woman thinking on park bench

Afraid of Aging? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be

The idea of aging is something that many do not react well to, but why is this?

Well, it could have something to do with the physical changes that take place, or even the mental ones.

But while this may be the case, aging is really not something that you need to be afraid of. Here are just a few of the reasons why…

Aging Doesn’t Mean You Must Have Poor Health

Many people think that pain, illness and disease are all things that go hand-in-hand with old age.

But this is not true…

Yes, there are certain diseases that become more common as you get older, but, for many of them, there are actually quite a few preventative steps that you can take.

One of these is by paying attention to nutrition

colorful food nutritional benefits infographic

Malnutrition is becoming an increasing problem, especially amongst the elderly, and this can have a number of severe consequences:

  • Weakened muscles and bones
  • Higher susceptibility to diseases and infections
  • Risk of becoming underweight
  • Slower healing time

By ensuring that you are receiving all the nutrition that you need, you will be having a huge impact on your health in the future. A healthy diet now means that, as you age, you will not need to deal with the diseases and health issues that others face. 

Aging Means You’ll Have More Time

Imagine having an extra hour or two in your day…

How would you spend it?

The idea of having this extra time may seem ludicrous to some, but this is exactly what you will have as you get older.

How?

Because older adults need less sleep.

In fact, this is a sign of healthy aging.

So, how much sleep will you need?

Well, up until the age of 30, you need between seven and eight hours. After this, you need between six and seven. 

Of course, a lack of sleep can be damaging too.

How do you know if you are getting enough sleep?

Pay attention to how sleepy you feel during the day. If you are wide awake and alert, then this means that you have likely had enough sleep the night before. However, if you start to feel drowsy at some point during the day, then you may need an hour or two more each night.

Aging Makes You Happier

The concept of happiness has been at the center of so much research in recent years. 

One interesting result is the fact that seniors, out of all of the different age groups out there, are among the happiest of them all. This is especially the case when compared to those who are middle-aged. 

Wondering why this is?

Researchers believe that this could be down to better coping abilities. Since seniors have likely already been through quite a bit of hardship in their lives, they are much better able to deal with negative situations, and are also quite optimistic.

Aging Increases Marital Satisfaction

For those who are married, this may really interest you..

Many parents think that once the last of their children have moved out, a marriage will feel so much emptier.

But this is actually the opposite from the truth.

Research has shown that once all children have left home, there tends to be an increase in marital satisfaction.

senior couple

Why?

Because often, couples find themselves drifting apart, or feeling disconnected, while going through all that it takes to raise children. However, once the children have left, couples are able to get back into touch with each other, rediscovering why they fell in love with each other in the first place.

Aging Allows You to Pursue Your Dreams

When you are in your teenage years, the passion to pursue your dreams is a strong one. However, as you continue on through life, this can often be dulled down. Many find themselves in jobs that they do not enjoy, spending years doing something that does not really satisfy them.

However, once retirement rolls around, this all changes…

How?

Well, retirement gives you so much more time, and this time can be spent pursuing some of those long lost dreams that you may have put on hold years ago.

Whether you wanted to travel to a foreign country to learn a new language, write your very first novel, or grow your own food, you will have so much time once you are retired to try all of these exciting things.

Ever wanted to start your own business?

Retirement is the time to do so. In fact, over the past ten years or so, the average age for an entrepreneur is between 55 and 64.

Aging Gives You More Family Time

grandfather and grandson playing in the grass

In addition to spending your retirement time pursuing your dreams, you will also have so much more time to spend with your family and loved ones.

Being able to see your children and grandchildren grow up is something that so many look forward to, and this time of your life may even be one of the highlights of all of your years.

Aging Teaches You Emotional Management Skills

In your younger years, you may often experience moments where your emotions seem to simply overwhelm you, leaving you feeling confused and unsure of what to do.

Fortunately, these moments decrease as you age…

Managing your emotions is actually considered to be a life skill that takes decades to master. The result of this is emotional stability, as well as the ability pay more attention to the good, and less attention to the bad. This could be another reason as to why seniors have a happier outlook on life than younger generations. 

Aging Can Boost Cognitive Function

There is no denying that aging commonly brings with it cognitive decline, but researchers are finding that, in some ways, cognitive function may actually improve with age.

There is still plenty more research to be done on the topic, but a study carried out by the University of Illinois examined the way in which older air traffic controllers carried out their job in comparison to younger generations of air traffic controllers.

Wondering what the results were?

