In Praise Of Elegance

Gymnast on beam silouette on pink background

A return to elegance was big news during couture week in Paris last summer. Nowhere was this more apparent than on the Dior catwalk where designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri appeared to give a two finger salute to the nauseating theatrics and bad taste selfies of Instagram. Opening the show was Ruth Bell, the face of Dior, wearing a midi length cape dress and beret, the first in a line of models dressed in fit’n’flare silhouettes in an exquisitely restrained palette of midnight black and blush nude shades.  ‘I wanted to make something that was so subtle you almost couldn’t see it on Instagram’ Grazia Chiuri told Lisa Armstrong at the Telegraph, after the show, ‘of course it has to be luxurious but it doesn’t need to be obvious’.

Elegance possibly wasn’t the first word that sprang to mind when I interviewed the 22 year old Bell the following morning – sitting before me with her shaven head, alabaster skin and the otherness of youth, dressed in an over-sized hoodie and thick cotton trousers from Virgil Normal in LA. The interview had been rescheduled three times; I was waiting for the diva of all divas.

Bell is not a classic beauty and yet everything about her – an unfailingly polite manner, a quiet self-assurance and professionalism, arriving five minutes before our 8 am interview despite working till 2 am the night before, being happy to start the interview on the communal stairs because the offices were late opening so that I wouldn’t miss my Eurostar – was elegance personified.

Elegance is such a loaded word, one that could probably do with a crack PR team to imbue it with any sort of relevance in 2019. It seems so impossibly quaint, so démodé, certainly nothing cool or anything to inspire to. And yet, and yet, through the prism of nine squares, where so much of the tone on Instagram is dominated by a nauseating strand of self-love, there’s a growing curiosity to explore something different. Well at I least I hope there is.

What is elegance?  Literally speaking it’s the clean dismount of a gymnast from the balance beam, the smooth playing motion of a cellist, the way a dress takes in your waist just so. Elegance is also the art of less, a sense of timelessness, a beauty that shows unusual effectiveness and simplicity. It is also frequently used as a standard of good taste, except I think we all know that elegance is so much more than that.

It is thoughtfulness and kindness rolled into one, it’s a white lie to save someone’s blushes, it’s the opposite of flaky, it is small gestures that people remember and taking the time to have meaningful every day exchanges – while buying a stamp as much as resisting the urge to put the phone down on your mother-in-law. It is listening, knowing when to hold back, Coco Chanel’s style maxim of refusal, it is seeing beyond the end of your nose, knowing when to shut up and basically being a better person. Call it manners if you like. In our selfie, self-obsessed society, there aren’t nearly enough manners to go round. And why we underestimate the importance of good manners to navigate day to day life is beyond baffling.

What else is elegance? It is respecting yourself too, because there’s some ground between martyrdom (NEVER elegant) and stating your boundaries and valuing yourself. Taking responsibility for yourself – eating and sleeping well, breathing, exercising, being fit and healthy so that you can live up to the many many roles you taken on  has always struck me as rather an elegant thing to do, an elegant way to be.

It’s not believing that the world revolves around you: remembering that there is nearly always a rational explanation as to why someone has been slow to reply to your email – an explanation that, more often than not, has nothing to do with you.

A stiff British upper lip isn’t fashionable currently, but there’s a lot to be applauded in “just getting on with it”, instead of constantly worrying how you are feeling. Or how happy you are. Ah, that subject of happiness. We’re so obsessed in trying to reach this unrealistic 24/7 state of eternal nirvana, that we’ve started to believe that our problems, schedules, anxieties and feelings are more important than everyone else’s. Stop it now.

Being a little bit mindful, slowing down or just taking the time to notice the world around you – other people’s behaviour and feelings – promotes a more elegant way of living. And like so much positive behaviour, being elegant is quite addictive once you start giving it any air time. One of my favourite nuggets of wisdom which I want to share again is the sage advice that the sex therapist, Esther Perel received from her father. Every time I read it, it makes me think of what is wrong with the world.

“The quality of your life ultimately depends on the quality of your relationships. Not on your achievements, not on how smart you are, not on how rich you are, but on the quality of your relationships, which are basically a reflection of your decency, your ability to think of others, your generosity…about how you treated the people around you, and how you made them feel.”

Having a strong sense of self, knowing your mind, being confident – of what sits with you and what doesn’t – is helpful too. Elegance is refusal. It is knowing when to say no and sticking to it.

