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Drinking tea on the couch, with socks on

How to Create a Self-Care Routine that Actually Works

As many of us who have ever had social media (i.e. everyone) know, 2019 is all about self-care. And even though many try to disregard its importance, in this day and age, we truly need some time for ourselves, to take care of our physical, emotional and mental health.

We often go about our days just letting the stress accumulate without any regard for how it may impact our lives. When in fact, stress can have a major impact on both the body and the spirit.

That’s precisely where self-care comes in.

However, a lot of people struggle with implementing self-care into their daily lives. Rushing here and there, it remains forgotten among duties of the day. But, fear not, there are ways you can make sure you stick to your self-care routine.

What is Self-Care?

Most people find it tricky to truly take care of themselves. When we truly think about it, not many of us can find too many things that we do in that regard.

How long has it been since you dedicated a day, or even an evening, to yourself?

If you can’t remember, then it’s clear you’re in dire need of self-care.

Self-care includes activities that we do that help our physical, mental and emotional help. Its main purpose is to improve our mood and to reduce anxiety and the accumulated stress of the day. It is also the basis of a healthy relationship towards one’s self and even others.

It’s not selfish, as some may think. Self-care is extremely important if we are to help ourselves get through the stress of our day-to-day lives.

So don’t think you’re selfish if you’re dedicating your time to your well-being. It seems that we’re not doing enough of that as it is. Focus on yourself from time to time and this will lead to a much fuller, happier life.

It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – it can include a good book, reveling in the joy of bath bombs, or even playing music. But it is incredibly important to have that time devoted to doing what will make you feel better. 

There are various benefits to self-care, which are, frankly, too precious to count. Here’s what you can expect when you dedicate yourself to yourself:

  • Lowered stress
  • Improved wellbeing
  • Increase in productivity
  • Higher self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Improved health

So how do you create a reasonable self-care routine?

Many of us decide one day that we’ll start treating ourselves better, and that we’ll start our self-care routine this very day.

However, many of us also don’t follow through. Various commitments get in the way and we simply give up on what’s the easiest.

But, with these few tips, you can create your own self-care routine that you won’t abandon when the obstacles arise.

Do the Things You Love

One of the possibly worst things you can do when you’re trying to stick to your self-care routine is to do something you’ve heard is the best, but doesn’t quite cut it for you.

Yeah, yeah, we all know that yoga’s great (and it really is), but if you find that it doesn’t suit you, and you don’t feel too relaxed when you’re doing it, then that’s not something that should find its way into your routine.

Remember, everyone’s different. What works for someone else may not work for you.

And in that case, it’s most likely that you won’t commit to it.

Try to think of a few activities that you love, and some that bring you joy. For instance, you may feel happy when you’re playing the flute, or when you’re building a table. Make a list of activities that make you feel good.

If you’re not sure what you truly love, try a few different things. You may even find something that you’re good at. Why not? Try a dance or a cooking class, or listening to some podcasts, see what interests you and, more importantly, what leaves you feeling a little more content and a little less stressed.

Friends cooking together

Choose activities that are beneficial in various ways

There are truly plenty of self-care routines, but a lot of them do fall into some dimension of wellness. There are six dimensions of wellness: intellectual, spiritual, emotional, physical, social and occupational.

So, if you’re choosing to take care of yourself, choose activities that will be good for you in various ways.

For instance, if you enter a volleyball team, you get the bonus of physical and social wellness. On the other hand, if you join a book club, you’re getting both intellectual and social part of your being taken care of.

Of course, don’t go against yourself. If you feel like the social factor of the activity would not benefit you, choose something else. You can even read a book while you run on a treadmill, there’s nothing stopping you.

The important thing is to choose activities which will satisfy more needs, but that will also suit you.

Keep It Simple

One of the reasons why our self-care routines don’t always work is that they’re too complicated. And it’s not likely that we’ll stick to something too complicated.

In fact, we might just chuck it in the bin right on the first day precisely because of that, believing we can’t keep up with that.

And it’s true, if you go on thinking that it’s just another obligation, it’s probably not going to work. With so many other obligations pertaining to work, and our family/friends, we tend to put our needs on the backburner.

Self-care doesn’t have to be anything lengthy and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The main point here is to fit it into your lifestyle, while also getting to the point where you’re recharged and relaxed.

Create A Plan

Now, when we say plan, we don’t mean a regimen that you simply have to stick to. This is about simply making the time for self-care.

You can start off easy, with 15 minutes in the morning or the evening scheduled for exercise, or reading.

Make sure that you let your family and friends know you’re unavailable at that time.

If you prefer it that way, write a faux timetable and put it on your wall. Sometimes, when you plan ahead, it simply becomes much easier to fit it into your days, especially if you generally lead a hectic life. And, in general, some people simply like planning.

Unknown woman writing in her journal

A good way of doing that is making a plan a day in advance. We’re not often sure what our whole weeks will look like. That is why it is perhaps best to sit down in the evening and map out the next day. That way, there’ll be less chance of something changing and putting a wrench in your plan.

Know When to Be Flexible

Another thing that it’s important is that, while we all lead pretty organized lives, there are times when our routine changes and something unexpected pops up.

Things get in the way, that’s a given.

But the important thing is not to let your plan go completely.

However, you should remember that every day is a fresh start. If you were unable to do your self-care routine one day, do it the next. If you’re unable to do it in the morning, do it in the evening.

After all, this is about you and what you can do at that time. If you choose to do just one thing from your routine because you simply don’t have the time, well, then, you did that one thing. And that’s great. The important thing is not to give up. You can’t always do everything that you’ve envisioned, but you can do at least something.

No two days are the same, so it’s best if you try to adapt. Work around your schedule to see what works best at that particular day or moment.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

A self-care routine will certainly take time to become a way of life. And, more importantly, it’s a process of trial and error.

But it’s okay if your first attempt was not that successful. Through trial and error, you will find what works best.

Another thing to look out for is not to set goals that are too hard. Be realistic when you’re making your plan.

Let’s face it, none of us can go from zero to sixty, so to speak, in a week. Unattainable goals are not what self-care is about. It’s about finding the perfect routine for you and devoting yourself to it. If you want your routine to turn into a habit, being realistic is the best way to start.

Find a Buddy

If you have someone who can fulfil the role, you should find someone who will “hold you accountable,” so to speak. A friend, a family member or even a coworker who will check in from time to time to see how you’re doing.

Also, they can be the person you turn to when you feel like you can’t devote yourself to the routine.

Couple cycling together in the park

When we’re on our own, it’s sometimes too easy to let self-care fall to the background (and in that case, be forgotten), but if you have someone to help you along the way, it will be easier to stick to the commitment you made.

If your self-care routine includes making your diet more healthy, maybe some of your friends need encouragement for the same thing, as well. See if you can be each other’s helpers along this way to mutual wellbeing.

Get Back to Basics

Sometimes the simplest things will help you stick to your self-care routine. There are things that are so simple, yet do so much for our health, that we usually disregard. Here are some of the tips on how to get back to the basics for a much healthier day.

  • Get enough sleep. How often do you get enough hours of sleep? Sleep is incredibly beneficial, but because of our jobs and other reasons, we seem to disregard it as unimportant. But that is simply not true. Our bodies fill up on energy during sleep and they need it like the air we breathe. Even a power nap during the day can help you feel more rejuvenated and more alert. But it is important that you get at least seven hours a sleep a day to be able to go about your day.
  • Maintain a proper eating schedule. As with our sleeping schedule, there are various things that happen to our bodies when we mess up our eating schedule. Make sure to eat three meals and two small snacks every day. This will help stabilize your body, preparing it for the world. You can even implement food into your self-care routine. If you have an affinity for cooking, use that as me-time.
  • Use the free time you have the way you enjoy it. For instance, if you have 15 minutes in the morning before you have to go to work, why not solve a crossword puzzle? Or go to the store on foot. Use those fifteen minutes for something relaxing. If you have the weekend off, try to do some activity that you know will make you feel good – finish that show that you wanted to watch, ride a bike or just meet up with an old friend. It’s essential that your free time is spent the way you will enjoy it the most.
  • Focus on here and now. Many times, when we are doing one thing, our mind wanders, completely disconnecting us from the present. We think about the obligations that we have, or even something that we are planning to do in the distant future. However, self-care flies right out of the window if we do this. For it to work, we need to stay connected to the moment. The more we practice that, the less we will think about unrelated things. And the more mindful we are, the more we will actually enjoy the present and the more effect the self-care routine will have.
Woman enjoying the scent of a palm leaf

How to Use These 9 Scents to Change Your Mood

Whether you’re feeling down and need a slight boost, or you’re feeling on edge and need to relax a bit, you might want to try using your nose.

That’s right, your nose.

Your nose knows.

As incredible as it sounds, our sense of smell can play an incredible part in improving your mood. Researchers have devoted their time to the issue and found that some scents can, in fact, alter your mood to a certain extent.

So, the next time you need a mood boost, you might want to try some of the scents we will list to help you.

Scent and memory – the best of friends

The fact that scent is connected to mood changes is directly caused by the specific “wiring” of our brain.

That is, the olfactory center is connected directly to the parts of the brain that handle emotions and associative learning.

Basically, when we draw odor molecules into our nose, they dissolve and penetrate the mucus. Then they bind with the cilia (projections attached to receptor cells) and create an impulse which travels through nerves until it reaches the olfactory bulb in the brain, where the signals are processed and passed to other parts of the brain.

Many people don’t know this, but processing smell is closely related to the hippocampus, where memories are stored.

So, there’s a reason why you always remember grandma when you smell freshly baked cookies.

Or why you cringe when you smell rubbing alcohol.

Studies have even shown that memories evoked through odor went back farther in time. Also, they were more emotionally charged than memories evoked through words.

And because memories are always connected and intertwined with emotions, when we experience a scent stored in our memory, the brain then usually correlates it with some recollections and emotions present in them. That is why certain smells sometimes evoke strong feelings in us, even if we can’t quite place why that is.

Lemon

Aside from its various health benefits, the very scent of a lemon can have incredible impact on your stress levels.

You might not think it particularly appealing, but the scent of lemon can increase your energy levels, improve your mood and even your ability to concentrate.

Now there’s a reason why you like those lemon-scented cleaning products, right?

In fact, most people would describe lemon as smelling “clean,” which is precisely why it is used in a great number of cleaning products.

It’s used in aromatherapy to help people get rid of feelings of impurity and imperfection. It also serves to boost their confidence.

You can use essential oils to achieve that purpose, or you can simply make lemonade. In fact, whenever you need a concentration or a confidence boost, why not make a glass of fresh lemonade?

Aaand, problem solved. Maybe.

In addition, you can use the calming properties of the scent of lemon when you’re feeling angry, nervous or simply tired.

Orange

It seems like we have somehow found our way to the fruit section. But even though fruit scents may seem simple, their impact can be huge.

According to certain studies, the scent of oranges has a relaxing effect, bringing about positivity and calm in the participants of the studies.

Halved orange with a vial of oil

Also, the scent of oranges has been linked with reduced aggression.

So, whenever you feel anxious and a bit tense, it might be a good idea to take an orange-scented lotion and take a shower.

