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!
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.’ ➺
14 TRY POWDER POWER
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.