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Small, simple changes can make the biggest difference.
Improving your health doesn’t need to mean making huge, scary adjustments. You don’t need to follow a strict diet or start a vigorous workout regime to live well, stretch the years of your life and make them happier and more energised.
Making simple and easy tweaks to your lifestyle can make all the difference – like adding more herbs to your meals, standing more than you sit, taking up gardening and watching yoga videos on YouTube.
When it comes to our health, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and only you will know the areas where you need to make changes in order to feel your absolute best. Perhaps you want to improve your sleep, maybe you want to work on your stress levels, or perhaps you want to keep your heart and lungs fighting fit. So to help you on your way, we have gathered 100 of the best health and wellbeing tips here in one place for you. Get ready for a healthier, happier you…
OK, it may not be as comfy as your super-squashy sofa, but according to studies of the world’s longest-living populations, sitting on the floor can help us stay healthier for longer. For example, in Okinawa in Japan, home to the longest-living women in the world, most sitting, whether to read, eat or talk, is done on the floor. The reason it’s so beneficial? Repeatedly standing from a seated position on the floor is good for flexibility, strength and co-ordination, which are all known to have favourable influences on life expectancy.
A small knob of butter or light drizzle of oil on veggies isn’t just delicious, but can be health helpful, too. “Some nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E and K (found in green vegetables and sweet potatoes) are fat soluble so a smidgen of fat, such as olive oil, helps with nutrient absorption,” says Ian Marber, a leading independent nutrition therapist (ianmarber.com).
A glass of wine in the evening might help you fall asleep, but can impact the quality of your slumber, leaving you sluggish the following day. To help prevent this, avoid drinking close to bedtime to give your body time to process the alcohol. As a rough guide, it’s thought to take one hour for your body to process one unit of alcohol, although this varies between individuals. To find out more about the units in your drink – and to ensure you’re not exceeding the maximum 14 units a week – use the Unit Calculator on drinkaware.co.uk.
In one study, volunteers who had regular hugs over a two-week period were found to be less likely to catch a cold. It’s believed this is because hugs are one of the fastest ways to get the feel-good chemical oxytocin flowing in the body, which helps to reduce stress and, in turn, protect immunity.
More of us are suffering from hay fever than ever before, with reactions lasting longer and affecting those who haven’t suffered previously. “The interaction of pollen with rising pollution, as well as climate change, are added factors,” says Dr Beverley Adams-Groom, chief palynologist at the University of Worcester. Reducing your exposure to pollen is key so know the three Cs: Count (check the Met Office’s pollen forecast); Cover (try big sunglasses, Vaseline around your nose, and closing the windows when the pollen count is high); and Clean (when you come home, shower, change clothing; and wipe down pets with a wet cloth).
Delicious dried fruits like apricot, fig and mango are very high in sugar, so it’s worth keeping your intake in check. Aim for 30g – or about 1tbsp – which counts as one of your five-a day.
Have you noticed how your stomach reflects what you’re feeling emotionally? If you’re stressed or anxious this can slow digestion, triggering bloating, pain and constipation, but in other people it may speed up digestion causing diarrhoea and frequent trips to the loo. So, when feeling angsty, don’t rush your food. Take time to eat slowly, put your fork down between bites, and chew each mouthful well.
It’s official: surrounding yourself with green views has a powerful effect on health and wellbeing, reducing psychological stress and boosting energy, self-esteem, and mood. As well as regularly getting out in nature, position the chairs in your house so you naturally gaze out of the windows, fill your home with indoor plants, and set your computer screensaver to your favourite landscape.
Know the four Ps for smart snacking on the go: Plan, Pack, Protein and Produce. So, Plan ahead; Pack your snacks in spill-proof containers; include Protein to keep you satisfied for longer; and add fibre-rich fresh Produce like fruit or vegetables. An apple with Greek yogurt, a cheese stick, or a few nuts, can satisfy your cravings in a healthier way.
Podiatrists see 10,000 ingrown toenails each year. The problem develops when the sides of the toenail grow into the surrounding skin, causing redness, inflammation, and sometimes infection. Ouch! To keep them at bay, don’t use nail scissors. Instead, use clippers to cut straight across the nail and avoid cutting them too short.
