Neuroscientist and leadership coach Dr Tara Swart, who is conducting a year-long study on mental resilience among selected staff and guests at London’s Corinthia Hotel, emphasises the information superhighway between your gut and mood. Around 90 per cent of the body’s serotonin, the mood-balancing neurotransmitter, is found in the gut. So, as mental health charity Mind (mind.org.uk) suggests, eating food to balance gut bacteria (eg, live yoghurt, fruit, vegetables and whole grains) is vital. Research has also shown that people who took a probiotic supplement for a month experienced fewer negative thoughts. Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends Florassist Mood, which contains two probiotic strains shown to influence gut-nervous system signalling, with positive effects on mood.
Omega-3 fats, found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and leafy vegetables, are also an essential brain food, says Dr Swart. She also says that stress causes the vital mineral magnesium to leech from our bodies, so advises clients to take a supplement. Shabir Daya suggests Solgar Wild Alaskan Full Spectrum Omega and Neuro-Mag.
HERE’S TO A HAPPIER NEW YEAR
Happiness describes a lovely state of mind that we all want, but sometimes feel is out of reach. Feeling happy is both about experiencing an ongoing state of contentment with your life (and coping with bad things when they happen), and exulting in moments of joy. With both of these, there are factors you can influence positively.
When mother of two Nicola Elliott, 38, found that her life as a ‘crazy, 60-hour-a-week’ magazine journalist was making her constantly anxious and putting her wellbeing in jeopardy, she retrained as an aromatherapist and nutritionist.
‘I was surrounded by other women who were stressed, sleeping badly and had plummeting energy,’ says Nicola. ‘So I began creating pure essential-oil blends and tinctures to help us all. The most popular one was called Tranquillity, which I made for my sister who was having trouble sleeping.’ Those kitchen-table products led to Nicola and business partner Oliver Mennell launching Neom Organics in 2005 with the aim of helping people to manage their wellbeing.
Last year, Neom created The Happiness Programme. As well as its Scent to Make You Happy range (from candles and bath products to the Mood Lifting On The Go Mist, much appreciated by my colleagues), it has now created The Guide To Happiness ebook. Written by Neom’s wellbeing experts, it provides bitesize but well-researched information and practical tips on everything from psychology and diet to mindfulness and meditation. It is really impressive and helpful. (See right for Nicola’s mood-boosting tips.)
To give YOU readers a flying start to the New Year, Neom is offering a free Nourish, Breathe & Smile Hand Balm, worth £15, to the first 250 readers to register on neomorganics.com/youhappy. In addition, Neom is offering a 20 per cent discount on all products, plus a free The Guide to Happiness ebook for every reader. To get your exclusive discount code and free ebook download, visit neomorganics.com/youhappy*.
Get plenty of fresh air every day. It’s sometimes hard to leave your desk, but try to nip out, even if it’s only for 15 minutes.
Turn off all tech at allotted times each day. I try to do this between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, so that I can give my children my full attention.
Phone a friend. If you’re time-poor, it’s easy to use social media as your default communication mode. Actually talking to my friends and family makes me feel happy.
Choose exercise you enjoy – that’s swimming and running for me – and do it for your mind as well as your thighs. Exercise triggers brain chemicals that dull pain, lighten mood and relieve stress.
Make time to do something just for you, whether that’s reading (I’m a total bookworm), listening to music, lying in a scented bath, walking in a green space or simply daydreaming.