The A – Z Guide To A Healthier Happier You! (Part 4)

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Getting enough sleep may be important for emotional wellbeing, as well as resting your body, say researchers in California. They found that during REM – or ‘dreaming’ – sleep, the body’s stress chemistry shuts down and this may take the edge off difficult emotional experiences, making them easier to cope with.

Think Positively

Description: Just a few lifestyle changes will leave you jumping for joy!

Just a few lifestyle changes will leave you jumping for joy!

Tell yourself: ‘Everything is going to be fine,’ and the latest research suggests it might just work. Exactly how the mind-body connection operates is still unclear, but the evidence is mounting – research shows that optimists recover better, have healthier immune systems and live longer. Optimism seems to reduce the negative physical impact of stress and boost the body’s ability to renew and repair itself. But how do you move from glass half empty to glass half full? Have a positive mantra that you repeat to yourself, and take 10 minutes at the end of each day to think about three things that went well (however small), advises Dr Ilona Boniswell, senior lecturer in Positive Psychology at the University of East London.

Use Your Garden

Make space for herbs. The process of planting and growing is a great stress buster, and herbs are even richer in antioxidants than fruit and vegetables, with individual healing properties. Basil is antibacterial, peppermint and fennel can help with indigestion, while mint acts as a natural breath freshener. Swiss researchers also discovered that a combination of sage and Echinacea was as effective as a standard painkiller in helping to relieve sore throat pain.

Vitamin D

Description: Vitamin D

There is growing evidence of high levels of deficiency – around half of us have inadequate vitamin D levels and one in six is severely deficient during the winter months. Add in low levels being linked with diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, MS and cancer, and it’s no wonder that many of us are now taking a regular dose. You can safely take a daily 25mcg supplement, but take it with a glass of milk or yogurt – new research suggests that, because it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, supplements are more effectively absorbed when taken with fatty foods.

Well-woman Checks

Prevention is always better than cure, so keep up to date with health checks. As well as three-yearly mammograms form 50 (changing to 47 – 49) and cervical smears from the age of 25, do the vital DIY checks – practise breast awareness by looking for any lumps or changes in shape, size or skin texture / thickness, and examine your skin for new moles or changes to existing ones. Twice-yearly dental visits are important to check for oral cancers, as well as keeping teeth and gums healthy. If you haven’t had your blood pressure monitored recently, go and get it done, and if you have a family history of diabetes or are overweight, you should also ask for a check. And don’t forget your eyes – two-yearly checks are recommended from your 20s.


A natural, lower-calorie and low-GI sweetener extracted from birch trees or maize, xylitol is widely used to sweeten chewing gum and can help protect teeth by reducing plaque formation.


Description: Yoga

Back in the days when yoga was, well, just yoga, choosing a class was easy. Now there are so many different varieties on offer that it’s hard for a beginner to know where to start. All yoga is about strength, flexibility and balance, but British Wheel of Yoga expert Zoe Knott says that yoga can be broadly divided into ‘flow’ and ‘non-flow’ approaches. Flow yoga (Ashtanga, Power and Bikram) is fast-paced and focuses on stamina, whereas non-flow yoga (Hatha, Iyengar and British Wheel of Yoga Classes) is slower and focuses on breathing, posture and guided relaxation. ‘While a non-flow class is calming and relaxing, you can expect to get hot and sweaty from a flow one,’ says Zoe Knott. Before choosing a class, talk to the teacher about the kind of yoga you would like to practise and, above all, ensure that the teacher has a nationally recognized qualification.’


It combines the fun of dance class and the energy of a cardio-based workout with built-in toning, plus it uses the principles of interval training – shorts bursts of intense activity interspersed with more moderate exercise – to maximize calorie burning. Zumba, the Latin dance fitness programme that’s sweeping the nation, claims to burn up to 800 calories an hour, and with six fitness programmes, there’s a class that suits every fitness level and ability.

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