“Throwing back your curtains in the morning can help you to sleep better at night,” says Dr Alanna Hare, a consultant in sleep medicine. “This is because light is key in regulating our sleep patterns and so getting natural sunlight helps sync your body’s sleep/wake cycle.”
Mindfulness – noticing your thoughts, feelings, emotions and bodily sensations – is proven to deal with stress and anxiety, and is even recommended by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) as a way of helping to prevent depression. Looking for a new way to give it a try? Try embroidery, which ticks all the mindfulness boxes because you must slow down and focus on the task in hand. For a new project, try DMC The Mindful Mandala Embroidery Duo Kit (£20, John Lewis).
Add red lentils to your next spaghetti bolognese or shepherd’s pie. They have a ‘meaty’ taste, which means they can be easily added to mince meals for a higher-fibre supper. Cutting down on meat? Replace your beef altogether.
Always think ‘can I add one more set/movement?’ when you exercise. So, if you cycle around the park five times, make it six; if you’re playing tennis, play another set. That one little push of movement in the end will get you fitter faster, plus you’ll realise you can do more than you give yourself credit for, which is powerful fitness fuel.
Pair a ‘must do’ with a ‘should do’ and see those good habits stack up. For instance, while you’re shaving your legs, check your moles for changes; while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, do some gentle stretches; when you’re making your dental appointment, book your smear or mammogram, too.
No, you’re not imagining it: feeling ‘hangry’ – or hungry-angry – is a real thing. This is because, unlike other organs, your brain relies on a drip-drip-drip supply of glucose throughout the day to stay properly fuelled so, if you don’t eat regularly or you skip meals, you won’t feel your best. As well as eating regularly, drop your fear of fat. The brain is made up around 50 per cent fat, and our cells need good quality fats to maintain their structure so consider good fats those found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
Move your usual walk or run to the beach or rugged countryside. The reason? Soft surfaces, such as sand and grass provide no rebound, which means your muscles must work harder.
A serving of vegetables doesn’t have to be a side of green beans or a big salad. A tablespoon of tomato puree stirred into your pasta sauce, a handful of olives instead of crisps, or a bag of watercress whizzed into your pesto counts, too.
Self-care isn’t just about long baths and facials to live well. It’s about dealing with obstacles that are causing havoc with your health or happiness, whether that’s learning to say ‘no’ or carving out more time for yourself. There’s lots of super-inspiring self-care podcasts available right now – we’re enjoying Self Care Club by Lauren Mishcon and Nicole Goodman; Happy Place by Fearne Cotton; and Feel Better, Live More by Dr Rangan Chatterjee.
Swimming in ponds, lakes, rivers or the open sea is even better than a dip in the local pool as you have to work against the waves or current. For a gentle introduction to outdoor swimming, try a lido, or find inspiration and all-important safety advice at outdoorswimmingsociety.com and wildswimming.co.uk.
We know our standing posture is important for our bone, joint and muscle health, but did you know many of us need to tweak how we sit, too? The most important thing to know is that, when sitting on a chair for prolonged periods, your feet should be flat on the floor. There should be a small gap between the back of your knees and the seat, with your knees at or below hip level. If your legs are too short to reach the ground, a footrest is useful.
An easy way to eat more fruit is to turn it into dessert. Roasted peaches, figs, plums, and apples make flavourful sweet treats that are packed with fibre and antioxidants. Serve with plain yogurt or half-fat crème fraiche to replace the double cream.
Enjoying a wider variety of plants to feed your gut microbes is a simple science-backed way to improve your health. The easiest way to do it is to mix up your existing diet. So, go for mixed coloured bags of peppers instead of your usual red; pick up tins of mixed beans to replace kidney beans; reach for the mixed frozen veg or stir-fry pack rather than one variety; and snack on mixed nuts instead of plain almonds.
Did you know coffee is one of the largest sources of antioxidants in our diets? But caffeine can also release high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. If you’ve become over reliant on coffee to get through the day – and have the headaches and jitters to prove it – try brewed cacao in the afternoon. It’s ‘coffee’ but made with cacao beans instead of coffee beans. Try Peru Trailblazer from Cacao Brew.