Even though the older group was experiencing some short term memory loss, as well as a reduction in visual spatial processing, they still excelled at their jobs. When it came to navigating multiple aircrafts at the same time, and avoiding a collision, the older group was far superior

Aging Teaches You Not to Judge Others

In your younger years, you may have often cast judgement upon others. Whether due to material goods they did or did not have, or something superficial, such as the way in which they looked, judgement is something that just about everybody is guilty of.

Judgement may not be a huge evil in the big scheme of things, but it does often lead to negative emotions within the person doing the judging, which is no good for your mental health.

However, this changes with age…

As you grow older, you will learn not to judge other people, and will instead naturally begin to accept them for who they are.

Aging Doesn’t Mean Isolation

One worry that many have about aging is that they may find themselves isolated from all that is out there.

However, the world is becoming increasingly age-friendly.

happy senior people

In fact, the World Health Organization has started an initiative, in conjunction with a number of cities around the world, to make the world more age-friendly. 

What exactly does this mean?

Here are just a few of the ways in which cities are adapting to their elderly population:

  • Age-friendly transportation
  • New forms of education
  • New care and housing concepts
  • Age-friendly business workplaces and campuses

From Mumbai to New York, cities all over the world are embracing this initiative, determined to make the world a better place for those who are aging.

Aging Reveals Your True Identity

Many people spend their youth trying to discover who they really are, but very few find the answers…

Why is this?

Because discovering who you are is something that takes decades, and cannot be rushed in just a few years.

Each year, you will learn so many new things about yourself, whether this be related to your character, your beliefs or your abilities. You will learn both positive and negative things about yourself, and these discoveries will accumulate over the years, meaning that you will finally understand your inner nature in depth.

Aging Means You Have More Life Experience

The older you get, the more life experiences you accumulate.

Everybody goes through different things in their life, and these experiences make you who you are. 

While you may sometimes face negative experiences, these are just as important as the positive, as you will come out of them having learned something, even if it may not feel like it at the time.

All of these life experiences also means that you become much more interesting to others. You can use your experiences to guide and advise others, changing peoples’ lives for the better.

Aging Doesn’t Mean Giving Up Driving

A few decades ago, growing older meant that you would soon have to stop driving, but this is no longer the case.

Technology has advanced in huge leaps and bounds, and all of these innovations mean that people will be able to continue to drive, in a safe manner, as they grow in age.

senior woman driving

What are some of these innovations?

Everything from adaptive headlights, which pivot the light beam so that drivers can see better on curved roads, to assisted parking systems to rear cameras make driving so much easier.

Aging Doesn’t Mean Losing Your Independence

One of the aspects of aging that many fear is having to become completely dependent on others.

However, the chances of this happening are actually quite slim…

Let’s begin by taking a look at those between the ages of 65 and 74.

When it comes to everyday tasks, this age group barely differs from those who are middle-aged. This is especially true for those living in an age-friendly location, such as within easy walking distance of shops.

But yes, things do change slightly once you pass this age range…

However, unless you are suffering from a physical health problem, or a cognitive issue, you will still not need to be completely dependent on others. You may need some extra help from support services, but you will still be able to live in your own home and continue doing what you love.

Aging Gives You More Confidence

Along with age comes confidence.

Why?

Well, the answer has already been mentioned above, and this is down to all of the life experiences you will have acquired.

Each of these experiences will add to your sense of confidence, meaning that, as you reach the later stages of old age, you will have confidence in buckets! This confidence is something that really only does come with experience, but it can really change the lives of those who have suffered from a lack of confidence in their earlier years. 

Aging is a Privilege

You may not think it now, but aging is actually quite a privilege.

Wondering how?

Think about everything that people face on a daily basis…

From crime to pollution to politics to stress, there are so many people that do not even get to see the age of 60.

No matter how old you may currently be, think about all that you have seen and experienced in your lifetime. Every day really is a gift, so put your fear of aging behind you and make the most of all that life has to offer.

woman drinking tea next to window

De-Stress for the Weekend

Have you had a particularly busy and stressful week?

Here are some tried-and-tested ways for you to de-stress for the weekend, so that you can really relax, unwind, and enjoy your time off.

Why is it Important to De-Stress?

Before you try to de-stress, it is important to understand why this is important, as this will give you the extra motivation needed to really make an effort.