Also, you can extract oil from orange peels and find yourself with a generous supply of it for future use.

Peppermint

Good news for everyone that likes gum or tea!

The health benefits of peppermint have been widely known since ancient Egyptian times, since it’s been used for medicinal purposes since then.

The scent of peppermint is incredibly useful when you’re trying to concentrate. Also, it has mood-elevating properties which are efficient in combating anxiety and, in some cases, even depression. It’s been proven that it can relieve feelings of sadness effectively.

Peppermint is also useful when you’re feeling distracted when you should be studying or even driving. Some studies have shown that sniffing peppermint can improve typing accuracy and make drivers more alert.

Athletes that smelled peppermint during exercise actually outperformed those who did not.

So, you know what you need to do before you hit the gym next time.

Simply dab a few drops of peppermint oil on your temples or you can burn the oil in an aromatherapy burner for long-lasting effects.

If you don’t have the oil available, making tea or chewing gum can provide you with some relief, as well.

Coffee

Can we all agree that coffee is the best thing that’s ever happened to mankind?

Its power is so incredible, that the mere scent of coffee can affect your brain chemistry.

That is great news for those suffering from high blood pressure, who cannot drink that much coffee on a daily basis.

Even smelling coffee can boost your brain power, a study found. So, if you can’t drink too much of it, you can definitely at least sniff coffee beans.

And we all know how good they smell.

So, the next time you need a bit of a boost before an exam, coffee will do you good. Just make sure you don’t go overboard.

A sniff or two just for you should be enough.

Lavender

Not to sound too New Age-y, but dude, if you need to chill out, perhaps try lavender?

Lavender slows the heart rate and calms the nervous system.

Sounds good?

Yeah, we also think so.

Essential oil experts will tell you that lavender is used in all sorts of ways. Lavender oil can be used to treat insomnia, anxiety and it can even help with nausea. Also, it can help with allergies and menstrual cramps.

It truly is a very versatile oil.

It has quite the soothing effect on nerves and can relieve tension. This is exactly what most modern day workers need. Amid the stress of the working day, you can find a sanctuary in the form of lavender, to help you ease your mind and relax.

So, to reiterate, dude, feel free to chill with lavender.

Another important use of lavender is that it helps people who suffer from insomnia. A study actually found that lavender, combined with sleep hygiene, improved sleep quality for students who had sleep issues. In another study, it was found that the scent of lavender can improve the quality and duration of sleep.

Now, if you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you know that every little bit helps when fighting the good fight.

That is why you might want to try some alternative routes and hop on the lavender train.

Rosemary

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember;

and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts

This brief line from Hamlet shows that even in Shakespeare’s time, rosemary was known for its link to memory.

But, if we go even further, we’ll find that its benefits were known even in ancient times – ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and Hebrews used it to improve memory and even for protection.

It was even considered sacred.

Woman enjoying the scent of rosemary in her garden

The Greeks would wear rosemary garlands around their heads while studying. Now, if you’re a student running out of ideas on how to learn a whole book in a week, well, there’s your answer.

Rosemary garlands FTW, as the young would say.

Several studies have been conducted and proved that there is increase in memory retention when the scent of rosemary is included in the equation. However, not much is known on just how rosemary seems to give incredible results.

The main effects that the scent of rosemary can have include:

  • Reducing stress and tension
  • Fighting mental fatigue
  • Boosting mental activity
  • Encouraging clarity
  • Improving alertness
  • Improving your general mood

Another of the benefits of the scent is that it can boost your entire immune system. It does so by stimulating internal anti-oxidant activity.

In addition, it can eliminate headaches, which will surely improve your mood significantly. Also, if you’re suffering from throat and nasal congestion, rosemary’s your man.

Well, your plant.

It is widely used in aromatherapy in the form of essential oil, but you can also use it in the form of tea in the morning, when every one of us needs a little bit of help to start the day.

Cinnamon

Aside from being great in every possible form of pastry you can imagine, cinnamon also has numerous health benefits.

Have you ever wondered why you feel happier simply by smelling the delicious baked goods full of cinnamon? Have you stopped and simply lingered, letting the scent flow over you and bring you to a simpler time?

Well, that’s the beauty of cinnamon. In all its baked glory.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should start baking (and especially not eating) 10 cinnamon buns a day.

Well, you could, but that wouldn’t be too healthy, now would it?

No, that simply means that there are other ways you can reap the benefits cinnamon has to offer, and one of them is through its scent.

When sniffed, cinnamon can reduce drowsiness and irritability. So it may be your perfect choice when you need that extra pick-me-up during the day.

Especially, and we all know this very well, if your head feels like it’s made of lead and it’s dragging you down for a nap.

A nap you can’t possibly take, since, you know, you’re at your place of work.

Cinnamon can also help you concentrate and perform better, which, in turn, can significantly help you with your job.

It is especially useful during those days, ladies, when your menstrual cramps are proving to be another nuisance on the road to a productive day. It can alleviate certain types of headaches and even various other types of pain.

Frankly, out of all aforementioned scents, cinnamon may be the easiest to use. It does not even need heat to harvest its aroma. You can simply put it in sachets and hang them where there is a slight breeze – for instance, above doorways or near windows. You can even scatter cinnamon powder over the soil of your house plants.

Another, quite useful way to use cinnamon and to get its aroma in a quick way is to boil it. You simply need to sprinkle a bit of powdered cinnamon into uncovered water and let it simmer for a while.

Apple

This might come as a surprise, but the scent of the common apple can be quite beneficial for you.

And this includes the most delicious pastry of all – apple pie.

Simply put, there’s nothing that a good apple pie cannot fix.

But, in all seriousness, apples in general are great for easing pain and alleviating tension.

It’s been proven that green apple scent can soothe migraines and even ease head and neck muscle spasms.

Also, it can reduce general anxiety and stress.

That will definitely leave you in a much better mood than you were before.

Especially if you’ve made pie.

Jasmine

But when I’m way up here, it’s crystal clear, that now I’m in a whole new world…

If you haven’t caught that reference, then the pun is pointless and it needs further explanation.

Which brings us to the main benefit of the scent of jasmine – namely, its uplifting capabilities.

You get it?

Jasmine sings a song about flying high in the sky, and jasmine has uplifting qualities?

Well, that pun’s ruined.

But what is not ruined is the fact that the scent of jasmine can produce a feeling of optimism, revitalized energy and a feeling of confidence.

Everything that we need from time to time.

Fresh, blooming jasmine flowers

Aside from that, jasmine can also be used to calm nerves.

Now, it’s a good thing that, due to its sweet fragrance, jasmine is actually used in some of the most famous perfumes, such as Chanel No. 5.

Also, it’s a common ingredient in desserts.

(There’s been too much talk about desserts, but that simply goes to show how much our senses of taste and smell are connected.)

A study has found that jasmine essential oil increases alertness and behavioral arousal. This also means that it can be useful in relieving symptoms of depression, and that it can improve your mood in general.

When inhaled, another study found, jasmine oil could affect brain activity, leaving participants feeling more energetic, more positive, and even more romantic.

So, if you’re trying to create the perfect atmosphere for wooing – you know what to do.

Use that jasmine perfume liberally or simply use a diffuser for a more permanent effect.

Three women clasping their hands together, in a gym setting

9 Easy Yoga Poses for Beginners

So, you’re thinking about taking up yoga?

Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed by seeing experienced yogis twist this way and bend that way and you’re not sure if you can pull it off?

Well, just remember, they had to start somewhere. And there’s no better way to start than at the beginning. So, take your yoga mat and let’s get going!

There are over 300 positions in yoga, and we’re sure you’ll master them all at some point. But, for now, be content with the simple poses that every beginner should learn. Here is our pick of the best yoga poses for a beginner.

The Benefits of Yoga

In general, and everyone will tell you this – yoga is a way of life. Not only does it help you work on your body, but it also helps soothe your mind. It is a culture of well-being that can truly improve your life in many ways.

Now, this makes it seem like yoga is some kind of superman among various practices.

And you know what?

It kind of is.  

While it can’t, admittedly, fly you to the moon or save you from a villain (unless we count the metaphorical sense), there are great many things yoga can do:

  • Reduce stress.  Many yoga methods are interlinked with meditation, helping you “quiet down” the incessant clamoring of your mind. In turn, yoga relieves stress and relaxes even the most stressed individual.
  • Increase flexibility. One of the main points of yoga is that it gradually stretches your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, increasing the range of motion in your joints. This allows you to practice further poses and, who knows, become a yogi yourself one day!
  • Help with weight loss. In general, while the main purpose of yoga is not to lose weight, it is, however, one of its main benefits. As you balance your mind, you will also learn ways to balance your body, helping you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
  • Improve posture. Because of all of the above, another great advantage of yoga is that now, your abdominal and back muscles can support your weight. As a result, your posture will greatly improve.

Yoga Poses for Beginners

As previously said, when you start doing yoga, your body will start undergoing change which will improve your overall agility.

Agility, that you can later use to increase the difficulty of your yoga poses.

But, for now, here are the easiest ones, perfect for beginners.

The Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Calm woman in sukhasana pose

It makes sense to start here.

The easy pose is great for beginners and, even though it’s easy, it has plenty of benefits. It’s simply divine for your peace of mind and, also, for your back muscles and your spine.

  • Sit with your buttocks firmly on the floor.
  • Cross your legs, but make sure to place your feet directly below your knees.
  • Put your hands on your knees.
  • Press your hips down into the floor and drop your shoulders down and back. Press your chest forward.
  • You should also relax your face, jaw and stomach.
  • Breathe deeply through the nose and hold for as many breaths as you like.

If you have knee or back injuries, you should sit on a folded blanket to remove the strain. In 

general, yoga is recommended for dealing with back pain. If some poses are too difficult, they can always be modified.

Another great way to remove the strain this pose can cause to beginners is to lean back on a wall or, possibly, lean slightly forward.

The Mountain (Tadasana)

Woman in standing pose

This is the basic pose for all standing poses. It is perfect for beginners, because it represents a foray into the point of yoga – learning how to ground yourself.

It may seem easy, but it’s important that you do it right.

While doing the mountain pose, keep the idea of balance in mind, since this is an essential part of yoga.

  • Stand with your feet together, press down with your toes and spread them open. Draw your abdominal muscles in to engage your core.
  • Then, lift your chest and roll your shoulders back and down, all the while keeping them relaxed. Drop your tailbone a bit to lengthen your lower back
  • You should always take slow and deep breaths through your nose. Hold the pose for as many breaths as you like.

Precisely because it is such an easy pose to do, you can do it practically anywhere and anytime, whenever you feel like you could benefit from the balance the pose brings.

The Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward-facing dog pose

One of the biggest benefits of this pose is that it strengthens your entire body, while also stretching it. This is easily one of most widely recognized yoga poses.

However, it’s vital to do it right.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Get down on your hands and knees. Your knees should be directly below your hips, and your hands should be slightly forward from your shoulders.
  • Spread your palms and turn your toes under.
  • While you exhale, you should lift your knees away from the floor. Keep your hips back and try to straighten your legs as much as you can. If your hamstrings are too tight, keep your knees bent a bit. If needed, you can also walk your hands forward. This will give you additional length.
  • Press your palms firmly on the floor and rotate your inner elbows towards each other.
  • Take long and deep breaths through your nose and, if you can, hold for 5 breaths.