If you get one flat tyre, you don’t slash the other three. When you stub your toe, you don’t turn around and stub another. So, why let one bad meal or day of eating turn into weeks and months of bad eating; or one missed workout turn into weeks of doing nothing? Avoid getting derailed by remembering it’s what you do most of the time that matters, not those occasional blips. In other words: chase persistence, not perfection.
Some experts say we should replace our bras every six months, which is equivalent to 180 wears, because natural wear and tear from being worn and washed, means our bras can’t boast the same support they once did. “An unsupportive bra can trigger back, neck and shoulder pain, and poor posture,” says Sammy Margo, a leading physiotherapist (sammymargophysiotherapy.com). Tell-tale signs your bra needs replacing include if it’s loose on its tightest hook and eye, it has overstretched straps, or the back curves upwards rather than straight across your back.
Did you know one in ten of us have mistakenly brought fake medical products? If you take health supplements, ensure you always buy from a registered chemist, pharmacy or reputable retail outlet rather than a random website or via social media. If you’re shopping online, look out for the logos that indicate it’s a safe platform. Find out more at the Fake Meds government webpage.
Herbs are plants just like vegetables and pack a real health punch. Add digestive-easing fresh mint to hot or cold water, antioxidant-packed rosemary to meats, and bloat-easing parsley to warm lentils.
Brushing only cleans 70 per cent of your teeth’s surface so flossing is non-negotiable. Interdental brushes can be a game-changer for reaching hard-to-reach-spots, but the choice can be overwhelming so ask your dentist for advice on which to get.
Kegels are the exercise equivalent of a Martini: an anytime, anyplace, anywhere affair, yet we don’t do them as much as we should. But when it comes to our pelvic floor strength, it’s a case of use it or lose it. While you’re waiting for the traffic lights to change, draw up all your pelvic floor muscles at the same time, squeeze, lift, and hold for a count of 5-10 seconds, before letting go gently and counting to five. Repeat 10-15 times.
Stand up and move around every time you take a phone call. As a rule of thumb, for every hour you sit, you should move around for at least two minutes.
Seeds are the building block of the plants they’re meant to be, making them small but seriously mighty. Adding two tablespoons of fibre-rich flaxseeds to your cereal, salads or baking gives you 133 per cent of your daily omega-3 fats (normally found in fish oils) as well as plant-based protein.
A study by the Wildlife Trust found that two thirds of its volunteers, who did jobs like improving hedgerows and building bird tables in the open air, reported better mental health within six to 12 weeks. The researchers believe this is because wildlife rich environments not only keep you physically healthy, but help to reduce stress, improve mood, and reduce social isolation. Many charities list their volunteering options such as the wildlifetrust.org.uk, nationaltrust.org.uk, and rspb.org.uk.
Leaving mushrooms in direct sunlight for 20 minutes before eating enhances their vitamin D content. Clever, huh?
Back troubling you but also want to discuss your blood pressure medication? If you have numerous issues to discuss with your doctor, don’t book one GP appointment, but a double. This will give you more time to talk through each individual problem with your GP so you don’t feel rushed.
Pick a focus word with peaceful connotations (eg. calm, relax, or love), then close your eyes and gently relax your muscles, breathing slowly. Each time you breathe out, repeat your focus word silently, dismissing any other thoughts and repeating your mantra. It may sound too simple to be effective, but it’s been found to calm breathing, reduce blood pressure and heart rate, and slash stress.
Let’s talk fibre: 90 per cent of us aren’t getting enough. Fibre doesn’t just reduce our risk of constipation, but is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer. Switching to wholegrain versions of pasta, bread, cereals, rice, couscous and noodles is a swift way to up your intake. You could also try adding beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads; padding out meals with vegetables; and snacking on fruit and unsalted nuts or seeds.
Simply staring out over the water could help you reach a mildly meditative state called ‘blue mind’, which gives you a feeling of calm and happiness. What better excuse for a day at the seaside?
