Victoria Hall

Science Has Proved Self Care Has Its Benefits

self-care

The term ‘self care’ might have some people rolling their eyes and complaining about the snowflake millennial generation, but this week science has come out in defense of being kind to yourself. While previous research has emphasised that those who show self compassion tend to have higher levels of wellbeing and better mental health, the latest study by Exeter University goes further to explain why.  

The study split 135 people into five groups and each group had to listen to an 11 minute audio. Two of the groups listened to recordings that encouraged them to be more self-compassionate. Whereas the remaining groups listened to recordings designed to induce a critical inner voice; encouraging them to be positive but competitive and an emotionally neutral shopping scenario.

Unsurprisingly the former were deemed to be happier, more relaxed and had lower heart and sweat rates. The group that listened to the audio promoting a positive but competitive approach did show some signs of relaxation, in terms of heart and sweat rate, but it wasn’t to the same degree.

“These findings suggest that being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing,” says Dr Hans Kirschner, co-author of the study. So, how can you up your self care game and switch off your threat response? Here are some tips…

Take a bath…

It’s advice we’ve all heard over and over again, but a long, hot soak in the tub can help you switch off both mentally and physically, especially if you add a sprinkling of Soapsmith Lavender Hill Bath Soak. For tips on how to up your bathing game, read How To Take The Perfect Bath.

Brush your teeth…

If the meditation app on your phone works you up into more of a fury and thought of a 75 minute yoga class feels you with dread, then it might be worth taking a more practical approach to ‘being present’. When you brush your teeth this evening, rather than mentally checking off your to-do list or mulling over the stresses of the day, focus on each and every tooth you’re brushing. It’s not nearly as glamorous as visualising the waves softly hitting golden sands, but when your two minutes is up you’ll feel equally as satisfied and your mind will have calmed.

Take 15 minutes out…

This month, Carolyn Asome wrote about The Utter Joy And Transformative Effect Of Listening To Music and highlighted that listening to just 15 minutes of music a day can help relax you. Whether it’s on your commute or the quarter of an hour before you go to sleep, it’s worth downloading Soul Medicine’s 432 track

Have your cake…

Because denying yourself the simple pleasures in life can be just as frustrating as a huge to-do list. And life is too short.

Why Rose Scented Products Aren’t Just For Valentine’s Day

Roses

With Valentine’s Day just a week or so away, it’s likely you’ll have seen your fair share of rose-themed gifts. The flower has been associated with romance for centuries. It’s thought that the Romans used to carpet their bedroom floor with rose petals to create a fragrant bed.

New research suggests that we should be embracing the scent of rose all year round and not just in February. When researching the scents that influenced drivers, scientists at Sussex University discovered that rose has the potential to lower rage levels. Rose is known for it’s soothing powers, but the study found that spraying the scent in the car could reduce your chance of crashing by 64%. Interestingly, musky scents had the opposite effect and could increase your chances of having a road accident by 46%.

Roadscents founder Tina Gaudoin was onto something when she created the aptly named Rose Rage, £11, air freshener. Admittedly the scent is a blend of rose, jasmine and musk, but perhaps that is the perfect environment for considerate drivers? For those who would rather skip the musk and embrace the calming benefits of the flower, here are some of the best rose scented products to indulge in…

For soothing your skin

Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream, £30.50

You’d be hard-pressed to find a make-up artist who doesn’t have this nourishing cream in their kit bag. Not only does Dr Hauschka’s Rose Day Cream pack a good hydrating punch, but it is also incredibly soothing. Whether you’ve got dry, sensitive or oily skin, this face cream is definitely worth the investment.

For calming your mind

de Mamiel Sleep Series, from £37

Aromatherapist and acupuncturist Annee de Mamiel regularly adds rose to her blends and no where more so than the bestselling Sleep Series. The stress-reducing, sleep-inducing Settle, £40, utilises wild rose, while the relaxing Anchor, £42, balm pulls on Persian rose powers to help you unwind before bed. While both formulas are designed to help you get a good night’s sleep, they can be used throughout the day to help calm a whirling mind.

For full body relaxation

Aromatherapy Associates Renewing Rose Body Cream, £42

Championing both the soothing scent and the skin nourishing capabilities of rose, this sumptuous cream is the perfect choice for those who want to embrace the flower from head-to-toe. In true Aromatherapy Associates form, there’s also geranium, evening primrose oil and shea butter to ensure the formula offers spa-like indulgence, whether you’re using it in the morning or before bed.