The Tree (Vrksasana)

Woman in yoga tree pose

Another pose which aims at improving the balance of any beginner. It seems fairly simple – standing on one leg, right?

Well, not quite.

Even though it is easy to learn, it can be challenging for your hips, ankles and feet.

That is why you should always do everything at your pace and set realistic goals.

It is said that a good tree pose in the morning does wonder for curbing anxiety and stress, as well as increasing concentration.

  • Start in mountain pose. Keep your toes together and your heels slightly apart.
  • Then, shift your weight onto the left foot. Keep that foot firmly on the floor.
  • Bring your right foot up to the inner thigh and squeeze them together. If you’re having trouble drawing your foot up, simply reach down with your right hand and help it along the way. Toes of your right foot should be facing downwards, while the knee should be turned out.
  • When you’ve found your balance, press your hands together in front of your chest and keep your gaze at a fixed point about 5 feet away from you.
  • You should hold this pose for about 5 breaths, or more, if you have no problem.

If you can’t seem to find your balance at first, place your right foot on your shin, instead of the thigh.

The Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

Woman in seated forward fold pose

Another great pose for beginners, simply because – you most likely already know, at least partially, how to do it.

That is, if you’ve ever stretched in your life.

It is perfect for unwinding after an intense workout, and it is perfect for unwinding after an intense day.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Simply sit on the floor and extend your legs right in front of you.
  • Keep your feet firmly flexed. Don’t turn them in or out. Keep your hands by your hips.
  • Then, lift your chest and bend forward from the waist. Make sure to engage your lower abdominals.
  • Once you’ve bent as far as you can, simply stop and breathe for about 10 breaths. Make sure you are relaxed throughout the pose.

Should you feel any sharp pain at any point, stop. However, if it’s tension that you’re feeling when you bend forward and, more importantly, you can continue to breathe unhindered, your body will gradually loosen up. Tension is normal when doing yoga, but pain is not.

Another option is to keep knees bent, but your feet should remain flexed and together throughout the pose.

The Bridge (Setu Bandhasana)

Woman doing the bridge pose

The opposite of the forward bend is the back bend. This pose effectively stretches the front part of your body, while also strengthening your back.

Again, you’ve probably seen it in some form or another. However, this is a good basis for later, more complicated poses.

  • First, lie flat on your back.
  • Then, bend your knees. Put your feet on the floor, but make sure they’re hip-width apart and that your knees and ankles are placed in a straight line.
  • Your arms should rest beside your body and your palms should be facing downwards.
  • When you inhale, lift your back. Try to roll in your shoulders so that your chin touches your chest. Your arms, feet and shoulders should support your weight.
  • Interlace your fingers. You should also push your hands harder to the ground.
  • You can hold this pose for 10 breaths. Lower your hips then and repeat for two or three times.

The Plank (Kumbhakasana)

Athletic woman in plank position

Let’s face it. Many of us are familiar with the infamous plank pose.

Simply because it’s easy to form, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.

When it comes to torture in the form of physical exercise, many will testify that planking is right there with pulling a truck with your bare teeth.

However.

Don’t be dissuaded.

Planking is actually so beneficial, that it should be included in every beginner’s routine. It is also the basis for many other more challenging poses that you’ll learn later on.

Now, some prefer going into plank from the downward-facing dog, while others like to keep it simple.

We’re all about simplicity here. (At least until you feel you’re ready for more.)

So, here’s how to do the plank:

  • Start on the ground, on all fours. Your knees should be directly under your hips and your hands should be directly under your shoulders.
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the mat. Extend your legs behind you. Your body should form one long line.
  • Keep your palms on the floor and core engaged. Your neck and spine should be in neutral position.
  • If you can, hold this position for about 5 breaths.

Again, while this may seem like it’s too difficult to hold, start small. Begin with 15 seconds and work from there. You will gradually feel your body strengthening and you will be able to increase its duration to 1 minute.

The Cobra (Bhujangasana)

Athletic woman in cobra pose

A simply spectacular pose for beginners. This is when you can feel the stretch, but also give your body a bit of a rest.

The cobra pose is simply perfect if you have a stiff lower back after a day of sitting at the office.

Aside from strengthening your arms and shoulders, it also stimulates your heart, as well as the organs in your abdomen. It also improves circulation of blood and oxygen, which, in turn, has many other benefits.

But how to do it properly?

  • Lie on your stomach and stretch your legs.
  • Then, spread your hands on the floor, but make sure they are directly under your shoulders.
  • Your feet, thighs and pelvis should be firmly pressed into the floor.
  • Lift your chest off the floor, but always maintain your pelvis on the floor.
  • Firm your buttocks and your shoulder blades, but not too much.

Again, you don’t want to push too hard. Should you feel pain at any moment, pull back a bit, you’ve most likely gone too far.

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Woman in child's pose, yoga setting

This pose is effective when you need to take a break between two more challenging poses.

It is also great for digestion, and it’s in general calming for the mind.

It can often be neglected on your road to mastering new poses, but it shouldn’t be! You should never push your body without giving it the proper rest it needs.

Remember, it’s all about balance.

So, while you’re striving for those harder ones, make sure to rest now and then.

  • Kneel on the floor. Your big toes should touch together and you should sit on your heels.
  • Separate your knees to the same width as your hips.
  • On the exhale, put your torso between your thighs. Stretch your arms forward and lower your forehead to the floor. Let your body release.

Since this is such a calming pose, you can do it for as many breaths as you feel necessary.

It is great for letting your body recuperate from the stress of the exercise, but also, the stress of life. 

Woman with a headache

Can Exercise Improve Hypersomnia?

In this hustle and bustle of the 21st century, it almost feels like tiredness is the new normal. That is why it is sometimes difficult to even diagnose disorders such as hypersomnia. Basically, many people write it off as something temporary and something normal, since they have experienced the symptoms of hypersomnia at one point or another.

However, regardless of what modern life tells us, our body’s normal mode is not tiredness. If the feeling’s persistent and occurs frequently enough, it might be time to check whether you have hypersomnia and whether you need professional help.

Also, you might try other ways of alleviating symptoms of hypersomnia.

That is, it might be a good idea to try exercising.

What is Hypersomnia? 

Hypersomnia is a disorder which manifests itself as excessive sleepiness during the day. Also, it can mean that a person is spending too much time sleeping without feeling rested afterwards. If a person is suffering from hypersomnia, they may feel sleepy even after they’ve slept, for instance, ten or even twelve hours.

Now, in general, there truly is nothing wrong with being sleepy from time to time. We have various obligations and duties that simply know how to drain a person.

However, hypersomnia is much more than that.

Hypersomnia is such a pronounced and prolonged sense of fatigue that it almost wears down on your very bones.

Since it mostly manifests itself in constant drowsiness, this disorder may prevent you from doing a number of everyday activities, such as driving, and even your job. It affects not only your energy levels, but also your concentration, making it sometimes difficult to remember even the simplest things.

Some of the possible causes of hypersomnia include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Prescription drugs
  • Depression
  • Head injury
  • Excessive weight

And some other, related issues. It is important to note that, if you believe you may be suffering from hypersomnia, it necessary to see a doctor for treatment.

Hypersomnia can affect every age group, but it seems that it is more prevalent in people between 15 and 30. Sometimes it takes years for hypersomnia to develop fully, with people feeling intermittent symptoms but writing them off as temporary.

If you’ve ever felt the symptoms of hypersomnia, then you know that this is quite a serious disorder. Aside from affecting your day-to-day life, it can, subsequently, affect your mental state and cause a vicious cycle from which it can be a bit difficult to escape.

Nowadays, awareness is being spread about the disorder by organizations such as the Hypersomnia Foundation, which devotes its effort to researching and fighting the disorder in the hopes of finding a cure.

Types and Symptoms of Hypersomnia

There are two types of hypersomnia – primary and secondary. In the case of primary hypersomnia, the only symptom there is excessive tiredness. That is, the tiredness is not connected to any other condition.

However, secondary hypersomnia is linked with other medical conditions, such as those already mentioned.

Also, it is important to note that hypersomnia is different from narcolepsy. While narcolepsy causes people to fall asleep suddenly, people with hypersomnia are able to stay awake, albeit with difficulty. Namely, while they are awake, they still feel tired as though they need to sleep.

Basic symptoms of hypersomnia include, but are not limited to:

  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory lapse
  • Irritation
  • General slowness and sluggishness

Woman yawning at her desk

If the condition is left untreated, it can make everyday life quite difficult. Someone suffering from hypersomnia can even lose the ability to function normally. That is why it is important to seek help as soon as possible.

Is Exercise Effective in Treating Hypersomnia? 

Aside from being good for your body, exercising is also good for your mind. It’s no wonder many people swear by exercising as a panacea. It truly can do everything.

Well, maybe not everything.

But it can certainly help with a lot of things.

There has been some research that proves the link between exercising and reducing hypersomnia. However, while there is a direct link between them, there are also various other, indirect ways in which exercise can help people suffering from hypersomnia.

After all, the benefits are truly vast.

Here are some of the most common benefits of exercising:

1) Helps with Weight Management

Exercise is definitely important in preventing obesity and helping you maintain a constant weight. However, in most cases, you’re most likely to even lose weight which has the added benefit of making you feel better about your body.

Also, by keeping your weight at a constant level, exercising reduces the risk of many weight-related health issues.

Physical activity done on a regular basis actually activates your metabolism in the best way. If you want your metabolism running like a Swiss watch, well – get to running.

Or doing any type of exercise. Your body’s not too picky, it will be happy with anything you can give. Just start and continue, one day at a time.

2) Increases Dopamine Production

Well, while it can’t provide you with total, forever-kind of happiness, what exercising can do, actually, is boost your happiness levels.

Even a small amount of exercising will improve your mood and relax you. And it does all that with the help of endorphins. Also, while you’re exercising, your brain increases its dopamine production.

It makes a difference even for shorter periods of time, let alone if you do it regularly.

You can do all sorts of exercises, like cycling, running. Doing yoga is known for making people feel more at ease and calmer.

So, grab your yoga mat and devote yourself to your body!

3) Helps with Stress Management

Like constant tiredness, it seems like we’ve accepted the fact that stress is a constant in our lives. However, that is not our normal state. Our bodies rebel, and many of its parts seem to simply enter a state of chaos because of that.

Our muscles get strained, our stomachs get upset, our head starts hurting. And that’s just the light problems.

When we’re stressed, cortisol and adrenaline can go into hyper production.

And that, you guessed it, is not good.

Which is where exercise steps in.

Exercise counteracts these hormones with its own, happy hormones. And eases your body’s stress.

Simply put, there’s no better feeling than when you sweat out the day’s stress on a regular basis. Get rid of the excess of those pesky hormones and calm your body down.

Another good thing about exercise is, when you’re physically active, you’re also raising your heart rate and subjecting your body to low-levels of… well, basically, stress.

(But, the good kind!)

And, when you do that regularly, your body will become better equipped at handling other stressors that you may face.

Another good thing is to combine exercise with other things that relax you. If you like bubble baths, essential oils, incense sticks, try them out, as well, often. Enjoying the things that you love will help you deal better with stress.