Cool To Be Kind

be-kind-by-jackie-annesley

The place was rammed.

Friday night,  late November, a gallery on Duke Street in St James, central London. Inside home counties couples and groups of W11 women shuffled through the small space, straining to see every drawing covering the walls of both rooms. The objects of their gaze were anthropomorphic sketches of a horse, a mole and a fox, plus a young boy and girl, in the breezy ink-on-paper style of artist E H Shepard’s Winnie the Pooh.

One of them portrayed the boy and the mole on the bough of a tree. “What’s your favourite thing about the horse?” asks the mole.  “His power? His wisdom? His beauty?”

“He is kind,” said the boy.

In another, the mole tells the boy:  “We often wait for kindness, but being kind to yourself can start now”.

The artist Charlie Mackesy,  better known for his sculptures and lithographs, stood behind the counter looking bemused at both the volume of people and sales. He later posted on Instagram – 115k followers and rapidly rising – that he wasn’t ready “for so many tears. Particularly men’s tears.”

These were men dressed like barristers and bankers and who could drop £3,000 for an original drawing with an accompanying truism about life beyond capitalism, Trump and Brexit. For £100, I chose a print that said: “What do you think success is?” asked the boy.  “To love,”  said the mole.  For one of the teens, I thought. If only someone had gifted that to every young baby boomer, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this global holy mess.

Luckily, the call to kindness seems to be gathering pace. The Mackesy exhibition (which has since led to a book deal) had come just a few weeks after fashion company The Vampire’s Wife posted a poem entitled Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye. Only true sociopaths (quite a few out there, mind) won’t feel moved by its introductory verse:

“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.”

Losing things and finding ourselves in a desolate landscape – who hasn’t been there? It’s where crumbs of kindness are devoured. Which is probably why last year’s bestseller The Language of Kindness by Chrissie Watson, the memoir of an NHS nurse, sparked a 14-way bidding war between publishers and is being turned into TV drama.

I reviewed it for the Sunday Times when it came out,  writing:

“Who knew nurses prepared the bodies of those who died on their wards, massaging the grey skin of a drowned six year old with baby lotion in readiness for the grieving family. Watson’s final duty? To brush the little girl’s teeth with her dinosaur toothbrush and toothpaste ‘until I smell nothing but bubble gum’.”

In her acknowledgements, the saintly Watson thanks her patients: “What an extraordinary privilege it was to be your nurse”,  and yet the privilege was surely theirs too. God knows the world needs more Nurse Watsons.

Actually we are genetically wired to be kind. In The Little Book of Kindness, out last month, David R. Hamilton lays out the scientific evidence in favour of popping round to see that elderly neighbour or surprising your partner by picking him/her up from the station in the pouring rain.  Page 17 is divided into two parts: What Stress Does and What Kindness Does. He has zero good things to say,  obvs, about stress.

But kindness? It reduces blood pressure, protects the heart (perfect synergy), boosts the immune system, relaxes the nervous system, reduces inflammation and can be an antidote to depression. Beats all those drugs. Apparently it even slows the ageing process.

So physically this kindness shtick is a no-brainer.  But how exactly does it benefit our personal relationships, always a thorny work-in-progress? It was the Roman philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius who said  kindness is mankind’s “greatest delight,”  and many a scientist has set out to prove just that, most notably American psychologist John Gottman. In 1986, he co-founded The Love Lab (I mean, fab name) and for  the past four decades has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. As the guru of divorce prediction and marital stability,  Gottman divides us all up into Masters and Disasters.

Exactly what I was thinking – which are you?

The Masters scan their social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They purposefully build this culture of respect and appreciation. Disasters scan for partners’ mistakes. Even if talking about mundane events, their bodies are in fight or flight mode, preparing to attack and be attacked. Disasters deliberately ignore, or continually criticise their partner’s style or choices and kill the love in the relationship by making the other person feel invisible.

Gottman’s extensive research concluded that kindness glues couples together, making them feel cared for, understood and validated. By the way this is a man who at  76  is on his third wife Julie, whom he has been with for more than 30 years, so you can only presume that he’s become of Master of what he preaches.