According to a poll by YouGov for Ramblers, Britain’s largest walking charity, nearly a third of respondents saw themselves as ‘health walkers’ who walked regularly to improve their wellbeing. If you want to get fit and meet new friends as well as live well, why not join a walking group? Take a look at Ramblers. Alternatively, Walking For Health supports those with health concerns, including mental health. If you’d prefer to go it alone, try the Go Jauntly app to discover walking inspiration near you. Oh, and don’t forget to include hills, which are the ‘walker’s gym’, increasing calorie burn by up to 60 per cent.
It takes just 50 milliseconds – that’s 1/20th of a second – for music to lift your mood, says research. Want to get an even bigger boost? Sing along.
Many of us keep mouthwash sink side, but don’t make the common mistake of rinsing your mouth with it (or water) straight after brushing or you’ll wash away the concentrated fluoride in your toothpaste.
Motivational mantras to inspire you to exercise may seem cheesy, but they really could help get you get out of that door (yep, even when it’s raining). Try these for size…
A major study published in the New England Journal Of Medicine found mastering dance step sequences, like the foxtrot, exercised your brain as well as your feet. Anything social is also fantastic for your grey matter – try ballroom, salsa, ceroc (a mix of jive and salsa), or line dancing.
If you find you’re wired rather than tired in the evening, have an ‘electronic sundown’ by turning off all screens by 10pm to stop the blue light lowering your levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. Need to use your electricals in the twilight hours? Download the app f.lux, which adjusts your computer or phone screen to act like daylight – so it’s like sunlight during the day, and warm and dark in the evenings.
Forget sugar-laden drinks and grab a chia tea containing ‘sweet-tasting’ spices like cinnamon. Research has found cinnamon helps to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel, meaning you’ll be less tempted by those chocolate brownies. Try Twinings Spicy Chai, £3.15, which makes a delicious chia latte when made with milk.
Tag squats, jumping jacks, press-ups, or lunges onto the end of your walk for a full body workout.
Daily breath work isn’t hot air – it’s proven to slash the stress hormone cortisol. When you’re having your morning shower, try the 3-4-5 technique: breathe in for three seconds, hold for four seconds, and breathe out for five seconds.
When plating up meals, always serve vegetables first, ensuring they fill half your plate, and you’ll find it easier to boss a healthier mealtime balance.
Research has found experiences make us happier, not things. So, instead of filling your home with items you don’t want or need, fill your life with hobbies, learning experiences, travel, meeting new people, or whatever else gives you a renewed sense of purpose.
Embrace the trend for a ‘wellness kitchen’ by installing a living salad on your windowsill. As the lettuce grows, roots intact, you can be sure it stays fresh for longer, helping to maintain its nutritional content.
Don’t overfill your weekend with domestic drudgery – you’ll only end up wallowing in woe and you won’t feel great come Monday morning. “Happiness doesn’t just ‘happen’ – research shows it also comes from thinking, planning and pursuing things that are important to us,” says Dr Mark Williamson, director of Action For Happiness (actionforhappiness.org). So, introduce the Rule Of Three this weekend by doing three non-essential but upbeat tasks – for instance, flick through photo albums, visit a museum, or go for a walk with a friend.
There are endless ways to get healthy that don’t require fancy equipment or membership fees – from picking up a second hand bike on Freecycle, to free workouts on YouTube such as Yoga With Adriene. Also, don’t forget the library: it’s fab for healthy-eating cookbooks in book or ebook format.
When you have your feet up, ‘write’ the alphabet with your toes. A strong ‘foot core’ is good for posture.
To judge the intensity of a workout, see if you can hold a conversation. It should be easy during a low-to-moderate workout, but challenging if you’re pushing yourself.
Many recipes – except for jams and meringue – can lose around a third of the sugar without impacting the final dish. Why not try reducing the sugar content in your recipe and see if anyone notices?
If you have high blood pressure, you’ll know, right? Not necessarily, say the British Heart Foundation, which reports that around five million people in the UK have undiagnosed high numbers. If high blood pressure is left undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause your heart to become enlarged, making your heart pump less effectively, increasing your risk of a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease as well as vascular dementia. “Get your blood pressure measured at least every five years, or yearly if you’re at a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Blood Pressure UK. Your GP or pharmacist can check it.
Craning our heads forward over our screens can create intense pressure on the front and backs of our neck, triggering something called ‘tech neck’. To avoid this, always bring your screen, whether a phone, laptop or a tablet, up to meet your eyes, or use a device stand like the Tryone Gooseneck Tablet Stand.