Woman doing indoor exercises with dumbbells

4) Beneficial for Muscles and Bones 

As we get older, we inevitably lose muscle mass and most people start having bone problems. This, in turn, can lead to various types of disabilities and further stress.

And affect the quality of your sleep in quite a negative way.

Of course, it’s common knowledge that exercise, combined with appropriate protein intake, builds muscles. Also, regular exercise, even slight exercise, is vital to maintaining strength as we grow older.

Also, we bet you didn’t know that exercise can actually build bone density? This is incredibly important when you’re growing. However, it is practically invaluable in preventing osteoporosis when you grow old.

5) Improves General Immunity 

Exercise is known to actually help with a number of ailments.

It even helps with the common cold.

Yes, even with the common cold.

But, exercise can also help with the following chronic diseases:

  • Heart disease. Again, one of the best things you can do if you want to help your heart is to exercise. It is a well-known fact that exercise helps people with chronic heart disease. But, if you suffer from any heart-related illness, make sure to go easy. Don’t overexert yourself.  
  • Cancer. Aside from benefiting people who have had cancer by improving their quality of life, it can also lower the risk of some types of cancer – breast, uterine, lung and colon cancer.
  • Diabetes. It has been proven that physical activity can help insulin lower the sugar level in your blood more effectively.
  • Back pain. With improving muscles, regular physical activity can enhance endurance in your back, helping your chronic back pain.
  • Asthma. Regular exercise lowers the severity of asthma attacks. It can also reduce their frequency.

6) Increases Energy Levels

Research has shown that even 15-20 minutes of low intensity exercise can increase energy levels, making you feel less tired.

If someone who is unaccustomed to exercise starts even a low-level program, that increases the blood flow through their body. This causes more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to muscle tissue, which, in turn, enhances their ability to produce energy.

Happy woman exercising in the park

That is one of the reasons exercise can help the people diagnosed with primary hypersomnia.

However, as research has shown, exercise can also prove to be counterproductive in these cases. Namely, if people who previously did not exercise at all start doing moderate or high intensity workouts, this can actually further drain their energy levels since they have not developed a good base.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

And another thing. This can seem like a huge paradox – but exercising also helps you sleep better. That’s right! It significantly improves the quality of your sleep, making you better-rested.

Now, don’t expect results right away.

The key word here is regular. Regular physical activity is important. However, it is up to you to make your own exercise plan. You are the only one who knows best what your body can and can’t handle.

So, if your regular consists of you hiking two-three days a week, perfect!

If it includes going to the gym four times a week, excellent!

If you’re more inclined to exercise with your family, marvelous!

Remember, everything counts and it is you who sets the pace.

So, Can Exercise Improve Hypersomnia? 

Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care have found out that exercise can, in fact, alleviate excessive daytime sleepiness, i.e. hypersomnia in patients that suffer from depression.

They identified two biological markers for hypersomnia in the blood of the test subjects. Their research actually demonstrated that regular exercise reduces levels of these biomarker proteins, which, in turn, results in reduced hypersomnia.

Previously, researchers had found that sleep, inflammation and depression interact in “a negative loop,” which simply causes the symptoms to progressively worsen. Apparently, their research has shown, exercise can reset the negative loop.

More than 100 subjects between 18 and 70, who suffered from major depression disorder, were assigned to two types of aerobic exercise, since the researchers wanted to see the effects that exercise had on depression. The research lasted for 12 weeks. They examined their blood for four biomarkers and found that reductions in two biomarkers – BDNF and IL-1β – are connected to reductions in hypersomnia.

However, while the reductions in these two biomarkers caused reductions in hypersomnia, the research did not identify any correlation between them and changes in insomnia. That means that different mechanisms are at play in insomnia and in hypersomnia.

So, basically – yes, exercise can alleviate hypersomnia symptoms in patients suffering from depression. However, further research needs to be done in this area, as many parts of the disorder are still unknown.

That said, it does seem that exercise, as with many other things, can have a positive effect on hypersomnia.

So, it doesn’t hurt to try, right?  

How much should you exercise?

Most health experts recommend at least a 20 minutes of exercise every day to maintain the well-being of your body.

It’s enough to do moderate-intensity exercise, and you’re set.

This can include brisk walks, hiking, swimming and even gardening.

But also remember that this is for people who are not that used to exercising. If you’re already a professional, you can simply slightly increase the intensity of your exercises.

You can do moderate to high level exercises such as running, aerobic dancing, even rock climbing.

Every little bit helps and every little bit is significant for the overall well-being of your body.

Woman looking stressed and bored at work

6 Easy Focus Shifters for a Healthier Mind

There are times when you’re faced with a problem or a period in your life that you cannot deal with. When your mind feels like it’s stuck in a bog, and there’s no way out

That’s why it is very important to know when to press pause. To stop. To refocus.

And how are you to do that?

Well, by shifting your focus.

When you shift your focus, you are able to postpone thinking about the problem that causes you stress. As a direct result your stress levels decrease, helping you cope with the hurdles on your path. When you have done that, when you’ve managed to relax, that’s when you’re capable of dealing with the practical side of things. 

So, here are some ways of shifting your focus that will help you in the long run.

Take A Creative Break

Did you know that stepping back for a while can actually increase your chances of finding the answer to your problem? 

As the old saying goes, sometimes you can’t see the forest from the tree. It’s blocking your view and your path to the solution. It’s stopping you mentally, as well as physically.

So take a break from the issue you’re currently having and engage your mind in a different way.

Not sure where to begin? Here are a few ideas:

  • Organize the bookcase that you haven’t come round to
  • Watch an episode of your favorite sitcom 
  • Take a nap. Research shows that taking a nap is a foolproof way of rebooting your brain
  • Solve a different kind problem, like a crossword puzzle or Sudoku

Many people would call this the art of procrastination, but people neglect how it can be useful, as well. While you’re letting your brain gallivant across unimportant things (except the sitcom! That is incredibly important!), you’re actually allowing it to rest.

The point is to do something mind-engaging that you enjoy. To restart your brain while you have fun. To drag it out of the bog long enough to see that the sun is shining and the bog is not the place for it.

Make A Phone Call 

This is a super easy way to shift your attention to something else. It’s quick and immediately effective. In fact, people do it all the time. But instead of calling your friends and loved ones every once in a while to catch up, why not send them a text whenever you need a break?

Not only will this help you re-focus your attention, but it will also have the added benefit of keeping your friends and loved ones regularly in your life.

Middle-age woman working on her computer in a cafe

Are you unsure of what to say in your text or call?

It doesn’t have to be anything long or specific. Just ask them about their day, how their work is going, and have they seen that last episode of Game of Thrones?

Sure winner, really.

Help Someone Else

Sometimes it’s necessary to get out of our own heads and into helping someone else. Not only does this engage our attention in a completely different direction, but it also gives us some perspective. As it turns out, we’re not the only people with problems after all.

So how should you go about helping someone else?

It can be as easy as turning to your co-worker and ask if they need any help. If you’re aware of the projects they’re working on, offer some ideas or suggestions. You can also offer to make them a cup of coffee, or pack some lunch on your way out.

If you don’t feel like reaching out to a co-worker, why not think about those in your immediate social circle? Is your husband trying to find a gluten-free cookie brand that he doesn’t hate? Try researching some reviews online to see what other options are available. Is your best friend looking for a good book to read? Make a list of five different books you think she’ll enjoy, and send the list to her. She’ll appreciate it!

List the Positives

Negativity has a huge impact on our lives. And yes, some people are naturally more prone to think negatively.

It’s a glass-half-empty type of thing.

But in order to shift your focus, you have to shift the driving force of your thoughts.

Out with the negativity, in with the positivity!

While you’re looking at a problem or, even, your life, on a grand scale, stop and focus on the positive things. 

What are the positive things? Well, start by thinking about what good this particular problem can bring in the future, what you will have learnt and what you’re yet to learn. 

If that fails, there are other foolproof ways of shifting your focus to more optimistic dimensions. Consider focusing on these:

  • Your strengths – is it your sensitivity? your social skills? or maybe it’s your ambitious approach in new projects?
  • Your achievements – this may be closing a sales account sooner than expected, reaching your own financial savings goals, or just finishing three different chores on Sunday
  • The things you love – your dog, your sister, your husband, your kids and the thick forest near your home are all fodder for optimistic thought
  • Your environment – the technology you’re using, the bird outside, the change of seasons

Young woman writing in a scheduler, with her laptop and phone, in a cafe

Optimism can aid you significantly, as you will learn. It will lead to greater success, better overall health and, of course, decrease your stress levels.

By focusing on positive thoughts, you can actually live longerIf that’s not a good enough reason to switch to positivity, well, we don’t know what is.

Get Out and Exercise

Not to get all Latin on you, but ancient Romans did know a thing or two about life. Well, we can only imagine, since so many proverbs remain. And there is one particular wisdom that is incredibly useful when trying to shift focus.

Mens sana in corpore sano.

See? Even the ancient Romans knew that a healthy body is the foundation of a healthy mind, its support and enabler. And just like a house is wobbly without a proper foundation, your mind will also suffer without a healthy body.

And one way to change that is to exercise.

Exercising on a regular basis has so many benefits that it is difficult to list them all. And not just when it comes to the physical part.

It is known to reduce stress, to alleviate anxiety symptoms, and even aid with depression. When your body changes and becomes something you consider good, that will also lead to increased self-esteem that can pour into other spheres of life. Truly, the effects of exercising are gargantuan in the long run.

But, did you know that it can also help you at the precise moment you need it?

Let’s go back to the beginning. We mentioned some menial tasks, or even some harder ones, used to relax and shift your focus. Well, exercise can do that, as well. Only here, you also have the added benefit of endorphins making you feel good.

Infographic on endorphins

Once you’re faced with an overwhelming task or an overwhelming period in your life, one of the ways you can shift your focus is to exercise. It doesn’t have to be for too long. You don’t have to slave away at the gym, building muscles. You simply need to dedicate some time to your body.

And your body will show that it’s grateful by providing your mind with solutions and changed perspectives and, simply, contentedness.

Two things come to the fore when you exercise to shift your focus:

  • You step away from the situation, which is, as it has been established, a good thing.
  • You are improving both the state of your body and your mind.

So, the next time you’re feeling stuck, the best idea might be to go for a run or to the gym. Just for a little while, just for a little respite for your mind. Once you return to the problem, your mind will be rested and your body delightfully relaxed.

Act Like It’s Thanksgiving Every Day

No matter what you may think, this is not a utopian idea. And no, it does not include inviting all of your family around to feast every day. Although, that does sound like a nice idea.

In a matter of speaking, Thanksgiving Day is beneficial because it reminds us that we have something to be grateful for. It reminds us to give thanks for having those things. And that is not something we do often.

So, teach yourself to be grateful.

Turning every day into Thanksgiving Day means reminding yourself that life, in all its complexities, is actually an amalgam of many things. Yes, there will be times when there are more bad things. But, there will also be times when you will feel like jumping from joy.

Employ this technique when faced with a hurdle. Instead of letting stress get the best of you, remind yourself that this is just another moment in a sea of moments of varying quality. You’re swimming through a bad one right now, but the good one is just around the corner.