This June another psychology professor – Jamil Zaki from Stanford University – launches his scientific take on empathy with the release of The War for Kindness. In an age of rampant tribalism and a divided Britain, Zaki argues that empathy is  like a muscle – a skill we can all strengthen with a daily workout. I totally agree with this – when I found myself cast into a desolate landscape a few years ago, I got the kindest message from a former colleague not exactly known for her empathy. It was so unexpected I still think about it, and her, most weeks. Life changes people, often for the better. In his forthcoming book, Zaki tells the story of a former neo-Nazi who is now helping extract people from hate groups, as well as US police officers who are changing their culture to decrease violence among their ranks. “An inspiring call to action” says the publicity blurb.

Shoot me if I sound straight out of Private Eye’s Pseud’s Corner but my favourite message of all comes in the final line of Naomi Shihab Nye poem. It is, she writes, only kindness that makes any sense amid all this madness.

“…
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”

The boy, the girl, the mole, the horse and the fox would surely agree.

The Stress-Reducing Modern Wellness Trends To Know About

golden-gong-by-giselle-la-pompe-moore

Whether you tuck an amethyst crystal in your bra every day or have an energy healer on speed dial, it’s clear that the popularity of spiritual wellbeing is on the rise. It’s unsurprising, as wellness is now a staggering $4.2 trillion dollar global industry. One that’s infiltrated our local café menus, bookshelves and how we spend our Sunday nights. But why have we become so fixated by the pursuit of wellness?

The answer could well be, stress. Yes, that six letter word that’s littered into nearly every conversation. As you might know, the body responds to stress by initiating the fight or flight response, where stress hormones are secreted, our heart rate quickens, we breathe more rapidly and oxygen floods to our arms and legs. This is all well and good, as it protects us in life-threatening situations, but unlike our ancestors we end up going into this stress response more often as our lives are increasingly hectic. Over time, the more the stress response gets activated the greater the toll on our minds and body. So much so, that last year The Mental Health Foundation reported that 74% of the UK have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of stress.

When we combine that with living in troubling times filled with political uncertainty and environmental threats to the future of our planet, it’s understandable that we are all looking for some escapism. Engaging in wellness allows us to get out of our heads and to shift from the high stress of constantly doing to just being, and with spiritual wellness it appeals to our collective desire to take comfort in something that feels greater than us.

It’s easy to roll your eyes at some facets of wellness and get lost in the buzzwords and fads, but the following trends, which have often been rooted in ancient practices, have a place in modern society and right now we could all do with a helping hand.

Sound Healing

We usually associate meditation and mindfulness with silence or at least with some oceanic background music. But having sound as the core component of your meditation session is a healing practice that has been around for thousands of years. During a sound bath, gongs and crystal bowls are played as you’re led into a meditative state. The instruments create different healing frequencies with the vibrations then resonating in the body to shift your brainwaves from beta (alert and normal thinking) to low frequency waves such as alpha, delta and theta. All of which aid in reducing stress and promoting deep rest and relaxation.

Reiki

From clearing stagnant energy in our homes to trying to raise our vibrations, we’re talking about energy more than ever. One of the reasons for this is the gaining popularity of Reiki, a method of energy healing that was developed by Dr Mikao Usui in Japan in the early 20th century. Reiki promotes the body’s regenerative self-healing ability by balancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. When we experience blockages in the flow of energy this can manifest in our bodies and have an impact on our overall health and wellbeing. A Reiki session will leave you feeling blissed out and help you to re-centre by allowing the energy to flow easier through your chakras (energy centres) for optimal health.

Crystal Routines

It’s pretty obvious that crystals are having a moment and it makes sense. They’re not only aesthetically pleasing but they carry within them a host of healing energies. Now you’ve built up a stealthy collection, it’s time to take your crystal obsession to the next level by really harnessing them as a tool for self-growth. Representing the element of earth, crystals can keep you grounded if you’re out of sorts and craving the need to feel connected to something universal. If your crystals have been collecting dust, create your own routines by adding them into your meditation practice, investigate how they can correspond to your chakras and look into creating your own crystal grids.

Spiritual Skincare 

Spirituality has made its way into many areas of our lives and we’ll be starting to see our skin in this way too. The mind-skin connection is a powerful one, from the effects that skin issues have on self-worth to the fact that stress can trigger and aggravate conditions such as acne, psoriasis and dermatitis. Brands will be taking more of a ritualistic approach by incorporating self-care messages and tools such as crystals, affirmations and intention-setting. Products aside, seeing the skin from a spiritual lens means taking a step back to find acceptance and peace with our skin and to work on what’s happening under the surface by slowing down our beauty routines and turning them into mindful rituals.