Cheese is a bone builder, right? True, but not all cheeses are created equal. “Cheese contains a hefty dose of calcium, but those high in salt such as Roquefort, parmesan, feta, and processed ones aren’t so beneficial for your bones,” says Professor Susan Lanham-New, Head of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Surrey. “This is because when your kidneys excrete excess sodium in your body, some calcium is swept along, so it’s a good idea to vary your calcium sources throughout the day.”
A study found that people who wrote down three good things that happen every day for a week were found to be significantly happier than those who didn’t. What better excuse to buy a pretty new notebook?
Can’t wait to take your shoes off at the end of the day? Our feet change shape as we get older, especially if we have arthritis, so get measured regularly and try on shoes in the afternoon when your feet have had time to swell, remembering that shops and styles vary greatly. Try M&S, Clarks, Next, Simply Be, and Hotter for wide fitting styles.
Worry your digestive discomfort might be a symptom of ovarian cancer as that’s what a relative had? Tell your doctor your specific worries. “If you don’t feel your exact concern is being addressed, keep repeating your questions,” says GP Dr Roger Henderson (doctorhenderson.co.uk). “Likewise, if you’re unsure whether your doctor has fully understood your concerns, ask him or her to repeat them back to you.” That way you can be confident you’re both on the same page.
Listening to high-tempo tunes can boost your exercise. Research has found it distracts you from ‘body awareness’ (read: pain), while other studies suggest it stimulates heart rate and breathing patterns, helping cells to deliver oxygen to your muscles faster.
Bored of porridge? Soak oats in apple juice, almond milk, or coconut milk overnight for a ready-by-morning breakfast. Oats contain a type of soluble fibre called beta glycan, which is proven to lower cholesterol. Add fresh fruit, a handful of nuts, and a dollop of kefir yogurt to up the health and yum factor.
The ideal sleep temperature for restful sleep is 18°C – any higher or lower and you may toss and turn.
Did you know that cheap-and-cheerful tinned sardines (and tinned salmon, pilchards and mackerel) count as oily fish? The NHS say a healthy balanced diet should include a portion of oily fish (140g) every week as it contains long-chain fatty acids, which may help to prevent heart disease. We love to eat ours grilled on toast, stirred into pasta sauces, or with jacket potatoes.
Starting your morning with a relaxing ritual, whether that’s meditation or reading, could improve your mental health. “By doing this, you’ll be cultivating what the Danish call morgenfrisk – or morning freshness,” says Rachel Kelly, a mental health campaigner, and author of Singing In The Rain: 52 Practical Steps To Happiness (Short Books). “We experience a flood of the stress hormone cortisol first thing, which gives us the boost we need to get up, but this can also make us anxious. Waking up with a calming routine that’s a pleasant process, whether that’s stretching and deep breathing, or simply giving yourself a moment to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, can be hugely beneficial.”
From slightly cracked sausages to nut-like lumps that are harder to pass, poo comes in all shapes and sizes, often because of what you’ve been eating. “Generally speaking, healthy, high-fibre, and well-hydrated diets trigger happier stools, which are soft, well-formed and easily passed,” says Dr Kinesh Patel, consultant gastroenterologist at The Royal Brompton Hospital in London. To keep your colon content, make fibre your friend (think fruit, vegetables and whole grains) and have water with your meals to help soften stools and prevent constipation.
Don’t hit snooze. “Have a regular sleep and wake-up schedule – and stick to it – even at weekends,” says Dr Hare. “This programmes the brain and your internal body clock, helping you sleep reliably at bedtime and wake feeling refreshed.”
Whether it’s lunges or squats you love, holding weights cranks up the benefits. “Even light ones like ¼ kilo are beneficial as they increase the resistance, upping the muscle-toning benefits,” says physiotherapist Sammy Margo (sammymargophysiotherapy.com). Alternatively, use your mind as an ‘imaginary’ weight by pretending you’re doing each move through treacle, which dials up the resistance without any equipment.
Every health concern is different, but this checklist could help guide you through your next doctor’s appointment.