Each time you experience stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which helps to trigger the fight or flight response in the human body. In ancient times, this would help humans escape from dangerous predators and other fatal situations.

effects of cortisol

However, in today’s world, stress can be caused by so many different factors, from a traffic jam to a late night at work. Your body cannot differentiate between how serious the stressor is, so will always release cortisol.

While this is not too harmful in the short term, it can really be damaging in the long run.

How?

Here are just a few of the physical and mental health problems that stress can cause:

  • Hypertension and headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Acne and other skin issues
  • Exacerbation of existing conditions, such as asthma, eczema and irritable bowel syndrome

While it may be difficult to control how often you feel stressed, there are, thankfully, a number of ways in which you can de-stress your body quite quickly.

Take a Deep Breath

The very first thing that you should do when you begin to feel stressed is focus on your breathing.

Why?

Because even just taking a few deep breaths will give your body an extra boost of oxygen, which will quickly help to relieve stress and tension.

On the other hand, shallow breathing, which people often do when they are stressed, does the opposite, and stimulates the nervous system, making you feel even worse.

In addition to taking a few deep breaths, you can push this even further and try out a couple of breathing exercises.

While these may seem futile, several clinical studies have proven that breathing exercises can help to do everything from reducing blood pressure to preventing damage caused by stress.

Go For a Walk

One of the best ways to relieve your body of stress is to get it moving.

This can be in the form of any sort of exercise, but walking tends to be the easiest to do when you want to de-stress quickly.

How does it work?

Well, when you take a brisk walk, your body releases several neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin and GABA. These then improve your mood, as well as your overall sense of well-being.

In addition to this, exercise also helps to increase blood flow to the brain, which is another way in which it relieves stress.

Don’t have much time for a walk?

All you need is 15 minutes, as this is enough for you to experience some of the immediate benefits that exercise can bring. Of course, if you can spare a bit more time, then that will be even more beneficial.

Do Some Forest-Bathing

There is so much research out there to prove how forest-bathing can significantly reduce stress.

happy woman walking in the forest

No idea what this is?

Forest-bathing simply refers to spending some time in a forested area, and has been a trend in Japan for a while.

Why?

Because studies have shown that spending time in a forest will leave you with lowered cortisol levels, as well as lowered blood pressure. 

Buy a Few House Plants

While you may not be able to spend time in a forest every day, house plants are a great way to ensure that you have some contact with plants on a daily basis.

Just being around them can help to induce your relaxation response, so try incorporating a few around your home.

There are even some house plants that are known for their de-stressing benefits…

Here are a few:

  • Lavender – its scent helps to slow down heart rate, and lower blood pressure and stress levels
  • Jasmine – will help you to feel less anxious and more peaceful, while inducing sleep
  • Rosemary – purifies the air while reducing stress and anxiety
  • Aloe Vera – cleanses the air of certain toxins while treating symptoms of anxiety
  • Snake Plant – improves energy levels while treating stress-induced headaches

A Good Night’s Sleep

There is an increasing number of studies out there that point to the connection between regular, quality sleep and the ability to overcome stress.

A good night’s sleep helps your mind and body to repair and restore itself, resulting in a number of different benefits:

  • Lowered stress levels
  • Better emotional regulation
  • Stronger immune system
  • Decreased risk of many chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease

Feeling too stressed to get to sleep? 

Try to create a relaxing environment in your bedroom, with the use of candles, essential oils and soft music. There are also many breathing techniques out there that could have you fast asleep in no time at all.

Have a Laugh

The idea of laughing when you are feeling immensely stressed may seem a little far-fetched, but even faking a few laughs can have an impact, really making you feel so much better.

How?

Laughing has been proven to have the ability to decrease the amount of cortisol in the body, while also reducing inflammation within arteries.

Pucker Up

Don’t feel like laughing?

Try kissing instead.

couple kissing

Studies have shown that this works well for women in particular, as kissing that special someone on the lips triggers the brain to release endorphins.

The kiss does not need to be sexually arousing, but should be a deep and emotional one. Aim for at least one ten-second kiss a day to keep your stress levels to a minimum.

Eat a Meal Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Stress and food are closely connected, which is why many people often reach for junk food to comfort them in times of stress.

However, the excess sugar, salt and other unhealthy ingredients will only make you feel worse in the long run.

Want to know what to eat to make you feel better?

Food containing omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids prevent the body from producing too much cortisol, which will stop you from feeling so stressed. It also triggers the release of a hormone called DHEA, which is known for being able to combat stress, doubling the effects that omega-3 fatty acids can have.

So, which foods do you need to eat?