 

The New Approach To Cleaning Your Teeth

Toothbrush

You might do it twice a day, but how much thought do you really put in to brushing your teeth? Probably not a lot. If it’s on special offer you might change up your choice of toothpaste or invest in an electric toothbrush, but aside from that our oral hygiene routines rarely change.

You brush, floss and rinse in the mornings and evenings. New research is calling into question the way we approach this three step routine though and proving that oral hygiene isn’t just essential for strong, health teeth either. Here is what you need to know:

Rethink rinsing…

Dentists and hygienists have advocated using a mouthwash after brushing our teeth for years, but some experts now suggest that it could be causing more harm than good. By using a mouthwash or rinsing with water you wash away the fluoride which helps to strengthen your teeth. In the evenings make sure brushing your teeth is the last thing you do before you go to bed and avoid eating or drinking anything afterwards. The result could reduce your tooth decay by up to 25%.  

It’s not just about your teeth…

New research has also suggested that brushing your teeth twice a day can also help with other health concerns, including erectile dysfunction. Scientists at Jinan University in China discovered a link between gum disease (periodontal disease) and erectile dysfunction and found that men with gum disease are 2.85 times more likely to struggle to get an erection on average. The two are thought to be linked because they are caused by the same type of inflammation in the blood vessels.

Gum disease is very common, affecting between 50% and 80% of adults. Improving your oral hygiene is the obvious way to prevent and treat it, but taking Florassist Oral Hygiene will also offer some benefits.

Why bamboo brushes are on the rise…

Over the past couple of years, a lot of attention has been put on toothpaste due to the debate around microbeads and they’re impact on the environment. With a ban in place, we’re now turning our attention to the tools we use to clean our teeth. We go through 300 plastic toothbrushes on average in our lifetime and up to 80% of those end up in the ocean. Mintel predicted that Zero Waste would be the key trend of 2019 and the popularity of bamboo toothbrushes is inline with the growing demand for more environmentally friendly health and beauty products. 

Impressively, Truthbrush’s brushes have castor oil bristles, which is one step further than a lot of bamboo toothbrushes that still use nylon bristles. With the emphasis on reducing plastic it’s likely that even cleaner options will be making their way into our bathrooms very soon.

Why ‘Dieting’ Has Become A Dirty Word

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Over 80% of us might have attempted a diet at some point or another, but three quarters of us were too embarrassed to admit that we’re dieting to our friends. While there was a time when following the latest fad diet and surviving on nothing but cabbage soup for weeks on end was deemed entirely logical if you want to shift the extra pounds you put on in December, these days we’re cutting out food groups under the guise of ‘mindful eating’ or ‘clean eating’. The ‘D’ word has become a dirty term that no one wants to use.

Despite the change in terminology, most of us fall off the healthy eating bandwagon within a few weeks and blame the allure of junk food, hunger pangs and comfort eating. ‘Regardless of how it is dressed up, the UK is currently filled with diets, and they can be effective in helping us achieve our weight goals,’ says Rob Rona, director of new markets, products and services at LighterLife Fast. ‘However, fad diets which cut out full food groups or significantly deplete key nutrients are unsustainable and can be unsafe.’

The idea of clean eating might seem appealing in the first few days of January, following a gluttonous festive season, but radical changes tend to lose steam as February nears – in fact, some research says it’s as quick as just 12 days. So, how can you improve your diet and stick to it? We’ve outlined the latest research and some straightforward advice to help you make an informed plan for 2019:

Start off small

Making dramatic changes can often leave you craving what you cut out within a couple of weeks. Instead, be practical and make small, achievable tweaks that are easy to implement. Take sugar for example. Recent headlines have highlighted that most of us are consuming far too much sugar, but going cold turkey straight away will leave you craving chocolate when the mid-afternoon slump hits. Look for low-sugar or no added sugar on food labels, swap white bread for wholemeal or granary, try eating two biscuits rather than three, and opt for fresh fruit rather than dried varieties.