The latest health update is to focus on brisk walking rather than just hitting 10,000 steps a day. To do this, pump your arms back and forth with your elbows at right angles, because as your arms speed up, your legs follow.
Research indicates that meal prep ahead of time leads to more variety, better food quality, and possible weight loss. So, make up dishes you can tuck into throughout the week, whether a roasted vegetable tray bake to stir through salads; a DIY low-sugar muesli for breakfast; or a big batch of lentil soup for the freezer.
Slashing salt, watching your weight, regular exercise and not smoking aren’t the only ways to keep your heart healthy. “The mineral potassium naturally helps to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt,” says Professor MacGregor, Chairman of Blood Pressure UK. In fact, one study found that getting enough of this nutrient could reduce your risk of a stroke by 24 per cent. Great sources? Step forward bananas, potatoes and sweet potatoes, pulses, yogurt and milk.
Don’t feel guilty about doing nothing. A global study of 18,000 people by Durham University – dubbed the ‘rest test’ – found our ability to properly rest, and our levels of wellbeing, are closely related. Sound too simple to be effective? Research published in the journal Nature says the brain in its ‘do nothing’ resting state is not doing nothing at all, but regulating our emotions, processing experiences, consolidating memories, and keeping us firing on all cylinders.
It should be pale yellow. If it’s not, it’s a sign you may need to drink more water. Studies show even mild dehyration zaps energy and lowers concentration. If you find it hard to take the suggested amounts, try adding fresh fruit, veg and herbs to water – cucumber and mint has a lovely spa-inspired flavour.
Laughing lowers your stress hormones and blood pressure. Need we say more?
Your tongue can harbour bacteria in your mouth, which can spread to your teeth, increasing your risk of decay. You can brush your tongue with your toothbrush, or even buy a special tongue brusher. Try Dentek Orabrush (£5.20, Boots) – you’ll be amazed how much gunk it removes…
Iron deficiency is on the rise, perhaps due to a focus away from red meat, but this can lead to anaemia symptoms including a lack of energy, shortness of breath, noticeable heartbeats, and pale skin. If you take a supplement containing iron, pair it with a glass of orange juice, which may help your body absorb the iron. On the flipside, you may want to sidestep tea and coffee, particularly at mealtimes, and foods with high levels of phytic acid, such as wholegrain cereals, as these can stop your body from absorbing iron from food and pills.
Yucky, but true: one study found that 30 per cent of handbags had traces of faecal matter on the bottom of them, which may be because many of us park our bags on the loo floor or on a washbasin in public toilets. So, always hang your bag on a door hook, and regularly wipe it down with antibacterial spray.
A stuffy atmosphere means house dust mites flourish. A tell-tale sign you may be susceptible? Sneezing when you wake up with sniffles that stop as the day goes on. To keep dust mites at bay, open your bedroom windows, which reduces humidity and microscopic mould, disrupting their food chain.
Can’t think straight? Do the go-to yoga move, downward dog. The sudden rush of blood to the head stimulates neurones in the brain, which helps to speed up thinking. Learn how to do it by searching ‘downward dog Yoga with Adriene’ on YouTube.
Mash avocado flesh with lemon juice and spread it on a sandwich in lieu of butter. It’s full of good fats and rich in vitamin E.
Crank up your swim with floats and hand paddles to train specific parts of your body. For instance, to work your arms, put a buoy between your legs and do breaststroke.
Instead of setting yourself the end goal of running a 10k, aim to run for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, and so on. “Lowering your expectations may sound defeatist but over optimism means every day can feel like a disappointment, which can make you give up,” says Liz Tucker, a health counsellor and author of When You Want To Say Yes, But Your Body Says No (£12.99, Harper Collins). “Instead, slightly under-promise, and majorly over-deliver, and you’ll feel like you’re achieving something.”
Need to book a dentist, doctor, gynae or jab appointment? Book it for a Friday and you’re more likely to be able to make it. One study which looked at more than 4.5 million hospital records, discovered that more people had to bail on appointments made earlier in the week. Mondays had the most no-shows, probably because…well, Mondays.
Saving your leftovers? Cool and store within 90 minutes and eat within two days (unless freezing) for safe consumption.