Here are some of the foods that are richest in omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Herring
  • Flaxseeds
  • Egg yolk

Chew Some Gum

Can chewing gum really help you to de-stress?

Science says yes, and while it may not help during times of extreme stress, it will definitely make a difference if you are experiencing mild to moderate stress.

Studies have shown that chewing some gum can reduce the amount of cortisol in the body by 16% during mild stress, and 12% during moderate stress.

While this may seem too good to be true, it is definitely a method worth trying!

Listen to Some Music

Music has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, so spending some time listening to a few tunes could really help you to de-stress before the weekend.

woman dancing to music

Not sure what to listen to?

Give classical a try for maximum benefits, as this has been shown to slow down the heart rate, decrease cortisol levels, and lower blood pressure.

However, just about any sort of music will still trigger your brain to release plenty of neurochemicals, such as dopamine, which will have you feeling great.

Don’t have any music at hand?

Make your own! Even humming to yourself can help to lower stress, so don’t be afraid to sing a few songs aloud.

Unplug

If you are someone that tends to be glued to your smartphone, then you should know that these have been linked to heightened stress levels. There are so many other ways in which the modern world over-stimulates the mind, leading to an increased stress response.

The best way to take some time out from all of this is to unplug. Turn off your phone and your computer, and spend some time in an environment where there are no electronic distractions. Whether you create a small haven at home, or head to the beach to spend the day with the sun, sand and sea, unplugging can really help to re-balance your mind.

Play a Video Game

While electronics do often contribute to an increase in stress levels, they can also help to reduce them.

One example of this is with video games, which decrease stress and improve the mood.

How?

By absorbing your mind in the game that you are playing, which provides the perfect distraction to give your nervous system some time to calm down.

However, the type of game that you choose is key…

Violent games should always be avoided, while the most beneficial games tend to be puzzle games.

Write It Down

There is no denying that journaling is a great way to reduce stress, but there are several different theories as to why this is.

Whatever the reason may be, writing about stressful events or moments will help you to process them so much better. On the other hand, if you choose to ignore what you are feeling, this will only heighten your body’s stress response.

Journaling also enables you to take a look at your stressors from a different perspective, giving you the chance to observe how you can improve things in the future.

You do not need to spend long writing, as just a few minutes may be all you need. Try to do this every day, so that you get into the habit of it and it soon becomes second nature.

Eat a Banana

While eating a banana may not help during times of extreme stress, this is definitely a clever trick to try if you are experiencing mild stress.

How does it work?

Well, during times of stress, blood pressure rises. Bananas are packed with potassium, which can quickly regulate blood pressure.

Bananas also provide the body with the energy needed to rise above a stressful situation, while protecting the body from some of the negative effects that stress, and cortisol, can have, from a stroke to a heart attack to depression.

Learn a Craft

The majority of crafts out there tend to make use of repetitive motions, and these are known to be extremely meditative, relieving stress and reducing anxiety.

Knitting is a great example of this, as it features so many repetitive motions.

knitting red jumper

Not a fan of knitting?

Try cross-stitch instead, or have a go at making your own jewelry.

Spend Time With Friends

There are a few studies out there that show that spending time with a close friend can really help to decrease cortisol levels in the body.

Don’t have any friends nearby?

Give man’s best friend a try instead. Dogs are known for being able to lower stress levels and increase happiness. Even if you do not have a dog of your own, or know anyone that has a dog, you can still head over to your local animal shelter and spend a few hours volunteering with all of the dogs that live there.

De-Clutter

Surrounding yourself with masses of clutter is only going to make you feel stressed so much easier.

De-cluttering can seem like an intimidating task, but, by taking it one small step at a time, you will soon accomplish all you need to.

Begin with a small part of your home, such as a drawer, throwing out what you do not need and then re-organizing what remains.

Each day, or even each week, tackle a new part of your house, until your whole home has been de-cluttered.

 

woman with a headache

Having Killer Headaches? Try These Cures

Headaches are the second most common form of chronic pain, and, when your head is truly pounding, it can be hard to concentrate on other parts of life, whether this may be work, driving, or even having a simple conversation.

Rather than reaching for the drugs, give one of these tips a try the next time you are having a killer headache.

Sip on Ginger Tea

Ginger has long since been used to treat a variety of ailments, by cultures all around the world. Now, thanks to a number of clinical studies that have been carried out with this ingredient, scientists are backing it too.

So, what exactly does ginger do?