Astro Living

Times have changed from only reading your horoscope in a magazine once a week, to everyone knowing exactly when mercury goes retrograde. With apps like Co-starTime Passages and The Moon it’s easier than ever to live in accordance with the zodiac and to work with natural cycles. We’ve already seen this with new moon and full moon rituals, so if you’re feeling disconnected you can track the planetary movements and work with their energies in your schedule. For example, if you’re trying to do a huge clear-out of your wardrobe, check in with what’s happening astrologically as you might find it easier to do on a day when the planets are more aligned in your favour, such as when the moon is in an organisation-driven sign like Virgo.

Daily Rituals

Social media and wellness have somehow become merged with one another and it can often feel like you didn’t really “do self-care” if it wasn’t posted on Instagram. Wellness can often seem like it’s something that needs to be performed, so it’s time to go back to basics with daily (and private) rituals. From five minute breathing meditations at your desk to journaling all of the things you’re grateful for at night, this is all about finding small moments in your day to get you back into the present moment. Add in a self-massage after your shower or head out for a walk at lunch, this is all about coming back to the essence of what wellness is, it might not always be photogenic but you’ll definitely feel the benefits.

Giselle La Pompe-Moore is the founder of Project Ajna and offers one-to-one rediscovery soul sessions that incorporate reiki, meditation or tarot.

2019 Resolutions And Solutions

Old typewriter close up with "New Year Chapter One" typed on paper

I always look forward to the start of a new year for that feeling of a clean slate it gives and the opportunity to do better and more. I have always loved making resolutions too, not unrealistic or unattainable ones that I have no intention of keeping, but personal goals and exciting plans that help me shape how I want the year to go.

Last year didn’t work out at all how I had planned and while I am still dealing with some of the health issues involved in that, I am now in a much better place and ready to take on 2019. When thinking about what I want my resolutions to be, I quickly realised that it was all about self-care and wellness, which makes sense considering how sick I have been.

One of the biggest things that went “wrong” last year was that I didn’t look after myself enough. I pushed and pushed until I couldn’t go any further and put off looking after myself because I didn’t prioritise my own wellbeing. This year I plan to do things completely differently. I have learned the hard way that health and wellness is a precious gift that needs to be nurtured and I plan to do just that.

Basically my goal is to simply get back on track — with my health, my life, my happiness and everything else that I abandoned over the past twelve months. Ultimately I just want to feel well again and repair the damage I did to myself, and these are the resolutions that I hope will help me do exactly that. I have kept them simple with no pressure inducing timelines and in a way, they are all linked. I have also included solutions so that my resolutions are more concrete and achievable, which I think will help me feel more capable of following through.

Hormone Balance

Resolution: As a woman in my thirties this is such an important component to overall good health. Having hormonal irregularities has affected so many areas of my life from the obvious menstrual cycle related issues, to the not so obvious ones like when I sleep and how long for, what I eat and how much of it and other issues I will talk more about soon.

Solution: Balancing your hormones can be tricky, so it’s extremely important to consult a doctor and get your levels checked. Once that’s done you can make a plan to get them in order and that can involve medication, supplements, food and exercise. For me, I will be keeping track of my blood sugar levels, (hopefully) sleeping more at night and introducing female health supportive supplements.

I am currently taking Endo Complex and Fertility from Wild Nutrition because both contain an excellent mix of ingredients essential for women’s health with the addition of hormone support through B6, N-Acetyl Cysteine and Cordyceps (Fertility), and oestrogen clearance (Endo Complex). I will also be eliminating or at the very least limiting my sugar and dairy intake as both affect my hormone levels.

I plan to get several checks throughout the year to track my progress so I can have a better understanding of what causes my hormonal fluctuations and then learn how to minimize and manage them going forward.

Skintelligence

Resolution: Skincare is my thing and looking after my skin is something I truly enjoy. Testing products, reading about ingredients and experimenting with new routines is not a chore to me and I love the process of it all. Last year unfortunately I used too much, tried too many things, played around too carelessly and my skin did not like that one bit. For 2019 I want to find a balance between enjoying all the new launches and putting my skin first.