Research from the University of Oxford shows the more people eat in company, the higher their chances of being satisfied with their lives. Mental Health UK sings its benefits, too, saying that regular shared mealtimes can bring contentment and security, giving us a chance to talk, listen and interact with others. So invite a colleague to lunch and eat up the feel-good factor.
Spend time with a pet when you need to find calm. Studies show that human/animal interactions reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while also reducing feelings of fear and anxiety. Don’t have a pet? A bird feeder in the garden can give you a regular jolt of joy.
If you’re a runner looking for new feel-great inspiration, try Good Gym (goodgym.org), a scheme in which runners complete community projects, like weed clearing, while getting fit. If you haven’t got one near you, try ‘plogging’ (jogging while picking up litter); or even guide running (guiderunning.uk) to help blind and visually impaired people stay active.
Familiarising yourself with the look and feel of your breasts is a smart move because tumours can crop up between mammogram screenings. Not sure where to start? Try some TLC: TOUCH – feel for anything unusual; LOOK, for changes; CHECK anything unusual with your doctor.
According to government findings, we eat more than 8g of salt a day in Britain – that’s 2g more than the recommended maximum . Lowering your salt intake reduces your risk of high blood pressure, and therefore heart disease. Instead of adding salt to your salads or veggies, opt for a citrusy flavour instead, with a little grating of lemon or orange zest. It’s heaven on carrots.
Buddying up with a friend can turn a workout into a social event, but mix things up with some go-it-alone activities, too. “A lot of people click with exercise when they see it as a bit of me-time, a chance to escape from everyone and everything,” says personal trainer Sarah Maxwell. Try something solo, such as wake boarding or Pilates.
Millions of us are trying to eat more of a plant-based diet, but it’s useful to know that not all proteins are created equal. “Animal proteins – from meat, fish, eggs and dairy – are complete proteins and provide all the protein building blocks the body needs, whereas plant proteins can be lacking in one or more of these,” says dietitian Priya Tew (dietician.co.uk). But this needn’t be a problem: just mix up your meals with different sources of protein. For instance, if you serve lentils with rice, which both contain protein, the amino acids in one protein will help to compensate for the limitations in the other. “Eat a range of different plant proteins and grains across your week – variety is the key,” adds Priya.
Juices, smoothies, herbal tea and fruit based drinks contain high levels of phosphoric and citric acid as well as sugar, which can cause dental decay, erosion, cracks and chipping. Avoid this by following these drinks with a ‘chaser’ glass of water, swilling it around your mouth to wash away the acidity and sugar that has come in contact with your teeth. The added bonus? You’ll help slay unsightly stains that coloured drinks can cause.
Next time you’re sitting down to enjoy your favourite show, take the opportunity to do some stretching – it’ll help relieve muscle tightness, and help keep you flexible and pain-free. Try using resistance bands, which are a cheap and compact way to maximise your limbering up time.
Try to ‘soberlize’ (socialise sober) more – meet friends for walks in the park instead of in the pub, or suggest breakfast or brunch which doesn’t come with the same expectation to drink as lunch or dinner can.
Random acts of kindness, from giving a compliment to passing on a book you enjoyed, are proven to make us feel good, says a recent World Happiness Report. “Neurological research has found the area of our brain that is activated in response to things like pleasure, food or sex, lights up when we do kind acts for others,” says Meik Wiking, author of The Key To Happiness.
Finding it hard to make meditation a daily habit? Try moving meditation. “This is where your body and breath become natural allies,” says meditation teacher Lucy Greeves (arvon.org/tutors/lucy-greeves). “You can do it during holistic workouts like yoga and Tai Chi, but you can transform a simple five minute walk just by honing in on your breath – breathing in for three strides, breathing out for four.” It might sound too simple to be effective, but it’ll take you off ‘autopilot’ and leave you feeling ready for anything.
Who says you need expensive equipment to get a better workout? Simply pop a big bottle of water into a rucksack whenever you go out for the day and your body will work harder. Better still, you’ve got water whenever you need it.
A study by the British Heart Foundation shows that half of us have never discussed our family medical history with loved ones, even though genetic links can put them at an increased risk. So, when your family comes over for lunch, make time to talk.
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