It targets the blood vessels in the head, reducing inflammation and therefore reducing pain. This is especially useful for those who suffer from migraines, as migraines are caused by excessive dilation of blood vessels in the head.

The quickest and easiest way to make use of ginger is by steeping the root in some water to make a tea, adding in some fresh lemon juice if you would like an extra tang.

ginger tea

To use ginger topically, mix together a paste with some ginger powder and a couple of tablespoons of water, and apply this directly to your forehead for a few minutes.

Stretch It Out

Headaches are often caused by muscle tension, and this can sometimes be relieved through stretching.

There are a few stretches in particular that will help to target the muscles that often contribute to headaches:

  • Stretch your neck by moving your chin forwards, upwards and then towards each shoulder, before repeating
  • Shrug your shoulders upwards, and then forwards and backwards, before repeating
  • Press your palm into your forehead and hold it there for a few seconds, before pressing a hand onto each side of your head
  • Rotate your neck in clockwise and anticlockwise directions

Try to do these stretches twice a day, repeating each stretch three to five times, with a five second break in between each one.

Give Acupuncture a Try

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of different health issues, with thin needles being inserted underneath the skin, to rebalance the body’s flow of energy.

Sound painful?

It really isn’t. All you will feel is a slight tingling feeling when each needle is inserted.

However, there are only certain headaches that acupuncture can treat…

There are two main types of headaches out there; primary and secondary. Primary headaches include tension headaches and migraines, while secondary headaches are brought on by another health condition, such as a head injury or allergies.

Acupuncture is mainly used to treat primary headaches, whether this may be a frustrating headache that seems to return each day, or a migraine that seems to never completely disappear.

acupuncture

Each session lasts for around 30 minutes to an hour, and the cumulative effects of a few sessions can be a long-lasting way to prevent any future headaches.

Drink Up

Headaches are a common symptom of dehydration, and these can often be quickly cleared simply by drinking a few glasses of water.

This method can work for a variety of different headache types, from tension to cluster. Even if you do not feel dehydrated, drinking a few glasses of water is an easy method that is still definitely worth a try.

Beverages containing electrolytes are also a great way to boost hydration, and could help if plain water does not seem to be working quickly enough.

Take a Screen Break

If you have been spending a significant amount of time staring at a screen, whether this may be your computer at work, your TV at home, or your smartphone, this could be the reason behind your tension headache.

Try taking a break from your screen for a while, and seeing if that eases the pain.

Whether or not your screen is causing your headaches, you should really be taking regular screen breaks anyway, even if this is just for a few minutes at a time to have a drink of water or stretch your legs.

Use a Compress

Another easy method to soothe a headache away is to use a compress, holding this against the back of your neck.

hot compress

Wondering whether to go hot or cold?

If your headache is more of a dull pain, go with a hot compress, whereas if it is pulsating or throbbing, use a cold compress. This will help to lower the temperature of your blood before it enters your brain, reducing any inflammation.

Sniff A Soothing Scent

There are certain herbs out there that have scents capable of clearing even the roughest of headaches.

Here are a few to try:

  • Peppermint Oil – opens up clogged blood vessels in the head and regulates blood flow. Either mix some with water and rub this on the back of your neck, as well as your temples, or simply rub some crushed peppermint leaves on your forehead. You could also make a herbal tea with peppermint leaves, either fresh or dried, and sip this slowly, while inhaling the scent.
  • Lavender Oil this is another herb that is known for alleviating headaches, and can simply be inhaled straight to enjoy its benefits. Alternatively, mix a couple of drops in with some almond or olive oil and massage your head with this, or put a few drops into some hot water, and inhale the steam.
  • Rosemary or Thyme Oil rosemary and thyme oil have been used for centuries to treat headaches. For best results, dab a drop of the oil onto each temple, as well as onto your forehead, and massage this gently into your skin.
  • Basil Oil works as a muscle relaxant, so will clear headaches caused by muscle tension. Make a tea with fresh basil leaves, or simply chew on the leaves themselves. You can also place some fresh leaves into hot water, and inhale the steam.
  • Cloves contains cooling and pain-relieving properties, making them great for throbbing headaches. Crush a few cloves and wrap them in a clean cloth, before inhaling the scent repeatedly. Alternatively, mix some clove oil with coconut oil, as well as a bit of sea salt, and use this to gently massage your forehead and temples.

Try Yoga for Tension Headaches

If you know that your headaches are caused by tension, then yoga is something that you may want to try.

Why?