Solution: Last year I started to be more thoughtful than ever when it comes to skincare. Excess was in and it just didn’t work for me. I became acutely aware of how damaging the need to have and try all the products can be for our skin and mental health and I did not want to be a part of it anymore. When I got sick I had virtually no time for new products let alone the ones I already had, but what I learned was that my skin was actually pretty okay with less — less products, less routines. It was all about finding the right ingredients for my skin and not over using them.

Thanks to the excellent Garden of Wisdom range I have been able to simplify my routine yet still see great results. In particular the PHA PlusMandelic Acid 10%Alpha Arbutin 2% and Kojic Acid 1% and 100% Prickly Pear Seed Oil have done so much for my skin, even without using them every day. That’s because instead of jumping on every new launch, I have focused on the ingredients that I know work well for my skin. Finding what works for you when it comes to skincare is definitely a journey that will take some time and experimentation, but it is worth it in the end.

Mane Attraction

Resolution: I really neglected my hair last year and this is something I want to change in 2019. At the beginning of the year I was just too busy to bother with it much and then since last summer I have been too sick to do anything beyond a perfunctory wash and air dry, which isn’t the best look for me (my hair is curly with some frizz). I have also experienced some shedding/thinning due to my illness and suddenly a lot more greys than I started the year with. I’m a Leo and the stereotype of my astrology sign loving their hair is somewhat true for me, so I want to start taking care of it again.

Solution: As many of you already know from personal experience, the launch of Ful.Vic Health was a big one and I have finally jumped on board. I just started using the shampooconditioner and mist, and I am in love. The range targets hair loss, shedding and thinning, as well as scalp support and follicle repair. This is exactly what I need and I have already started seeing a difference. With each wash I see less fall out and my hair is so much smoother and softer, even without using a hair dryer or straightener.

Hair care is definitely an inside-out job, so along with these topical products I will also start using the Elixir and making sure I’m getting enough scalp and hair supporting vitamins and minerals, which I should be thanks to the Wild Nutrition supplements. I might even treat myself to Hayo’u’s Beauty Restorer Comb as it is designed to promote healthy hair and reduce stress, and in my experience the two are linked – the more stressed I am, the more shedding I notice. I also plan to get my vitamin and mineral levels tested, so I can track the changes and any improvements myself.

Sleep Well

Resolution: Sleep is crucial for optimal health and fully functional living, and it is something I have been doing poorly the whole of last year. Continually having poor sleep has made dealing with an illness even more stressful and on top of that it sucked the joy out of things I used to love. I would find myself too tired to hang out with friends, falling asleep during movies or after reading a few paragraphs, and it just made me feel like I was dragging myself through each day like a zombie. I am the type of person who thrives on more sleep not less, so my plan is to make that a priority again.

Solution: What I have found is that getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done. Even when I find myself exhausted and barely able to stay awake at 7 pm, once I am actually in bed and ready to sleep I can’t. I will be wide awake until 5 am and then absolutely shattered when my alarm goes off a few hours later.

Sleep is so important because it is the time when the body gets to rest, repair and restore itself, so without that most people won’t be able to feel their best. Knowing how essential sleep is to good health I plan to make my evenings more structured and deliberate. I will set a time to switch off from stimulating devices and begin a wind down routine that will help signal to my body that it’s time to sleep. For me this will include things like having a bath, wearing cosy pyjamas, reading a book and meditation.

I absolutely love listening to Soul Medicine before bed to help me relax and unwind and now that winter is officially here, it’s time to start using my beloved Space Masks again, which are brilliant for getting off to sleep quicker thanks to the soothing heat. Not only that, having my eyes covered means I’m less likely to be enticed by my phone whenever it vibrates or glows. De Mamiel also have a lovely sounding sleep range that I’m going to look in to and supplements like Magnolia Rhiodola and Magnesium have helped in the past, so I am taking those again.

Good sleep is a process and something that has to be learned and maintained, so achieving it is not something that will happen overnight, but if you can commit to a schedule of sleeping and waking and keeping your bedroom free of distractions, you will find that you will start to fall in to a natural pattern and when that happens it will be bliss. No more sleepless nights and exhausted days — just deep, restorative sleep that will help you feel and live better.

