Meditation Might Not Be As Good For You As You Think

meditation_VH

Almost every self-proclaimed wellness guru advocates the power of meditation. Shutting your mind off and focusing on a single object is thought to help re-centre your mind, body and soul. Meditation has been championed for its de-stressing and sleep-inducing powers and plenty of people will say it’s fundamental to them balancing busy schedules and unexpected catastrophes that modern life throws at them on a daily basis. Read More…

The Reason You Might Not Be Having Enough Sex

Separate Rooms

We’re in the midst of National Stop Snoring Week. Yes, there really is such a thing. Snoring is a big issue for a lot of couples. A recent study by Ginger Research found that almost three quarters of Brits have a partner who snores in bed, with 45% claiming to be regularly woken by the sound, and over a third having been forced to wake their other halves up in the night because of their noisy sleeping. Read More…

Could A ‘Nature Pill’ Be The Answer To Your Stress?

Natures Pill

It’s Stress Awareness Month, so you might have noticed an increase in stress-related headlines filtering into your morning news feed. Rather than flagging up the impact of rising stress and anxiety levels on our health, a new study offers a refreshingly easy-to-implement solution that could lower your cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Read More…

How To Follow A Social Media Diet

Book leafs in a heart shape

I’ve always been fairly convinced that nobody would go to their grave wishing they’d spent more time on Twitter. But I don’t mind admitting that over the past year, my addiction to Instagram reached a level where I knew that action was required. When the first thing you do is roll over in bed in the morning, reach for your phone and scroll through photos of friends’ kids/pets/gardens, or swoon over inspirational houses or holiday destinations – well, by any measure, you’ve got a problem.

My Instagram ‘rock bottom’ happened one day just before Christmas, when my alarm went off at the usual time – and when I looked up, I realised I’d just spent an hour and a half on Instagram. I’d been suckered by their clever algorithm into frittering away 90 minutes of my life – and for what…? I wasn’t chatting to my husband, tucked up in bed beside me. I wasn’t reading a newspaper. (Not that I think there’s anything WRONG with not reading newspapers, BTW.) I wasn’t looking up from my screen to take in the beautiful view that I’m blessed with of our ACTUAL garden, out of the ACTUAL bedroom window. I was looking at pretty pictures.

Notwithstanding the fact that I’d implemented ScreenTime on my iPhone – which tells me when I’ve hit a self-imposed limit of a certain number of minutes – I was habitually over-riding the warning by hitting the button that says ‘Remind Me in 15 Minutes’ – or (more likely) the one that says ‘Ignore Limit For Today’. (Initially, I’d gone for a 15-minute limit overall until I realised that was over in the blink of an eye. But I’d been hitting the ‘Remind Me in 15 Minutes’ button four, five times in a day…)

The thing is, I don’t even have a particularly addictive personality. But this was bad – and I remembered a bumper sticker that my late father-in-law had on his car (he was American; bumper stickers are allowed). It read: ‘Turn off TV, turn on life.’ So I decided to adopt a similar philosophy, with Instagram. Living my life, not reading about other people’s – while also dealing with the challenge that I can’t go completely cold turkey on Instagram, because I actually have to use it professionally (@theperfumesociety and @beautybibleofficial). So: here’s how you can do the same, whether your problem is Instagram, Twitter, Facebook (or all of them).

Move your social media apps off your main screen

When you have to search for them, or even swipe for them, it gives you pause for thought. (It’s the social media diet equivalent of putting the biscuit tin in the cupboard.)

Set a timer

By all means use ScreenTime, if you use an iPhone. (It was in the most recent system update.) But pledge to obey it, OR – alternatively – set a timer on your phone that rings when your (personally allotted) time is up. I find that much, much more effective, actually; when you’ve got to leave an app to turn off an annoying alarm, you can’t ignore it – and you then have to make a conscious effort to reopen the app.

Don’t sleep with your phone by your bed

It’s probably emitting all sorts of hideous electro-magnetic radiation, anyway, which we shouldn’t have anywhere near our heads. In the early stage of my ‘diet’ I put my phone in a box on the other side of the bedroom. I’d have to get out of bed to get it (and frankly our bedroom’s so cold – I am married to someone half-Viking – I was reluctant to abandon my hot water bottle to do so). After a while I found this had helped get me out of the habit of rolling over and hitting the Instagram icon first thing, and I could safely return it to the bedside table. And beyond that, once I’d broken the habit of feeding my early morning Instagram addiction even before I’d fed my early morning caffeine addiction (which is of course an entirely different story!), it was much easier to put off my first foray into its photographic joys till later in the day because I wasn’t craving the next serotonin hit.

Make a list of your favourite accounts and restrict your ‘diet’ to these

That way you don’t have to miss out on a daughter’s smile, or your best friend’s latest baking triumph, or news from websites you really, really find valuable (like VH of course!) I’ve actually PRINTED the list of sites to check in with daily (or at least regularly) in order to ensure I’m not missing anything ‘important’, and I keep it handy. (In fact, actively visiting friends’ pages has kept me more in the loop with their lives than I was before – because the algorithm wasn’t showing them to me in my feed).

Give yourself a specific time when you’re allowed to binge

If someone keeps me waiting for an appointment or a meeting, I ‘allow’ myself to go to Instagram and gorge. Ditto: if I’m in the back of a taxi. Otherwise it’s like being told you can’t eat sugar: all you do is fantasise about cakes, sweets and ice cream. It’s easier to resist temptation if you know you’ll be allowed an occasional indulgence.

By all means post pictures – but don’t check on your ‘likes’

I still love taking photos for Instagram – it’s a real creative outlet (I’m a bit of an Annie Liebowitz manquée). And every day, pretty much, I still post something (@jofairley, if you’re interested!) But what I have weaned myself off is habitually checking who’s liked my posts or commented. I check in with that once a day (during that ‘timed’ session) – not every hour or so, as I had been. (To continue the diet analogy, this equates to a few squares of Green & Black’s at teatime, rather than a biscuit on the hour.)

It’s been quite a few weeks since I started this ‘social media diet’ – and it’s worked unbelievably well. I’m confident I’ve conquered that addiction and am not only up to speed on my magazine subscriptions – the media pile was a high avalanche risk, when I started this – but I’ve got through another pile that I’d hidden in a cupboard to stop me staring at them and feeling guilty about NOT reading them. I’ve finished several books (yes, BOOKS!) that I’d never have found time for. My Christmas ‘thank-yous’ were done and dusted in record time (I decided to write those first thing, in bed – and trust me, the feel-good factor exceeded that of Insta-scrolling, which never gave anyone a rosy glow of achievement). And I’ve had some remarkably sparkling conversations with my husband (although we can talk about his iPad Scrabble habit another time). You know what else (surprise, surprise!)? My overall concentration is vastly improved, because I am not constantly answering the tug on my attention from social media.

Let’s face it: social media isn’t going anywhere soon. But as I’ve found out, encouragingly, it is possible to control IT rather than have it control YOU – thereby avoiding a flood of regret on the day of reckoning that you’d frittered away so much time watching other people’s lives on a small screen, rather than enjoying real sunsets, real flowers and real conversations…

What Is All The Fuss About Adaptogens?

adaptogens_vh

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

How To Cope With Anxiety Over Christmas

Festive Anxiety

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but for at least a third of Brits the festive season can be tarred with high levels of stress and anxiety. It’s not just the stress of Christmas shopping and higher workloads that stresses people out, it’s also social anxiety over the endless festive get-togethers and parties. Read More…