Yoga relaxes the muscles in your head, neck and back, while boosting circulation to your upper body and brain, all of which can quickly relieve a tension headache.

As soon as you notice the first sign that a headache is on its way, you should give a few of these yoga poses a go, as this will prevent your muscles from going into spasm:

  • The Simple Seated Twist
  • Gomukhasana Arms
  • The Side Stretch
  • Grabbing Opposite Elbows

Take a Magnesium Supplement

Magnesium used to be abundant in the plants and animals eaten by humans, but, due to a depletion in soil quality, natural sources of magnesium are hard to come by.

Why does this matter when you have a raging headache?

Because one of the most common symptoms of a magnesium deficiency is a headache, especially migraines.

Not only do people who experience migraines have lower levels of magnesium in their body than people who do not, but one study found that a regular intake of magnesium could actually lower the frequency of developing a migraine by 41.6%.

Wondering which is the best form of magnesium to take as a supplement?

Go for magnesium oxide, of which you will need between 400-500 milligrams each day. Even if your migraine has already started, taking a magnesium supplement immediately can help to soothe it.

Need some help right now, but don’t have any magnesium supplements to hand?

Try snacking on one of these:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Blue poppy seeds
  • Cashew nuts
  • Almonds
  • Dark chocolate

sources of magnesium

See if these sources of magnesium help with your migraines; if they do, you can count on having them regularly.

Eat Some Headache-Busting Foods

There are certain foods out there that contain compounds capable of quickly soothing a headache.

Feel the pain beginning to come in?

Head on down to your nearest grocery store and stock up on these ingredients:

  • Cherries – contain a compound called quercetin, which is not only a strong antioxidant, but also has anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin helps the body to block out pain, reducing the severity of a headache. Eat around 20 tart cherries to experience the effects, or a glass of cherry juice.
  • Spicy Foods whether you go siracha or hot peppers, spicy foods will clear your sinuses, and therefore open up your airways. This alleviates any pressure and soothes the pain of a sinus headache.
  • Bananas bananas are packed with B vitamins, which increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, meaning that they work in a similar way to an anti-depressant. This then lowers the amount of pain that your body feels, reducing the severity of a headache.

While you are dealing with a headache, it is also important to avoid headache-triggering foods. From cheese to processed meats to artificial sweeteners, try to stick to a wholesome diet when healing your body.

Walk It Off

While you may not feel like exerting yourself too much when suffering from a killer headache, exercise is actually a great way to relieve yourself of the pain.

How?

Exercise triggers the body to release endorphins, which are basically the body’s natural painkillers. If you begin to exercise regularly, you will notice a reduction in the frequency and intensity of your headaches, as well as your migraines.

So, the next time you feel a headache coming on, step outdoors and take a brisk walk, preferably somewhere quiet. Even if this is only for ten minutes, this is still enough time to stimulate your brain to release the endorphins that will soothe your head.

Relaxation Exercises

While additional research in this area is still needed, current studies show that relaxation exercises could really help reduce the intensity of a headache.

What exactly are relaxation exercises?

They could be anything from listening to calming music, using mental imagery to unwind, or doing some deep breathing.

Try this the next time you have a headache:

  • Lie still, breathing in and out slowly
  • Think of a mantra and repeat this in your head, to stop your mind from wandering
  • Beginning with your toes, contract and relax your muscles one at a time, working your way up your legs through your body, until you reach your head.
  • Take your time with this, so that it takes around 20 minutes

Change Your Pillow

If you tend to wake up with a headache in the morning, this could be down to your pillow.

Pillows are designed to keep the head in line with the neck and spine while a person is sleeping, but if you end up with your head being misaligned, this can lead to headaches.

Pay attention to your pillow density, as those that are too soft do not provide enough support, while those that are too hard can lead to other problems.

How often should you be changing your pillow.

Every few months, or when they start to lose their original form. 

When suffering from killer headaches, it can be easy to just reach for the pills to numb the pain, but this is not something that you want to be relying on in the long run. By giving some of these methods a try, you may just find an easy, and completely natural, way to soothe a raging headache.

 

Women walking in polluted air with a mask

Your Skin’s Reaction To Pollution

Pollution can be a tricky issue to deal with, because, unlike other factors in your life, such as sun exposure and diet, the effects of pollution will not be immediately visible on your skin.

Nevertheless, your skin reacts to pollution in a number of different ways, and it is important to understand this in order to protect your skin as much as you can.

What Is Pollution and Where Does it Come From?