As you can see, my resolutions are pretty simple, but they are all linked. Improving my sleep will help with my hormones and balancing those will in turn help my hair and skin. The goal is to basically feel like myself again and that involves feeling good on the inside and out as well as finding my way back to joy. Self-care is important for mental and physical health and for me, that’s my aim for 2019 — looking after myself properly and committing to making my needs a priority. No matter what your resolutions for 2019 are, I hope they are ones that make you feel good and look forward to the year.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Chalk board graph with icons on an ascending rightward stepped graph

I was never one of those kids who was afraid of the dark. I loved the cloak of invisibility that it gave me. And while there is nothing I love more than a bright, sunny day, I have become pretty obsessed with darkness over the years – not in an ominous way (as in ‘going over to the dark side’), but in terms of the important role it plays in my wellness.

You really ought to stay in a hotel room with me, sometime, to fully understand my obsession with darkness. I travel with a roll of black gaffer tape, the better to ensure a good night’s sleep undisturbed by the cockpit’s-worth of blinking lights that many modern hotel rooms feature. My first task, on checking in (even before switching on the kettle and attacking the free shortbread), is to eliminate as many of those lights as possible with two neatly-snipped squares of gaffer tape. Message lights on phones. TV control lights. Aircon on/off lights. Charging electrical gadgets. And of course, the light ‘leaking’ through the edges of the curtains.

What I’ve discovered is that gaffer tape can also be lightly stuck to pretty much any wallpaper (well, I mightn’t try it on a gold hand-painted mural) without damaging it. So yes, I am that weird (maybe certifiable) creature who gaffer-tapes the edges of the curtains to the hotel room walls – the most extreme example of which was in a ‘presidential suite’ a hotel once upgraded me to when they’d lost my booking. Last done up in the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency, is my guess, it featured ‘shortie’ curtains that ran along the entire 10-metre window which I then taped every inch to the wall. Exactly what kind of bondage game housekeeping thought I’d been up to when the found the tape I’d peeled off in the morning and put it in the bin, I’ve no idea – but I did enjoy a really good night’s sleep. (Why don’t I just wear a sleep mask? Because – along with earplugs – I find them a bit claustrophobic. Fine on an aeroplane when there’s no alternative, but otherwise, a no-no for me.)

By now, you may well think I’m completely tonto. But in reality, light has a profound effect on sleep. I realise I’m an extreme example in terms of how even a small level of light affects me deeply, but it’s been scientifically observed that insufficient darkness throughout the night can lead to frequent, long periods of wakefulness. Of course, we’re increasingly aware of the impact of the blue light from our phones on sleep; I’ve written before about the fact that if I look at my phone (never mind computer) after about 8.30 pm, it’s the equivalent of drinking an espresso in terms of the effect on my slumber. But experts now agree that bedrooms should be as dark as possible – which includes (as we do at home) having blackout linings to curtains, and ensuring window coverings are fitted to avoid slivers of street light or early morning light from seeping in. (Ah, so that’s why the pelmet was invented…!)

According to Cheng Chi Lee, who studies circadian rhythms at University of Texas Medical School, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests we should seek out darkness for its surprising effects on health and behaviour. There’s one particularly fascinating study in which tamoxifen was used on cancer cells in mice. One control group was kept kept in cycles of 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of complete darkness, while another the dark stage of the experiment was replaced with roughly the amount of light that might sneak under a hospital door. Even in such low levels, the cancer cells became resistant to the drug. And although this medical research was carried out on mice (and no, I’m not thrilled about that either), the scientists from Tulane University in New Orleans believe it could have implications for how cancer patients receive their treatment.

It’s well known that interfering with workers’ body clocks, meanwhile, can seriously impact on health. My hunch is that the winking lights in bedrooms and sleep environments will eventually be revealed to be more damaging than we currently understand. (But if you must have a clock with the time on? Make sure it has red digits, rather than blue or green; it’s been found to have the least impact on sleep.)

We were never built to live in such light environments as we enjoy now. For millions of years, people went to bed when it got dark and woke when it was light. Even now, when we’re lucky enough to find ourselves in nature, somewhere truly dark – and I support the Dark Skies movement, a campaign to eliminate light pollution – we feel connected to the universe in a way that feels truly primitive and (for me, at least) very, very grounding.

So while I’m eternally grateful to Thomas Edison for the invention of the light bulb – just miraculous, eh?! –it doesn’t surprise me at all to find that these unnatural, albeit low levels of night-time light may have impact on our wellbeing. If asked to make a list of our basic survival needs, food and water of course come top. Warmth, too. But I certainly know that darkness is essential for my quality of sleep, and my overall equilibrium. So if the Gaffer Tape Marketing Board is looking for a new ‘face’, I’m your woman.

