Even on the dreariest of winter days, there are plenty of ways to bring sunshine into your life and leave your bank balance healthy too! These ten tips should help put a smile back on your face.
Experts agree that yoga can reduce stress, improve sleep, restore calm and enhance the feeling of well-being. Yogas deep breathing techniques bring balance to the nervous system while the poses themselves work to reduce stress hormones (like cortisol) and trigger the release of your body’s natural feel-good chemicals (serotonin and endorphins).
Start with something simple like a sun salutation, which will warm the body from the inside out and get the heart pumping, while safely and systematically stretching the muscles. Sun salutations are literally designed to make you feel sunnier.
Have more sex
Research has proven that getting busy in the bedroom leads to a better state of mind and a healthier body. In fact, regular bedrooms antics have shown to increase circulation, balance hormone production, aid relaxation, lower blood pressure, boost immunity and heart health and, overall, just make us happy. Having sex (particularly if you orgasm) boost levels of the hormone oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, which acts as a natural painkiller and can improve headaches, arthritis pain and symptoms of PMS. Do you need any more encouragement?
As the old saying goes, you are what you eat and, according to Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington, getting the right balance of nutrients from food can support our overall health and wellbeing. “Low levels of certain essential nutrients can affect mental health, with symptoms being associated with particular nutritional deficiencies; for example, iron deficiency anemia is associated with tiredness, folate and vitamin B12 deficient with mood problems such as feeling irritable, and low selenium intakes with poorer mood,” she explains.
Take a chilly dip
Swimming wild in a river or lake is an amazing way to relieve deep features stress and anxiety and is a brilliant form of exercise. Although the waters are pretty cold at this time of year, some wild swimming enthusiasts will hit the beach whatever the weather. Cold immersion is shown to soothe muscle aches, relieve depression and boost the immune system. Plus, it will give you a natural endorphin high that will brighten your mood. The long-term effects of a regular chilly dip are even more beneficial, including reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, decreasing body fat, inhibiting blood clotting that could lead to strokes, and even increasing fertility and libido.
Have a laugh
Research has shown that the benefits of a good, hearty laugh are far-ranging: helping to relieve physical tension and stress, boosting the immune system, reducing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. If those benefits aren’t enough, having a good chuckle every day will help protect your heart, improving the function of blood vessels and increasing blood flow, which can help product you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Try DIY beauty
A beauty fix doesn’t have to be pricey – the contents of your fridge could offer a range of quick and calming alternatives that will give your skin a refreshing boost and improve your mood. Placing slices of cucumber on your eyes to reduce puffiness is a great excuse to lay down and relax, while coolness will help relieve stress. Or try a no-fuss, easy homemade face mask using natural ingredients. Simply pick one suitable for your skin type, whip it up and slap it on. Choose ingredients such as avocado, which is a good source of potassium, known as ‘youth’ mineral, mashed banana to banish breakouts or live yogurt with a dab of manuka honey for moisturization. Fresh, glowing skin is a sure-fire way to give you confidence and make you smile.
Enjoy the Aromas
Julia Lawless, artisan aromatherapist, author, and owner of Aqua Oleum says one of the most effective ways to alter your mood is through the use of aromatic oils. “Our sense of smell connects directly to the part of our brain which processes our emotions,” explains Julia. “Recent research has shown how different scents can alter our brainwave patterns, regulate the systems within our body and influence our behavior. One of the most pleasurable ways to do this is to relax in a bath fragranced with a few drops of natural essential oils: petitgain and bergamot are uplifting; lavender and chamomile soothe our entire nervous system; while jasmine and neroli are both excellent oils for creating a feeling of optimism. Scent can help us to reconnect with our emotional interior and transform it, with truly remarkable and effective results.”
Just a cube of high cocoa chocolate contains a number of brilliant substances in small, but effective quantities. Caffeine increases resistance to fatigue; phenylethylamine, the chemical released in our bodies when we fall in love, is similar to amphetamines; tryptophan, an essential amino acid, increases the production of serotonin (an anti-depressant and natural stress-reducer); endorphins, natural opiates that are released by the brain in increased amounts when eating chocolate, and anandamide, which mimics the effects of marijuana by acting on the same brain receptors, resulting in a mild ‘high’.
Take a stroll
We all know exercise is good for us, but you don’t need to get all hot and sweaty to enjoy the benefits. It’s remarkable that something so simple as putting one foot in front of the other can be so restorative and invigorating, but the medical evidence is compelling. Taking regular brisk walks helps you stay healthy, live longer and improves your self-esteem and mood. Walking is great for circulation, it boosts overall energy levels and has been shown to improve your state of mind. Try to get in 10,000 steps each day but a quick walk can lift your mood.
Get some shut-eye
The benefits of sleep impact nearly every area of daily life and yet most of us don’t realize how much sleep we need, or why it is so important. According to the Division of Sleep Medicinal School, your body manages and requires sleep in much the same way that regulates the need for eating, drinking, and breathing. Extensive research also shows that sleep plays a vital role in promoting physical health, longevity, and emotional well-being. Time for bed!