Simply put, pollution is when contaminants are introduced into a natural environment, and this is something that happens on a daily basis.

Every day, an increasing amount of microscopic specks of smoke, acid, soot and more are released into the atmosphere.

Where do they come from?

So many different sources, including cars, power plants, fires and more.

factories releasing harmful smoke into the city

Air pollution is actually one of the most common types of pollution, with research showing that traffic pollution in particular may be the single most toxic substance for the skin.

As you can imagine, this is a greater problem in urban areas, and even rural areas that are nearby to them, as the wind carries and distributes pollutant particles.

Water pollution is another one that you need to be aware of. Again, this is caused by so many different things, from industrial waste to chemical run-offs to laundry detergents.

While there are other types of pollution out there, from noise and light pollution to thermal and radioactive pollution, it’s air and water pollution that you really need to focus on when it comes to your skin.

How Exactly Does Pollution Affect the Skin?

Pollution has been linked to a wide range of different health issues, from lung and heart diseases to diabetes and even to mental health. However, the effects that pollution has on the skin are only now being understood…

To begin with, pollutant particles are absolutely tiny, often up to 20 times smaller than the size of one of your pores.

As you can imagine, this means that once they settle on to the surface of your skin, it does not take long for them to work their way into your pores and infiltrate your skin’s different layers.

So, what do these particles do when they enter your skin?

They trigger inflammatory responses in a few different ways…

Firstly, they create free radicals, while depleting the body’s natural levels of antioxidants.

In a way, this is a two-pronged attack, because it is the antioxidants in the body that are key when it comes to fighting free radicals. With all of these extra free radicals, and a loss of antioxidants, your body, and your skin, are somewhat defenseless.

Free radicals not only accelerate the aging process, but they also severely damage the cells within the body, including the DNA within them, which then causes new cells to grow in a damaged way.

In fact, studies have shown that people who live in highly polluted areas age 10% faster than those who live in the countryside.

Another result of the inflammation caused by pollution is a stimulation of melanocytes, which are basically the cells responsible for your skin color. By over-stimulating these melanocytes, excess pigment is created, which results in what are known as age spots, or sun spots.

close-up of woman with sun spots

In some cases, environmental pollutants can be so harmful that they cause severe genotoxic stress, potentially leading to skin cancer.

The inflammation caused by pollution also expands the blood vessels in your skin, making them much more visible. This manifests as redness, and, in some cases, rosacea.

The collagen in your skin, which is basically your skin’s support system, giving it its firmness and smoothness, is also affected by pollution…

How?

Well, not only does pollution break down the collagen that is already in your skin, it also interferes with the production of new collagen. This then results in sagging skin, as well as fine lines and wrinkles. This is exacerbated by the fact that pollution starves the skin of oxygen, while drying up its natural oils, as dehydrated skin ages much faster than hydrated skin.

Another effect that pollution can have on the skin is hives. In fact, studies in Beijing, which is an extremely polluted city, have shown that there are direct correlations between spikes in air pollution and hospital visits for skin conditions, with hives being one of the main ones.

With pollution affecting so many different processes within the skin and body, everybody’s skin will react in its own way.

However, here are a few of the other skin issues that pollution can cause:

  • Breakouts, similar to acne
  • Skin allergies
  • Rashes
  • A dull complexion
  • Dry and dehydrated skin
  • Eczema

Protecting Your Skin From the Effects of Pollution

Now that you know about the damage that pollution can cause, you likely want to know about how you can protect your skin from this, while also reversing any damage that has already been caused.

Cleansing is one of the most important steps in your skin care routine when it comes to tackling pollution.

Why?

Because this will remove any environmental toxins from your skin, clearing away clogged particle matter.

For those who live in extremely polluted areas, a double cleanse may be worth considering, as this will ensure that all pollutants have been removed from your skin. While this may be the case, you do need to make sure that you are not overdoing it with the cleansing. Everybody’s skin reacts differently, so while some people may benefit from a double cleanse, others may find this too drying for their skin. 

Exfoliating a couple of times a week is also vital. While cleansing clears away the pollutants on the surface of your skin, exfoliating will enable you to get even deeper, clearing out any pollutants that have already worked their way into your pores.

Exfoliation will also help any subsequent skin care products that you apply to better penetrate your skin, meaning that they will be able to work so much more effectively.

When it comes to the free radicals that pollution causes, one of the best ways to protect yourself from this is by increasing your antioxidant intake.