Night, everyone. And lights out!

How To Maximise Your Fitness Routine

Exercise Routine

‘Getting fit’ is one of the most popular new year resolutions and it’s also one of the quickest to be broken. While there’s always an onslaught of new and inventive ways to encourage us to workout in January, few of us make it past February before we give up the early morning run or lunchtime gym sessions.

Yet, research continues to highlight the health benefits of working out. Recent research suggests that working out three times or for a total of 100 minutes per week could help reduce your brain age by a whopping 10 years when you pair it with a balanced diet. A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine also suggested that exercise, including walking, jogging, swimming and cycling, could be just as effective as drugs at lowering blood pressure.

The biggest fitness trends for 2019 are more attuned to our hectic lifestyles and easier to slot in, so whether you’ve got a full hour or just 15 minutes to spare there’s some form of movement that will work for you.

The top fitness trends for 2019

On demand

If you struggle to slot a 45-minute spin class into your schedule twice a week, then it’s worth exploring the world of fitness streaming. Plenty of gyms and instructors offer live streaming sessions or short videos that you can do at-home or from a hotel room if you’re a frequent traveller. ClassPass has recently launched its version of live streaming called ClassPass Live.

Slide and glide

For A-list fitness trainer Dalton Wong, 2019 is all about the glider. Not only does it give you a full body workout, but it’s also low intensity, so you don’t have to worry about putting extra strain on your knees, hips and back. Following the success of his Mini Band Workout last year, Wong has just launched his Glider Workout. ‘It’s designed to improve posture, tone and shape the body, and the workout actively targets the main problem areas – core, hips, thighs, bum, triceps and back – for total body conditioning,’ says Wong. The kit comes complete with two gliders and a 60-page manual that’s packed full of exercise routines. 

Versatile yoga

With self-care, or total wellbeing as it’s being dubbed for 2019, still resonating with most of us, the practice of yoga has become more prominent. Expect to see yoga and meditation hybrid classes rolling out across the country. From restorative yin practices to more vigorous power and flow yoga, the classes are designed to work on a physical and mental level to ensure you switch off and feel fully zen before you step off the mat. 

Functional fitness

It’s a trend that has been around for the past few years, but functional fitness is going to be just as big in 2019 and will be readily available everywhere. Generally speaking, functional fitness is anything that helps improve your balance, coordination and strength to support the movements and motions we do on daily basis without even thinking about them. For example, a squat would fall under the functional category because it strengthens your core and back, which makes bending down in day-to-day life easier.

Team work

Sociable workouts are on the rise. It’s less about solitary sessions on the treadmill and more about coming together as part of a class. Whether it’s a running club or signing up for a group spin class where you’re heart rate is on show and you cycle as a pack to hit a specific target, this year is definitely about working together to reach our fitness goals. 

How can you maximise your exercise routine?

Whether you’re a regular runner, keen cyclist or just about to dip your toe into the world of fitness, here are some tips to get the most out of your workout:

AM or PM

It’s often assumed that exercising in the morning is better for your body as it sets you up for the day ahead. However, if you’re more of a night owl and would rather spend an extra hour in bed, you’ll be pleased to hear that a recent study suggests that it doesn’t matter when you workout. Exercising in the evening won’t affect your ability to fall asleep – especially if it’s a relaxing yoga session.

Stretch it out

Sometimes it’s tempting to skip the last five minutes of your cardio class or not bother to stretch out your muscles after a long run, but pretty much every fitness expert strongly advocates some form of stretching following a workout. Not only does it improve your posture by loosening tight muscles and reduce the risk of injury and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), but stretching will also help calm your mind.

Relax your muscles

If you’re someone that always suffers with DOMS a couple of days after working out, it’s worth booking into a yoga class the following day to help stretch out your muscles and flush out any lactic acid or enlist the help of Magnesium Oil Original Flakes by Better You. A 20 minute soak in the bath with these can help soothe sore, tight muscles and leave you feeling fully relaxed. If you don’t have a bath, it’s worth considering the Magnesium Body Butter, which has the extra benefit of leaving your skin feeling soft and smooth too.

Treat yourself

It’s easy to go into any new exercise routine with the ‘good hard or go home’ mindset, but don’t forget to give yourself some leeway every now and again. ‘Still enjoy the odd beer, wine or your food of choice- it’s not meant to be a miserable process!’ says fitness trainer Matt Roberts.