Happy smiling woman looking grateful, with her hands clasped together

Being thankful doesn’t have much to do with anything momentous. It can include something incredibly small, but big to you. You may be grateful that your kid said their first word. You may be grateful that you have a supportive family that helps you achieve your dreams. Or, also, you may be grateful simply because the bus came on time today.

If you want, you can do this on a regular basis. Pick three things that you are grateful for each day and, soon enough, you will see the difference.

Giving thanks gives way to smiles, which gives way to a happier you. And a happier you will be more adept at solving whatever hurdle life has presented before you.

So, change your focus. Clear your goggles.

See the reality of life and its astonishing nature. And that will surely lead to a healthy mind.

Father and daughter dancing on bed

Fun Family Exercise Routines

Obesity rates are a growing problem, especially among the new generations of children who prefer spending their days indoors behind a screen, rather than being active outside.

This is why exercising as a family is so important. It not only teaches your children the importance of staying physically fit, setting a good example for them, but it can also be such a fantastic bonding experience for the whole family.

Not sure where to start?

Here are some fun ways to exercise with your family that everyone will enjoy…

Get Dancing

Dancing is such a fantastic workout, and this is an easy one for getting the whole family involved.

All you need to do is put together a playlist of songs that your family love, turn up the volume and get moving! If you do this in the evening, adding in flashlights in lieu of strobe lights can make the activity even more special for young children.

You will likely find that this is an activity that your family could do for hours, enabling all of you to reap the many benefits of dancing, such as:

Walk the Dog

This may seem simple, but children tend to have such a fascination with animals.

An activity as basic as walking the dog will likely seem so much more exciting to kids than to you, making this a great way to get the whole family (as well as the dog) moving.

Family running with the dog

To keep things interesting, try to pick new routes and locations each day. Areas where your dog can run free and properly play and interact with the entire family would be a bonus.

Don’t have a dog?

Borrow a friend or neighbor’s dog instead. Even if you do have a dog, adding in an extra one can really change the dynamics of your walk.

There are also many apps out there that connect dog owners with people who enjoy walking them. This will give your family the chance to interact with many different pooches, although you would need to ensure that they are each child-friendly.

Commercial Break Workouts

Are there any television shows that the entire family watch together?

Well, since you already have everyone in the same room, this is a great opportunity to sneak some exercise in too.

How?

You will need to wait for the commercials to come on, but, as soon as they do, get everyone doing a certain exercise. From high jumps to planking to push-ups, this is a great way of ensuring that your children don’t end up too sedentary when watching TV.

You could also arrange for each family member to take turns being the “leader” of the workout for each commercial break. This will make things more interesting, as everyone will be able to have their say when it comes to exercises that they enjoy.

Jump Roping

Is jump roping something that your children do?

This simple activity actually brings with it a number of benefits, such as:

  • Improved motor coordination
  • Improved agility, speed, reflexes and balance
  • Provides cardio benefits
  • Helps with brain development and boosts creativity

Plus, the fact that jump roping is a low-impact activity means that it will not put any unnecessary pressure on the joints.

Family jumping rope in the park

There are plenty of jump roping games and rhymes to be found online, so equip yourself with some of these before introducing the activity to your family.

Grow Some Food

No matter what age you are, being able to grow something and then eat it gives you a huge thrill of satisfaction. The fact that you can also enjoy organic produce at a fraction of what you would have paid for it is an added bonus. 

This is something that your whole family can take part in, with each family member choosing a few of their favorite foods to grow.

Wondering where the exercise part comes in?

Gardening itself is actually a fantastic workout!

Did you know that gardening for an hour can burn as many calories as if you had jogged for four miles? 

Gardening requires your body to perform such a wide range of motions, from squatting and bending to lifting and digging, giving you the ultimate workout. It also triggers your brain to release feel-good endorphins, while teaching your children a sense of responsibility.

Wondering how to get started?

Have a family meeting to discuss the foods you want to grow. Then, go out and get some seeds or plants, and get growing!

Some easy foods to start off with include:

  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Different types of lettuces
  • Herbs

Don’t forget to teach your family how to properly warm up before gardening, especially if you have a few strenuous tasks ahead of you that day. Due to all of the muscles that are used when gardening, gardening-related injuries are actually more common than you would think!

Go for a Swim

Swimming is often referred to as the perfect exercise.

Why?

Because it provides you with all of the benefits of a full aerobic workout, but without putting any pressure on the joints. Swimming is an exercise that can be done by just about every member of the family, no matter their age. 

When it comes to deciding where to go for a family swim…

You can either opt for a local swimming pool or the sea, although this does depend on where you live. While the sea usually tends to be more fun, this can often be impractical in the colder months, so make sure that you have a few back-up options too. 

Can’t imagine your children getting on board with the idea of swimming laps?

Don’t worry, they don’t need to!

You can either just leave them to splash and play about in the water, which will bring them pretty similar health benefits, or you can get everyone involved in a family pool game.

Jumping or diving competitions are always fun, as is Starfish Tag. Younger children tend to love underwater mirror games, while balancing competitions on a floating mattress will get everybody’s muscles working.

Cycling Adventures

While it may be easy enough to cycle with your kids to school instead of driving them, or cycling to the shops on the weekends, this list is all about ways to make exercise fun.

The best way to do that when it comes to cycling is by turning the journey into a little adventure.

Family cycling outdoors

This means planning new routes and cycling through new areas, so that the views and scenery are different each time. Try to alternate between urban and rural areas, as this contrast will keep things interesting.

Planning your route so that there is something special and rewarding at the end of it will help to give your kids some extra motivation. Treating them to a hot chocolate at a cafe, or visiting a pond to feed some ducks, will help to make the activity even more special.

Turn Household Chores into a Workout

Ok, so the idea of turning household chores into a workout may not seem like much fun at first, but hear this out…

Just like with gardening, household chores require the body to perform such a wide range of motions, giving you a great workout.

The trick to getting the whole family involved is to make it fun, by adding in some music and a competitive edge.

The music needs to be energetic and fast-paced, and you should try to get each family member to contribute to the playlist, as everyone will have certain tunes that motivate them.

You need to make sure that you also time this chore workout well…

You don’t want to do it before a mealtime, when everyone is hungry and cranky. You also don’t want to do it after a meal, when everyone is full.

Wondering how to actually turn those boring chores into a competitive workout?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Wash the car within a certain length of time, competing to see whose side is the cleanest
  • See who can tidy away the most items in a certain amount of time, but make sure that everyone squats instead of bending down normally
  • Everyone takes a window or a wall to clean, competing to see who can do the best job the fastest
  • Play a guessing game with laundry items, before giving each family member their own items to fold
  • Get everyone making some bread, as the kneading process gives the arms a great workout
  • Use step trackers to see who takes the most steps when doing chores for 20 minutes. Many smartphones already have a step tracker in them, saving you from having to purchase dedicated trackers for each family member

Try Different Sports

Sports games can be so much fun, to the point where you often forget how long you have actually been exercising for.

Learning a new sport can be even more exciting, and there are so many different sports out there that you and your family could try.

In addition to providing some good ol’ fashioned fun, regularly playing family sports games will result in the following:

  • Better learning skills, and therefore better academic results
  • Improved problem-solving and teamwork skills
  • Gives the body a workout, keeping it healthy
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence
  • Reduced stress

So, which sports should you try playing with your family?

Well, that depends…

If there is already a sport that every member of your family enjoys playing, you could try to improve your skills in this. Sign your family up for a class, or enter yourselves into a local tournament.

On the other hand, if your family isn’t naturally inclined to sports…

Keeping things varied will help to make the activities more fun.

Try having each family member pick a sport that they would want to try, and then you could alternate which one you do each week.

A few ideas would be:

  • Cricket
  • Boxing
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Frisbee
  • Table tennis

Father and child playing basketball

Even something like bowling would still ensure that your family are on their feet for a few hours.

You could make things more interesting by having rewards for the winning team or “punishments” for the losing team. For example, the losing team would need to cook the family meal that night, or the winning team would be able to decide what to watch on TV for that week. This will give everyone the motivation to put their all into the activity.

Make Some Exercise Cards

Have you heard of exercise cards before?

They’re an increasingly popular way to plan a workout.

Each card in the deck would feature a specific workout, whether this may be a bodyweight exercise, a stretch, or anything else.

Exercise cards are available pre-printed, but since this is an activity that you are basing around your family, you may find it more useful to create your own deck of cards.

Why?

Because this way you can incorporate exercise that fit your family’s specific skills and requirements. You can add in plenty of fun games, such as the jump roping mentioned above, to keep your kids interested.

Once you have your deck of exercise cards together, set aside some time for your family workout. Then, get everyone in the family to pick one or two cards from the deck, before combining these all together to create your unique routine.

You can keep things interesting by alternating the location of your workouts. While there is nothing wrong with doing these at home or in your backyard, taking your deck to a local park or hiking trail will instantly make the workout seem so much more exciting.

Exercising is something that every family should be doing together, but it can definitely be tricky to find activities that the whole family can enjoy. Each of these activities will provide your family with a fantastic workout, while keeping them motivated and engaged at the same time.

Focused woman writing in journal, on sofa at home

How Journalling Improves Your Mental Health

While many people keep a diary in their teenage years, this is a habit that so many tend to lose as they progress into adulthood. Although this may be a habit that you have never thought twice about since, journalling can really make a huge difference to your mental health. 

What is Journalling?

Journalling has been going on since ancient times, with the first known journals dating back to Japan in the 10th century. 

To put it simply…

Journalling is the practice of recording your thoughts, emotions and reactions to different events and situations. It differs slightly to keeping a diary, in the sense that a diary is more of a record of daily occurrences, whereas a journal is more about reflecting on life in order to gain some clarity. 

The advantages of journalling have been recognized by many famous faces over the years, with everyone from Oscar Wilde to US presidents choosing to keep a journal. 

In the past couple of years, social media has brought journalling back into the spotlight. Everything from bullet journals and gratitude journals to digital journals and journalling apps (all of which will be discussed in more detail further on) are becoming more popular, but why exactly is this? 

The Mental Health Benefits of Journalling

When you take a look at all of the many mental health benefits that journalling can bring, it is easy to see why this practice is now becoming increasingly popular. 

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are two mental health conditions that can really take their toll on a person’s overall health. 

Chronic stress, along with the anxiety that this causes, can lead to: 

  • High blood sugar and blood pressure 
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart attacks 
  • Depression 
  • A weak immune system 
  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Fertility problems

People are constantly looking for ways in which they can manage their stress and anxiety levels, and journalling is a great place to start. 

How does journalling help with stress and anxiety?

Well, research has found that journalling enables people to release their worries and anxieties from their mind, rather than suppressing them or dwelling on them.

Not only does this reduce stress and anxiety, but it also frees up the mind and allows it to properly focus on the task at hand. 

Contemplative woman writing in a journal

This works for dealing with your thoughts and feelings about stressful events that have happened in the past, as well as for stressful situations that are coming up in the future. 

It is also a great way to help you to avoid particular stress triggers in the future. 

How? 

By writing them down, you will be able to better identify exactly what it is that is causing your stress, meaning that you can then take steps in the future to avoid those triggers. 