When it comes to cutting back on sugar, it’s also worth considering taking a chromium supplement such as Optimized Chromium with Crominex 3+ from Life Extension, as this helps to maintain low blood sugar levels. Essentially, eating sugar causes a spike in your blood sugar levels, which eventually crashes and leaves you craving more sugar. Chromium helps to maintain a healthy glucose metabolism.

Do your research

Not every dietary decision is based the health benefits. It’s been reported that more of us are exploring veganism than ever before this January and the leafy diet is as beneficial for the environment as it is our health. That said, it is essential that you do your research. Cutting out animal by-products can leave you deficient in essential vitamins and minerals if you don’t ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet or incorporate supplements into your regimen.

Vitamin B12 isn’t available from plant-based foods, but it is essential for healthy digestion, circulation and energy levels. You’ll need to look for fortified foods, embrace Marmite, or opt for a supplement such as Methyl B-12 by Jarrow Formulas.

It’s about your mindset

MyFitnessPal has been championing this approach to food for years, but a recent study has called into question whether seeing the calorie content on food is beneficial. Measuring the brain response of both dieters and non-dieters when they looked at a range of food images, researchers found that both groups found food less appetising when they could see the calorie content. However, the study, which was published in Plos One, also revealed that seasoned dieters were more likely to engage the orbitofrontal cortex (decision-making section of their brain) when looking at food labels, regardless of whether the calorie content was shown, and tend to make healthier eating choices overall.

‘In order to motivate people to make healthier food choices, policy changes are needed that incorporate not only nutritional information, including calorie content, but also a public education component, which reinforces the long-term benefits of a healthy diet,’ says senior author of the study Kristina Rapuano.

 And if you really want to follow a particular diet…

Make sure it’s the Mediterranean diet. Yet again it was ranked the best diet of the year by U.S News’ panel of judges. With foods rich in omega 3 oils, healthy fats and anti-inflammatory ingredients, the Mediterranean diet offers a multitude of health benefits and you can even enjoy a glass of red wine with it. The judging panel stressed that it’s not a diet per-say, but rather an eating pattern and it’s up to you to determine how big your portions are.

The DASH diet was a close second in the ranking, but again the diet that was originally developed to help lower blood pressure, is more of a pattern rather than a diet. It’s focused on the healthy foods that we all know we should be eating more of. including fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein. It also encourages exercise.

How To Reboot Your Motivation And Stick To Your Goals

Goals

Last year, the social media network for athletes Strava pinpointed Friday 12th January as the day most people are likely to give up on their New Year’s resolution. Strava analysed over 31.5 million global January activities to pinpoint this specific date as ‘Quitters’ Day’. If the same can be said of this year, then we’ll all be pressing snooze and rolling over for an extra hour of sleep rather than hitting the treadmill.

But why is it so common to quit within less than two weeks? Well, it’s January and it’s likely that while you started the month with a fresh bout of positivity and determination, life’s day-to-day tasks and toils have ground you down. Here are the expert tips to reboot your motivation and willpower:

Be realistic

It can be tempting to be overly ambitious and set yourself life-changing goals. While they look good on paper, you run the risk of being part of the quitters gang on 12th January. ‘Set goals that are achievable and can be easily tracked,’ says Dr Zain Sikafi, CEO and Founder, Mynurva. ‘This will give you the satisfaction of being able to track your progress and can be a fantastic source of motivation as you monitor.’ Whether you use a fitness tracking app on your phone or write down your achievements in a daily or weekly journal, you’ll be surprised by how motivating it can be to see how much you’ve accomplished over time.

Focus on one goal at a time

While cutting out sugar and running home for work at least three times a week might seem perfectly plausible from the comfort of your sofa after a Netflix marathon, it will feel less so at 6.30pm on a Tuesday evening when it’s pitch black outside and the heavens have opened. Instead, embrace just one change. Try running home once a week or cut out your four o’clock Galaxy bar (we recommend replacing it with one teaspoon of Organic Maca Powder mixed with almond milk).

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that we are more effective at focusing on one goal at a time and were less successful when we were juggling several.

Do your research

Going cold turkey on something during one of the coldest, darkest months of the year is hard, especially if it’s something you truly enjoy, such as a glass of red wine. It’s worth doing some research to see if there is anything to help ease the withdrawal. For example, if you usually go out on a Friday night, swap the pub for the cinema. If you’ve decided to give up sugar, stock up on Chromium Complex by Lamberts to help reduce the cravings. If you want to get fit and stick to your twice-weekly gym sessions, invest in a fitness band to monitor your improvement and to help set realistic goals. And, if your goal is to reduce your screen time for the foreseeable future, put the Screen Time app into action and shut down your social media at 9pm every night.