Wondering what makes antioxidants so powerful?

Well, they are able to donate missing electrons to free radicals, therefore neutralizing them and preventing them from causing damage to the rest of your skin cells.

infographic on free radicals, antioxidants and normal molecules

Antioxidants can be consumed, as well as applied topically. When it comes to topical antioxidants, your best bets are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Squaline

You are likely to find these antioxidants, as well as many more, in numerous skin care products.

In terms of foods that contain antioxidants, try to increase your consumption of the following:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables of a wide range of colors
  • Green tea
  • Oily fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Coffee
  • Dark chocolate
  • Herbs and spices

However, keep in mind that in order to maximize the effects that antioxidants have, you need to be providing your body with a wide range of them. 

Why?

Because antioxidants work in conjunction with each other to heal and protect your skin, and single ingredients on their own will not have much of an impact in the end.

Another way to protect your skin from pollution is to strengthen your skin’s natural protective barrier.

This can be found on the outermost layer of your skin, and is not only important for keeping moisture locked in, but also for keeping environmental toxins out.

If you have a damaged skin barrier, then the effects of pollution will hit you so much harder.

So, how do you go about protecting and strengthening your natural protective barrier?

To begin with, you need to be moisturizing daily. Moisturizers are designed to form a thin film over the surface of the skin, therefore, in a way, creating their own barrier. Moisturizers will also keep your skin hydrated, which is essential for your natural protective barrier to thrive.

You should also be paying close attention to the ingredients in the skin care products that you use.

Why?

Because harsh ingredients will strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving your protective barrier vulnerable. Many ingredients can also have an alkalizing effect on your skin, meaning that they alter your skin’s delicate pH balance, disrupting all the natural processes that your skin goes through.

Your diet can also have an impact on your skin’s natural barrier. Ceramides, as well as essential fatty acids, both do so much to strengthen the barrier, and while these can both be consumed through your diet, obtaining enough to actually protect your skin from the damaging effects of pollution can be difficult.

So, what can you do about this?

Well, in addition to using skin care products that contain both of these ingredients, you could also consider taking oral supplements for both. These will be absorbed by the skin from within, and have been proven to have a significant effect in just a couple of months. 

Of course, sunscreen is also vital. While you may be focussing on fighting pollution rather than the sun, the sun’s UV rays will damage your skin’s barrier, making sunscreen essential.

For those who live in areas that are extremely polluted, it would be worthwhile listening in to your daily weather forecasts. On the days when meteorologists call for high amounts of smog or low air quality conditions, try to stay indoors as much as possible, and wear clothes that completely cover your skin when you have to head outdoors.

If you use air conditioning in your house, you should also make sure that the filters are kept clean, so that they do not end up trapping pollutants and blowing them into your home.

What About People Who Live in Rural Areas?

If you live in a rural area, you may think that your skin is safe from the effects of pollution, but this is not at all true…

As mentioned above, pollution particles are incredibly tiny, meaning that, even with a small gust of wind, they can spread further than you would imagine.

This means that nobody is safe from the effects of pollution, no matter where you live.

While you may not need to be quite as diligent when it comes to protecting your skin from pollution if you live in a rural area, you will still need to take at least a few of the steps mentioned above.

Don’t Forget About Indoor Pollutants

In addition to all of the pollutants outdoors, you need to also remember that indoor pollutants will also damage your skin.

Where do indoor pollutants come from?

A variety of different sources:

  • Stoves
  • Fireplaces
  • Particles from pressed wood products
  • Foam insulation

In addition to following the steps above to protect your skin from pollution, you should also be taking a few extra measures to reduce the damage that indoor pollutants can cause. These include improving the ventilation in your home by allowing more fresh air to flow through, while keeping the humidity relatively low.

Anti-Pollution Skin Care

With the effects that pollution has on the skin being more and more recognized, skin care companies are now investing heavily into researching ways in which they can create products that will protect the skin.

There are already a few of these products out there, with many containing high levels of niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, since this is quite effective at combatting pollution damage.

However, researchers are currently looking into ways in which they can create products that actually block this damage from occurring in the first place. One molecule that is able to do this has already been found, and is being registered as a cosmetic ingredient, meaning that this will soon make its way into skin care products in the next few years. 

Pollution is something that everybody has to deal with, no matter where in the world you may live. While pollution has been proven to have severely detrimental effects on the skin, in a number of different ways, there are, fortunately, steps that you can take to protect yourself from this, and you should really try to do this as much as possible.