Reduces the Symptoms of Depression

Around 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lives, making this a very prevalent illness that needs to be dealt with as early on as possible. 

Wondering how journalling helps a person to deal with depression? 

In a number of ways, such as: 

  • Perspective and control – getting your thoughts on to paper is a great way to look at a situation from a different perspective. It is also quite empowering, and due to the way in which it will make your problems seem more manageable, you will then feel as though you have a better sense of control over your life 
  • Increases awareness – you may not realize at first what it is that is making you feel depressed, but journalling can help you to identify this, bringing subconscious thoughts and feelings to the surface. This then makes it easier to deal with your triggers 
  • Tracking depression triggers – if you take note of your symptoms each and every day in your journal, it won’t be long before you begin to notice a pattern in the triggers that exacerbate your depression symptoms. This then makes it easier to avoid them in the future and keep your symptoms at a low 
  • Gratitude – regularly reminding yourself of the things you are grateful for you in your life can help to keep depressive symptoms at bay

There have been a number of studies carried out on the connection between journalling and depression. 

What did they discover? 

That those who were suffering from depressive disorders experienced a significant decline in their symptoms after journalling for just a few days, with these effects continuing on for the four weeks in which the participants were required to keep a journal.

Improves Memory

As mentioned above, journalling is such an effective way to reduce stress and clear your mind of all of the negative thoughts and emotions that are running through it. 

How is this linked to your memory?

Because freeing your mind of all of that negative clutter enables your working memory to function much better. It means that your brain does not have to use its cognitive energy focusing on stress or worries, and can instead use this to create memories. 

The fact that writing your experiences down on paper also helps to improve the way in which your memory retention works is an added bonus! 

Combats Sleep Deprivation

The quality of your sleep and the state of your mental health are so closely related. 

Sleep deprivation not only has a negative effect on your mental health, but mental health issues can also lead to sleep deprivation, resulting in quite the vicious cycle.

How does journalling help with this? 

Research shows that those who spend just five minutes before bed journalling are able to relax and fall asleep much faster than those who do not.

Happy woman smiling and sleeping in bed

Think this sounds like an easy way to tackle your sleep deprivation? 

There’s one thing that you need to know if you want to use journalling to help with this…

Rather than journalling about what went on during the day, the improvements in your sleep patterns will only really come about if you journal about tasks that you still need to accomplish. In other words, writing a to-do list for the next day will bring about better results than writing about tasks you have already completed. 

Why? 

Because all of your to-do tasks are the ones that will keep your brain active in the evenings. Writing these down, and therefore offloading them, will then put your mind at ease, enabling your brain and body to fall asleep so much easier. 

The Different Methods of Journalling

Ready to give journalling a try? 

As mentioned earlier, there are now so many different ways in which you can do this, whether you prefer to go old school with pen and paper, or opt for something more high-tech and digital. 

It goes without saying that a blank notebook and a pen is all you really need to start journalling. 

However, if you need some extra help getting started, then you may want to look into some of the other journal types out there that provide all of the inspiration you need to really get your thoughts on paper. 

There are many journals out there that already contain journalling prompts, and these can sometimes make it easier to get started in terms of actually writing something down. 

Want something more high tech than pen and paper? 

There are several digital journalling tools and apps out there to choose from. 

Here are a few of the most popular: 

  • Ohlife – this free service will send you an email each day, asking how your day went. All you need to do is hit the reply button and type out a reply, which can be as short or long as you want. Send your email and then log on to your account to see all of your past replies 
  • Grid Diary – this program will send you eight question prompts a day, laying out your answers in an easy-to-view grid-like format 
  • Five Minute Journal – this app will send you timed prompts, asking you to list different things, whether this may be three things that you are appreciative of or five things that happened that day. This app was developed around psychology research, and is a great one for reflection 
  • Day One – offers a wide variety of features, from being able to add metadata and music information to the way in which you can customize it to send multiple prompts at certain times of each day 
  • Momento – Momento not only gives you the opportunity to jot down your thoughts and memories, but it also draws together all of the information you have posted each day on each of your social networks

What Should You Write About?

If you go for a journal or app that offers up writing prompts each day, then this makes it easy to know exactly what you should be writing about. 

However, going with just a blank notebook and a pen, or even a blank page on your computer, can sometimes leave you with writer’s block. 

So, how do you decide what to actually write about? 

Well, as mentioned earlier, if you want to use journalling as a way to help improve your sleep, then try to jot down a quick to-do list of your upcoming tasks the next day. 

However, in order to gain all of the other mental health benefits mentioned above, you need to delve a little deeper when journalling…

Here are some ideas of what to write about: 

  • Your accomplishments, no matter how small these may seem 
  • Five things that you are grateful for 
  • A recollection of the events that occurred that day 
  • Reflections, meaning sentences that begin with “I want”, “I think” and “I feel”
  • How things are going at work and in your personal life 
  • A bucket list 

Don’t worry about your spelling, grammar or punctuation when journalling. You need to be able to write freely from your mind, without having to worry about any of those things. 

If you don’t really enjoy writing, a bullet journal may be a better option for you. 

What is a bullet journal? 

If you do an online search for this, you are likely to feel a little overwhelmed. So, to put it simply, a bullet journal is basically just like a normal journal, except that you write things down in bullet points and lists rather than sentences and paragraphs.

This is referred to as rapid logging, and you would make use of different symbols to categorize your notes. 

Writing in a journal

It may seem complicated, but this method of journalling can actually be extremely helpful when it comes to improving your mental health. 

Making Journalling a Habit

Many people make the decision to start journalling, and go out and buy themselves an inspiring new notebook or journal, as well as some new pens, to get them started. 

While it may go well for the first day or so, turning journalling into an actual habit can be tricky. 

One of the best ways to do this is by keeping your journal near your bed. Set aside just five minutes each night before you go to bed for journalling. Doing this first thing in the morning can also be a great way to start your day. 

Alternatively, if you would like to let loose and freely write for longer, set aside 20 minutes of journalling time three times a week. If you consciously set days and times for journalling, this will make it much easier to incorporate the habit into your existing lifestyle. 

Keep doing this for a while and it won’t be long before journalling becomes a natural habit! 

As you can see, not only can journalling be so useful when it comes to improving your mental health, but it is also such a fun and creative practice to make use of. Even if you think that journalling may not be for you, give it a try for a week or two, as you will likely witness its benefits for yourself by then.  

Workout friends high-five each other, resting

Setting Realistic Workout Expectations

When it comes to working out, consistency is key. Pushing yourself too hard will only damage your motivation, making it far less likely that you will stick to a regular workout routine. 

This is why it is so important to set yourself realistic workout expectations, as this is what will give you the best results. 

How do you make sure that your aims and goals are realistic? 

Here are some tips: 

Smart Goals

When it comes to setting goals, SMART is an acronym that can really help you. 

What does SMART stand for? 

  • Specific – your goal should be clear and succinct. Read on for advice on choosing these specific goals 
  • Measurable – this basically means that you need to add a number to your goal. Make sure that there is a way to numerically track your progress 
  • Attainable – this is the tricky part. Your specific, measurable goal needs to be difficult enough to challenge and motivate you but attainable enough for you to actually achieve 
  • Realistic – make sure that your goal is realistic and relevant to you, and that it is the right time in your life to be putting your time and focus into achieving it 
  • Timely – give your goal a realistic deadline 

Infographic on SMART goals

Confused? 

An example would be “I will go running four days a week for an hour each time, so that I can lose 5% of my body weight in six weeks time.”

Choosing Realistic Goals and Expectations

For many people, especially those who are new to working out, the main goal tends to be weight loss. 

There is nothing wrong with this, but you do need to make sure that you are still being realistic…

How can you set a realistic weight loss goal? 

You need to first take into account your current weight, along with your body fat percentage. The heavier you are, and the more body fat you have, the faster you will be able to lose this. 

Once your body fat percentage and weight starts to decrease, it will then take you longer to lose the rest. 

For many people out there, a good expectation to aim for would be to lose about one percent of your body weight a week. 

How about for those who are trying to build muscle and strength? 

Well, as above, those who are new to strength training will make progress faster. 

Ideally, you should be able to add five pounds to the amount you lift each week. 

For those who are beginners, you could aim to increase your body weight by between 1% to 1.5% each year. Those who are intermediate lifters should aim for about 0.5%, while those who are experts should aim for around 0.25%. 

As you can see, there is quite a bit to take into account when setting your goal. You will need to do some research into making sure that your goal is a realistic one, so that you know that you will be able to achieve it. 

Measuring and Documenting Your Progress 

To begin with, you need to write your goals down. 

Why? 

Because not only does this make them more definite and real, but research shows that those who write down their workout plans and aims exercise around twice as much as those who do not. 

Once you get started with your workouts, it is important to keep monitoring your progress. This will go a long way when it comes to keeping you on track to accomplishing your goal. 

How should you monitor your progress?

Here are a few ideas: 

  • Keep a log book – your log book should contain the following information: your workout schedule, the actual exercises you have done, the amount of time you spent working out and numbers relating to your goal. This could be weight loss numbers, fitness levels, or anything else. Keeping track of your energy levels and your mood can also be beneficial 
  • Use an app – there are so many different workout apps out there that will help you to track your progress. Many of these can be accompanied by pieces of wearable technology, enabling you to obtain the highest in accuracy 

Checking watch and mobile phone app for workout statistics

  • Keep a calender – this is similar to a log book, but laying it all out on a calendar will make it easier to visually see your overall progress 
  • Take pictures – taking pictures throughout your workout journey will enable you to compare any aesthetic changes side by side. They will also provide you with extra motivation when it comes to continuing on to making improvements to your body. Posting these photos on a social media account can also help to keep you accountable when it comes to sticking to your aims and goals 

Sticking to Your Goals

For those of you who already regularly work out, you have likely had those days where you just can’t seem to muster up the motivation to exercise. 

Sticking to your workout goals can be tough, but here are a few tips to help you out: 

  • Reward yourself – set yourself mini goals and then reward yourself each time you achieve one of these. The rewards could be anything from a pampering spa session to a short break away, depending on how much motivation you need 
  • Keep your workout bag packed – this makes it easier to just “grab and go” before a workout, rather than having to waste time sorting through your belongings and packing your bag 
  • Work out with friends and family – this not only makes working out more enjoyable, but will also hold you more accountable to your goals 
  • Plan some form of exercise for each day – even if you only plan to work out in the gym four times a week, you should still try to plan an active exercise for the remaining days of the week. This could be as simple as a bike ride, a hike with the dog, or even an evening stroll around your neighborhood 
  • Go public – whether you simply announce your goals to your friends and family, or set up a social media account where you post your progress, putting your goals out there in the big wide world makes it much harder to ignore them when things are feeling difficult 
  • Work with a personal trainer – this will give you some extra motivation, while the advice given to you during your workout will help to make your workout even more effective 

Aligning Your Diet with Your Workout Goals 

You are likely already well aware of the fact that your diet will have a huge impact when it comes to achieving your workout goals.

Eating the right foods before your workout will give your body the energy it needs to really thrive and be active, while eating certain foods afterwards will help when it comes to building muscle and reducing fat. 

