ery 30 min­utes, says Dr Juliet Mc­grat­tan. ‘It will help stop harm­ful free rad­i­cals from caus­ing dam­age in your cells. That’s a great rea­son to go and make your­self a cof­fee, col­lect some sta­tionery or have a walk­ing meet­ing with a col­league.’

18 DITCH YOUR PHONE AT MEALTIMES If you’ve ever been guilty of look­ing at the beau­ti­ful plate of food in front of you and point­ing a camera at it for In­sta­gram, re­sist the urge. Re­searchers found that peo­ple who looked at pho­tos of their food be­fore they ate it en­joyed it less, as they ex­pe­ri­enced ‘sen­sory bore­dom’. So put down the phone, pick up a fork, and live in the mo­ment!

1 9 SMILE AT STRANGERS Avoid­ing eye con­tact is stan­dard prac­tice for com­muters, but a study found that those who struck up a con­ver­sa­tion with a stranger on their jour­ney felt hap­pier. Life coach Sam Sa­hota says this is be­cause it com­bats the lone­li­ness that can be felt when liv­ing in a city. ‘Know­ing we have made an ef­fort to speak to some­one and they have re­cip­ro­cated is sat­is­fy­ing,’ he says.

20 BE GRATE­FUL Be­ing ap­pre­cia­tive ben­e­fits our well­be­ing in so many ways, says hap­pi­ness coach Natalie Sav­vides. ‘It shifts feel­ings of neg­a­tiv­ity over what we don’t have to feel­ings of grat­i­tude for all that we do have.’ Be­ing thank­ful makes you more pos­i­tive, and stud­ies have found that op­ti­mists live longer than pes­simists.

21 SAY NO! We’re all guilty of say­ing yes to too much. Au­thor and psy­chol­o­gist Su­san Scott says we shouldn’t be afraid to say no, whether that means turn­ing down an in­vite to a friend’s party or not work­ing over­time. ‘Peo­ple pleasers strug­gle to say no be­cause of what they be­lieve the con­se­quences will be. The ironic thing is that ab­sorb­ing th­ese ex­tra de­mands puts them in a po­si­tion of risk­ing burnout and, if this hap­pens, re­la­tion­ships be­come strained, ca­reers stall and the feel­ings of help­less­ness are far worse than a mo­men­tary feel­ing of guilt.’

22 TUCK INTO MOOD-BOOST­ING FOODS EV­ERY DAY Eat­ing chocolate feels so amaz­ing be­cause it re­leases the happy hor­mone, sero­tonin, into our brains. Sadly, the sugar con­tent means it’s not healthy to in­dulge in it on a daily ba­sis, but there are lots of health­ier foods that you can eat ev­ery day to boost your mood, such as wal­nuts, ba­nanas and eggs.

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