Enlist the help of friends

We’re less likely to give up if we’ve got the support of our friends. When it comes to fitness goals research has shown that not only are you more likely to workout, but you’ll put more effort in and exercise for longer. Scientists at the MIT Sloan School of Management went as far as to say exercise is ‘socially contagious’. If you can’t find a friend to workout with, try signing up to a class rather than hitting the gym solo.

Visualise your goal

Rhonda Byrne has made a fortune from The Secret for no reason. Visualising your goals is one of the best ways to keep you mentally motivated. When it’s losing weight giving up alcohol or finding a new job, creating a physical visualisation board of the end goal will help you achieve it.

The idea of visualising yourself in your goal was validated by psychologists at the University of Liege in Belgium. Experts found that creating ‘self-defining’ future memories really can have a positive impact on achieving your goals. So, if you take just one thing from this, make sure it’s the importance of maintaining a positive mental attitude.

What Is All The Fuss About Adaptogens?

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You might have noticed adaptogens have been popping up in health and wellbeing articles and posts recently. But, you’re not alone if you’re not entirely sure what an adaptogenic herb is and why people are hailing them as energy boosters and stress relievers. Here’s a straightforward guide to adaptogens and their health benefits.

What are adaptogens?

They are natural herbs that help to support and balance our hormonal equilibrium or our hypothalamic pituitary endocrine axis as it’s technically known. This equilibrium is split into three sections or axis, your brain adrenal, brain thyroid and brain gonadal. All three have to be balanced to ensure your mood, metabolism, immune system, libido and energy levels are all functioning optimally.

Who can take them?

Adaptogenic herbs have been used to help rebalance hormones and improve overall wellbeing for centuries. They’re generally deemed as safe for everyone to take. However, we recommend consulting your health practitioner if you’re taking medication or are pregnant.

What are the key adaptogenic herbs?

Maca

Wellbeing gurus and hipsters have helped boost the profile of this adaptogen with maca lattes. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ll get the same energetic boost from the sprinkling you get on a coffee as you would from mixing a couple of teaspoons of good quality powder into your morning juice. Maca is renowned for helping to supercharge energy levels and the root is also thought to help with fertility and libido concerns.  

The supplement: Organic Maca Root Extract by Viridian

Moringa  

Another great option for those who want an energy boosting pick-me-up, moringa is the healthy alternative to your mid-afternoon caffeine fix. It also helps your body deal with stress, and impressively contains more than 90 nutrients and over 40 different antioxidants. It’s no surprise that it’s also known as the miracle tree. Moringa powder has an earthy, peppery flavour, which makes it perfect for mixing in with soups and juices.     

The supplement: Moringa Green Superleaf Powder by Aduna

Astragalus

If you find that you’re always feeling under-the-weather with depleted energy levels, it is worth looking into astragalus. It’s renowned for its immune-boosting powers and helps to increase your interferon and white blood cell counts. Shabir recommends taking an astragalus supplement from autumn through spring to fight off any colds and infections.

The supplement: Astragalus Extract by Swanson

Ashwagandha 

This wonder herb helps support your HPA (brain-adrenal axis) and regulate your cortisol (stress hormone) levels. It’s also thought to help conditions such as arthritis thanks to its anti-inflammatory benefits. Ashwagandha should be your go-to if you’re battling with stress and anxiety. While ashwagandha won’t give you the instant high that prescription drugs do, you will notice a difference in a week or so if you take it consistently.  

The supplement: KSM-66 Ashwagandha Plus by Wild Nutrition

Rhodiola 

Another good adaptogen for those who suffer from stress regularly is rhodiola as the herb helps your body deal with physiological and psychological stress. Small studies have shown that rhodiola can support your brain when you’re stressed and reduce mental fatigue. 

The supplement: Magnolia Rhodiola Complex by VH

Holy Basil

Also known as tulsi, holy basil has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and helps to boost brain power. If you struggle to concentrate or regularly get a foggy brain, holy basil could help improve your cognitive function.

The supplement: Wholistic Holy Basil by Pukka