So, which foods should you be eating? 

Well, before a workout, try to eat foods that are low in fiber and fat, but contain a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrates. Stay away from anything fried, greasy or filled with sugar. 

Drinking plenty of fluids with your food is also important. 

Why? 

Because the water in these fluids acts as a cooling mechanism for your body, while also preventing it from becoming dehydrated. 

What about sports drinks? 

All you really need is water. However, if you tend to sweat quite a bit, or are working out in a humid environment, then a sports drink could be quite beneficial. Of course, if weight loss is your end goal, then make sure that the sports drink you choose does not contain too many calories. There are many diet versions of sports drinks available, so these may be better suited to you. 

What should you be eating after your workout? 

Ideally, you want to be eating foods that contain plenty of protein. This is what your muscles need in order to recover from all the exercise, as well as to grow. 

However, don’t go overboard…

Your body only needs about 10 to 20 grams of protein after a workout.

Do you struggle to stick to a healthy diet? 

Here are some tips to follow to make it easier: 

  • Eat smaller meals, but eat these more frequently throughout the day. This will help to naturally raise your metabolism, enabling you to burn more calories in the end 
  • Give food prep a try. Sorting your meals from before will make it much easier to stick to a healthy diet 
  • Try not to skip meals. This may seem beneficial in the short run, but it only means that you are much more likely to over-eat during your next meal 
  • A journal that documents your diet will help you to eat healthier 

Keep Your Workouts Enjoyable

Working out can sometimes seem a bit tedious, and this only makes it so much harder to achieve your goals and expectations. 

The key here is to make sure that you are keeping your workouts fun and enjoyable. 

How? 

Well, to begin with, choose some exercises that you genuinely enjoy. For example, if you hate going to the gym, then coming up with a workout plan that revolves around the gym isn’t something that is going to fill you with excitement. 

In fact, working out outdoors can really give you a mental boost. Spending time in nature is extremely therapeutic, and you will likely find that you have a much clearer head after an outdoor workout. Research shows that exercising outdoors is much more effective at reducing feelings of stress than exercising indoors.

Yoga group in the park, morning

Try to keep mixing your workouts up, so that you aren’t doing the same exercises day in and day out. There are so many new and inventive exercises constantly being put out there, and trying something that you’ve never tried before will not only help in stimulating your body and muscles, but also your mind. 

This is especially the case for those who haven’t been seeing the results that they have been expecting. This could be a sign that the exercises you have chosen aren’t quite right for your goal, and it would be worth exploring other options. 

Listening to music while working out can also really be a game-changer…

Music has been shown to improve performance while also boosting motivation. 

Wondering if there is a particular genre of music you should be listening to? 

This all depends on the type of workout you are doing…

If you are warming up, something with a slightly slower tempo would be beneficial, while speed or endurance exercises would require a faster tune. 

There are many BPM (beats per minute) calculators online that can help you to work out the tempo of a particular song.

Here are some guidelines to follow: 

  • Warming up – 100 to 110 BPM
  • Stretching – 90 to 100 BPM 
  • Strength training – 110 to 120 BPM 
  • Endurance, agility and speed training – anything over 120 BPM 

Another way to make your workouts more fun is to exercise with someone else. As mentioned above, this also has the added advantage of giving you some extra motivation while also making you more accountable to your goals. 

Don’t have any friends or family who want to work out? 

That’s ok because there are plenty of workout groups that you can join. Whether you join a more informal workout meet-up or an actual class, working out with others will give you a support system that will make your workouts so much more enjoyable. 

Not only can it be difficult to decide upon workout expectations, but then you also have to make sure that you stick to your goals in order to actually achieve your expectations. This is why it is so important that any goals or expectations you set for yourself are realistic, as setting yourself up for success is key when it comes to successfully making progress with your workouts. 

Smiling woman enjoying coffee indoors on a winter day

10 Scents to Warm Your Winter Mood

Has the winter cold been getting to you? 

Try turning to some of these warming scents to lift your winter mood back up…

Ginger

A plant native to Asia, ginger is a spice that has long since been recognized for its medicinal properties, and these qualities are reflected in its essential oils too. 

The oil is created from distilling the root of the plant, which is the same part of the plant that is eaten. This gives the oil a hot and spicy aroma, making it perfect for the cold days of winter. 

Ginger is also such an energizing scent, and will help to keep your spirits high. This is so important in the winter, at a time when loneliness and depression are more common. 

Wondering how strong the scent of this oil is? 

That all depends on the quality of the oil, as well as how the plant was distilled. The better the quality, the stronger the scent. With that being said, even the strongest scented ginger essential oils can still be relatively light, especially when compared to the aroma of the root when it has been freshly sliced. 

What’s the best way to make use of ginger essential oil? 

An aromatherapy diffuser is the easiest way to enjoy the distinct scent of ginger, especially since this means that you can easily create your own essential oil blend.

Ginger works especially well with citrus oils, as this gives it a sweeter scent. Sweet orange oil, which will be discussed further down, is a great choice. 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon essential oil comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree, and is known for its warm and sweet aroma. 

It also brings with it a number of health benefits that are particularly important in the winter months, such as: 

  • Preventing colds and coughs 
  • Relieving pain 
  • Fighting off infections 
  • Boosting circulation 
  • Reducing stress 
  • Improving digestion

This is a great oil to use in a diffuser, because its earthy and spicy scent is one that tends to linger around in a room for hours.

A bundle of cinnamon sticks, with a small vial of cinnamon oil

One thing to know about cinnamon essential oil is that it features quite a strong scent, and it can often be overpowering when used on its own. Try mixing the cinnamon with sweet orange, jojoba or bergamot oil for a softer and more delicate fragrance. 

Juniper Berry

With a sweet, woody and crisp aroma, juniper berry is known for being quite a stimulating scent. If you drink gin, then you will recognize the scent immediately, as these berries are what give gin its unique flavor. 

This is a cleansing and purifying oil, and was used for years by Native Americans as a way to clean the air. It will give your immune system a boost, which is always helpful in the winter months. 

In addition to cleansing, the scent of juniper berry is also a relaxing one, making it great at calming the mind and body while inducing sleep. 

Try mixing this refreshing oil with one of the following to maximize its effects:

  • Grapefruit 
  • Sweet fennel 
  • Cypress

Sweet Orange

Sweet orange is such a versatile essential oil, with its uplifting scent able to quickly disperse through a room. Although it is often referred to as just orange oil, make sure that you are not purchasing bitter orange oil instead, as this oil has different qualities. 

Sweet orange oil is cheerful and happy, making it perfect for a gloomy winter’s day. It is commonly used in aromatherapy as a way to encourage feelings of warmth and happiness, as well as for detoxification purposes. 

Unlike most other essential oils, which are extracted through steam distilling, sweet orange oil is usually cold pressed, with the oil coming from the rind of the fruit. While there are steam distilled versions available, a cold-pressed sweet orange oil is the one to go for. 

Why? 

Because the heat produced by the steam in the distillation process degrades the content of citral within the oil, which is an important compound when it comes to the oil’s therapeutic properties. 

Are you allergic to citrus fruits? 

If so, sweet orange oil is not one that you should be using. Even if you are just diffusing the oil into the air, it could still cause irritations or allergic reactions. 

Clove Bud 

Cloves are a spice that come from a tree native to Southeast Asia.

There are three types of essential oils that can be created from cloves, and these are:

  • Clove leaf oil
  • Clove bud oil
  • Clove stem oil

Which one is best?

Many would say clove bud oil. This is because of the fact that the leaves and the stems of the plant contain a much more potent chemical composition, which can often result in those oils causing irritations.

When it comes to medicinal uses, clove oil is known for its anesthetic, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, and is a popular remedy when it comes to soothing toothaches, mouth infections and even bad breath.

What about its scent?

Warm and spicy, clove essential oils are able to help with common winter ailments, including colds, coughs and sinusitis. It can also help with digestive problems, such as nausea, making it quite the therapeutic oil.

Not only that, but clove oil increases blood circulation, which can go a long way in boosting heart health during the winter.

All of these properties come down to the eugenol content within the oil, which makes up around 90% of the oil. This is what gives the oil its warming and stimulating qualities.

Want to create a clove oil blend?

Clove oil works well with other spicy oils, such as cinnamon, as well as citrus and floral oils.

Nutmeg

Sweet, warm and slightly woody, nutmeg essential oil comes from the seeds of the Myristica fragrans tree, which is an evergreen tree that is native to Asia. 

Its scent is quite a well-rounded one, being spicy and light but deep and musky at the same time. 

When used aromatically, this oil has the ability to boost circulation, which is so important in the winter. 

Nutmeg oil surrounded by loose nutmeg

Why? 

Because the cold weather causes blood vessels to constrict, which means that your circulation is reduced. Your heart then has to pump so much harder in order to get your blood flowing around your body, which can put a lot of strain on it.

The stimulating scent of nutmeg is also known for being able to improve cognitive function. It clears away feelings of stress and exhaustion, while improving concentration and productivity. 

Want to create your own unique blend with nutmeg? 

Try mixing it with some of the following essential oils: 

  • Black pepper 
  • Cinnamon 
  • Clove 
  • Rosemary 
  • Clary sage 
  • Coriander 
  • Frankincense 

Cedarwood

Distilled from the bark of the cedarwood tree, cedarwood essential oil has such a pleasing aroma, which is why it is incorporated into so many different perfumes. 

However, in addition to its distinctly woody and sweet scent, cedarwood essential oil brings with it a few other benefits…

One of these is the way in which it can help the respiratory system. Being a natural sedative, cedarwood can help to soothe certain respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic coughing. 

Its sedative properties also mean that this oil is effective at relaxing the body and inducing sleep. 

How does it do this?

Its aroma triggers the body to release serotonin, which the brain then converts into melatonin. This extra melatonin is what will give you a long and restful sleep. 

The serotonin also helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, improving and stabilizing your mood. 

Not only are all of these qualities reasons as to why cedarwood is so often used in perfumes, but it also blends really well with other scents too, making it so versatile. 

If you would like to create your own cedarwood blend, try mixing the oil with one of the following: 

  • Lavender oil
  • Chamomile oil
  • Citrus oils 

Is there anyone who shouldn’t use cedarwood essential oil?

Yes, if you are pregnant. 

Why? 

Because of the way in which it can induce menstruation, which can be dangerous during a pregnancy.

Cardamom

A plant belonging to the ginger family, cardamom is a spice that comes from the seed pods of the plant. Not only is it used for cooking all over the world, but the scent of the oil is perfect for the winter months. 

The oil has quite a bold and punchy fragrance, with notes of sweetness, spiciness and nuttiness all at the same time. It exudes an air of mystery and exoticism, which is partly what gives it its energizing and uplifting qualities. 

While its scent may seem strong and potent, cardamom is actually quite a gentle essential oil. Its fragrance stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain, which not only give it a relaxing effect, but also helps to prevent nausea, especially from chemotherapy or pregnancy.

This oil is also able to soothe the mind, reducing depression and exhaustion while increasing concentration and focus. It is known for being able to provide motivation, which many find themselves in need of during the winter. 

Although cardamom is such a beneficial oil, many find its scent to be too spice-like. 

If this is the case for you, try mixing cardamom essential oil with one of the following to tone its scent down a bit: 

  • Ginger essential oil 
  • Fennel essential oil 
  • Chamomile essential oil 

Vanilla

The sweet scent of vanilla is instantly recognizable, and so many find this fragrance extremely comforting. 

This isn’t a coincidence either…

Vanilla essential oil is known for being able to lift the mood and promote feelings of happiness. It provides a calming effect to the brain, countering any anxiety and restlessness. It does this to such a great extent that it has been used by hospitals for decades to keep patients calm and prevent claustrophobia before an MRI scan.

Essential oil with vanilla sticks

Vanilla is also able to lower blood pressure and encourage a restful sleep, which is why this is an oil often used in the evenings. 

For those who find that their sex drive tends to take a dive in the winter months, vanilla can help with this too. 

How? 

Thanks to its aphrodisiac effects. The scent of the oil is able to increase levels of estrogen and testosterone in the body, encouraging physical intimacy. 

When purchasing vanilla essential oil, there is one important thing to keep in mind…

Many vanilla oils have been created synthetically. This is understandable when you consider the fact that vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world to produce. 

Why is it so expensive? 

Because it is a difficult one to grow, and the drying, curing and extracting process is also extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive. 

With that being said, synthetic versions of the oil only contain a tiny concentration of vanillin, which is the compound that gives the oil its therapeutic effects, as well as its distinct scent. 

While it may be quite costly to purchase a natural vanilla oil, this is definitely worth it if you want to experience the spice’s true health benefits. 

Scotch Pine

Distilled from the pine needles of the Pinus sylvestnis tree, Scotch pine oil is woody, earthy and fresh, as well as incredibly warming. 

This is a cleansing and clearing oil, not only in terms of air quality but also when it comes to a cluttered mind. It is often used before a meditation session, as it uplifts the mood and clears away negative thoughts. 

It is also able to help reduce feelings of fatigue, which is something that many experience on a dreary winter’s day. 

If you do decide to purchase Scotch pine oil, keep in mind that it contains around 90% monoterpenes. This means that the oil degrades easily when it comes into contact with heat or light, so you are best off storing your oil in the refrigerator. 

There are hundreds of essential oils out there, but some are definitely better suited than others to the winter months. These ten warming oils are perfect for the colder season, and will leave you better equipped to deal with all that the winter throws at you. 

Woman recycling her trash in coloured bins

10 Ways to Live an Eco-Conscious Life

Many people veer away from the idea of an eco-friendly lifestyle, fearing that this would require them to give up all of their creature comforts. 

However, this is not at all the case…

Take a look at these 10 small changes that you can make in your life to make your lifestyle more eco-conscious. 

Cut Back on Your Meat Consumption

The meat industry has been so devastating for the environment, and continues to cause so much damage. 

As you likely already know, humans could do with more space on the planet, yet 83% of the world’s agricultural land is dedicated to livestock production, even though this only delivers around 18% of the population’s calories. only delivers around 18% of the population’s calories.

Not only that, but the livestock industry produces large amounts of dangerous greenhouse gases, contributing to the planet’s pollution problem. 

Feeding goats in a farm

Are you a big meat eater? 

If your answer is yes, then the idea of cutting back on your meat consumption is not likely to sound very appealing. 

But did you know that this could benefit your health too, in addition to helping the planet? 

All you need to do is start small, phasing out the meat portion in one or two meals a week. There are so many meat alternatives available now, as well as delicious vegetarian recipes, giving you plenty of other exciting options. 

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Everybody has a carbon footprint, and while this term has been thrown about quite a lot lately, do you know what it actually means? 

Your carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment that you have contributed to. This carbon dioxide has such a detrimental effect on global warming, and if everybody sought to reduce their carbon footprint by just a small amount, this would make a huge difference to the environment. 

So, how do you go about reducing your carbon footprint? 

Here are a few easy steps that you can take: 

  • Buy local – from food to clothes, buying locally grown or made products whenever possible will cut back on the amount of carbon dioxide it takes to bring you your goods 
  • Make use of public transport – if more people used buses and trains, carbon dioxide emissions would be significantly reduced 
  • Cut back on flying – if you are a frequent flyer, try cutting back on this, saving your flights for when they are really necessary instead 

Go Organic

Let’s begin by making one thing clear…

If a food item is organic, this doesn’t mean that it is completely free from pesticides and other chemicals. Organic farmers are still allowed to use these, although to a much smaller extent. 

That being said, organic food is noticeably lower in harmful chemical residues. Not only is that beneficial to your health, but it also means that less of those chemicals have been released into the environment in order to grow the food that you eat.

Don’t like the high price tags that often accompany organic produce? 

Due to the fact that organic food is more labor-intensive to grow, and also sometimes produces smaller yields, prices are usually much higher than non-organic alternatives. 

While you may not want to completely overhaul every item you buy and swap these for their organic versions, there are certain foods out there that end up so much more contaminated than others, making it worthwhile to at least buy the organic versions of those. 

These are some of the items worth going organic for: 

  • Soft fruits – strawberries, raspberries and more have been tested, and over one-third of all samples contained at least 10 different pesticide residues, with one containing 22 
  • Spinach – this popular leafy green is almost guaranteed to contain pesticide residue, unless you go organic 
  • Applesaround 80% of tested apples contain traces of a pesticide that is banned in Europe
  • Tomatoes – these tend to be particularly prone to absorbing pesticides, with smaller tomatoes being more vulnerable 
  • Celery – this is quite a porous vegetable, meaning that it quickly absorbs chemicals. Samples have shown 13 different pesticides contained within these crunchy stems 
  • Potatoes – research shows that potatoes contain more pesticides by weight than any other food 
  • Milk – organic milk means that the cow hasn’t been fed any hormones, making the milk much healthier for you

When it comes to the other foods you eat, many of these, such as onions and garlic, will contain tougher external skin. This helps to protect them from absorbing so many pesticides. While they will still contain chemicals, the foods listed above are the ones to focus on if you are only planning on going partly organic. 

Switch to a Renewable Energy Supplier

There are now so many energy suppliers out there that offer 100% renewable energy sources for your home. 

Where does this renewable energy come from? 

The sources are varied, and include solar panels, wind turbines and hydro power.

Illustration of finite versus renewable sources of energy

Each one will have its pros and cons, and their viability will also depend on where you live, as well as how much energy you use. 

Not only is renewable energy so much better for the environment, but it could also save you some money. 

How? 

Well, firstly, renewable energy is cheaper. Secondly, many countries offer tax incentives for those who make use of renewable energy sources, giving you even more savings. 

If you are new to renewable energy, many companies offer free consultations where they will come to your house and give you advice on the best renewable sources for you, making this well worth enquiring about. 

Swap Instead of Shop

There are times when nothing can beat the satisfying feeling that comes from a day of retail therapy, but all of this consumerism is not doing the environment any favors. 

The clothes that you buy contribute to your carbon footprint, and the rise of cheaper clothing means that more and more items are now ending up in landfills, instead of being repurposed and reused. 

This is where clothing swaps come in…

They might not sound very glamorous, but they are a great way to get yourself some new clothes without having a negative environmental impact. 

Wondering where to find these clothing swaps? 

Many cities are now home to a swap shop, where you can bring in your unwanted items in exchange for tokens, which you can then use to purchase other items in the shop. There are many swap shops that are dedicated to other types of goods, excluding clothes, such as books, DVDs and more. 

Can’t find a swap shop near you? 

You can always gather together a group of people and arrange your own swaps. Simply have everyone bring in a certain number of items, and then let the swapping begin! Any leftover goods can be donated to charity shops, ensuring that there is no wastage. 

Start Composting

Home compost bins have been growing in popularity in recent years, and for good reason too. 

While some of the waste that you throw out, such as food waste, will break down in a landfill, the way in which it does so causes the release of harmful methane gases. 

A compost bin enables these natural items to break down safely, while cutting back on the amount of waste you send to a landfill. It also helps to make you more aware of how much plastic and other synthetic materials you are using, since you won’t be able to place these into your compost bin. 

Compost bin

An added benefit to home composting is the compost that you end up with once the process is done. This really is the very best stuff for your garden, and will be so much more superior to any compost you could buy in a bag. Even if you aren’t a keen gardener, you will likely have friends or neighbors that are, and who would be extremely appreciative for your homemade compost.

Reusables Instead of Disposables

Disposable products really have taken over recently, and there is no denying that they can definitely make life easier and more convenient. 

While this may be the case, have you ever thought of all the waste you are creating through the disposable products that you use? 

There are so many disposable products out there that could easily be replaced with reusable versions. 

Here are a few ideas of changes you could make around your home: 

  • Ink cartridges can be refilled 
  • Batteries can be recharged 
  • Reusable coffee filters 
  • Reusable razor blades 
  • Reusable food storage containers 

Yes, it may take more effort on your part to reuse products instead of simply reaching for a new one, but the environment will definitely thank you. 

Work From Home

While not everybody’s job enables them to work from home all the time, there are many jobs out there where this is possible at least once a week or so. 

How does this help the environment? 

Well, research shows that if one million people worked from home one day a week, this would cut back on three million tons of carbon dioxide being released into the environment each year. 

Not only that, but the lack of stress you will experience from not having to go through your daily commute will do your health plenty of good too. 

Not sure if your company allows employees to work from home? 

It’s always worth asking to find out, especially when you have such good eco-friendly reasons behind your request! 

Cut Back on Plastic

You likely use plastic in just about every part of your life, and all of this plastic soon ends up in landfills around the world.

Why is this bad?

Because plastic doesn’t break down properly, and also releases harmful chemicals into the ground, which then make their way into nearby water sources, contaminating surrounding ecosystems.

There are many other ways in which plastic is damaging to the environment, such as with all of the wildlife that ends up entangled in discarded plastic bags, or the animals that mistake the bags for food and eat them.

It does take quite a bit of dedication to really cut back on plastic usage…

Begin by looking at the food you buy. Many items are unnecessarily packaged in layers of plastic, but there are likely to be loose and unpackaged versions of these items available too.

Plastic bag usage is something that can be easily cut back on. Simply start using reusable bags instead, keeping these in your home, car, office and anywhere else that makes them easily accessible for when you need them.

Bottled water is another big problem, but, again, is easy to overcome. Simply stop buying bottled water!

Don’t like the taste of your tap water?

It may be worthwhile purchasing a water filter to filter out any chemicals that have been used in the water system.

Automatic Car Washes

Do you wash your car yourself, or do you take it through a car wash? 

People who wash their cars themselves likely think that this is much better for the environment, but this is actually the opposite from the truth…

When you wash your car yourself, you end up using 10 gallons of water every minute. On the other hand, if you put your car through an automatic car wash, this uses up around 15 to 30 gallons of water in total. 

Automatic car wash

This means that unless you are able to wash your car yourself in under three minutes, you would save a significant amount of water by taking your car through an automatic car wash instead. 

Each of these ten steps are quite easy to implement, and while they may not seem like huge changes, they definitely make your lifestyle so much more eco-friendly. From using renewable energy sources to cutting back on waste, following these steps will reduce the amount of damage that you are personally causing to the environment.