Woman enjoying a salad while working on her laptop

11 Superfoods That Will Boost Your Brainpower

As you might have already known, your brain is in charge of everything.

It is like a conductor of a big and complicated orchestra.

Now, imagine if the conductor was feeling a bit woozy because they haven’t eaten anything? Without the necessary cues, the trombone flips, the violin storms off the stage, and the piano simply crashes.

If you want a healthy and happy body, you need to have a healthy and happy mind. And one way you can ensure that is by providing proper nourishment.

Food for Thought

Many of us don’t even think about the food we eat on a daily basis. However, food is what gives our body energy, food is what gives it health and helps it develop.

But it is often that we forget this fact and choose something that is fast and easy.

If you want to truly boost your brainpower for a longer period of time, you should definitely try to encompass at least some of these foods on a regular basis.

No, we don’t mean every day.

However, it is definitely also recommended that you talk to a nutritionist before making any large dietary changes.

1)   Coffee

Yes, yes, we decided to start with coffee, since it’s something that most of us like.

But, we are not talking about a tall latte with caramel drizzle (even though we would definitely like it, this is not the healthiest choice). We are talking about the essence of coffee.

There are truly numerous benefits of coffee, but the ones we are most concerned with have to do with the brain.

Woman's hands holding a small cup of coffee

Now, if you’ve ever had to study under pressure (and you most certainly have, otherwise you’ve missed on an adventure!), you know that coffee is simply divine when your bed is calling your name.

We all know that coffee works wonders for alertness and focus. In fact, caffeine in coffee blocks adenosine, which can make you feel sleepy.

However, there is yet another benefit to coffee – it increases your brain’s capacity to process information. Some recent studies have found that caffeine increases the brain’s entropy.

Another good thing about coffee is that it can actually support your brain health as you get older. Longer consumption of coffee reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

However, always be mindful that too much coffee can lead to other health issues, so it is advisable not to drink more than 3-4 cups a day. If used excessively, it can even trigger a migraine. And then you can kiss all your brainpower goodbye.

2)   Dark Chocolate

Yes, you’ve guessed it, we’re hittin’ you with the good stuff so you don’t hate us too much afterwards.

And no, milk chocolate doesn’t count.

Yeah, as we said – don’t hate us.

Cocoa contains flavonoids that actually improve blood flow to the brain. You know what that means – improved memory and focus. Cocoa can also prevent mental decline linked to old age.

Dark chocolate is full of organic compounds that function as antioxidants, which means that it’s also incredibly healthy in many other ways.

And we don’t even need to mention what chocolate (yes, even dark chocolate) does to your mood.

However, even though dark chocolate is healthier than its milkier version, it also has more calories. So, don’t eat too much of it, just enough to get that brainpower started.

3)   Olives and Olive Oil

For a long time now, researchers have been pointing to the health benefits of olive oil. There are so many, that we can’t even name them all.

The bottom line is this – olive oil=health galore!

Olive oil on wooden table

Now, some studies have even shown that regular consumption of olives and olive oil leads to less brain deterioration over time because of the mono-unsaturated fat that olives have. This is the healthy fat which actually increases the transportation of oxygen to the brain.

Olives can be eaten as snacks, you can put them in salads and even on pizza! Also, you can use olive oil for cooking (although it loses some of its healthy vibe when cooked), marinades and many salad dressings.

Truly, olives and olive oil are so versatile that they can be incorporated at least once a week in your regular diet.

4)   Fish

No, tuna’s not gonna cut it.

You need the good kind of fish, that is, fatty fish, which includes:

  • Trout
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Salmon
  • Kippers
  • Sardines

Yeah, not the nicest-smelling bunch in the b(r)ook, but hey, your brain’s going to be really grateful for your nose’s sacrifice.

These types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. And guess what your brain’s made of? (Well, not entirely, but to a great extent.)

This means that eating these types of fish not only boosts your brainpower, but it also helps protect your brain against mental decline. Some studies have found that not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids is linked with depression and even learning impairments.

So, it’s a good idea to incorporate fish into your diet. Try to eat it at least twice a week. That is, if you’re not allergic to fish, since it’s a common enough food allergen.

Which brings us to our next superfood.

5)   Nuts

Nuts are great in all sorts of ways. You can have them in salads, as a snack on the go, you can even put them in cakes.

Talk about versatility!

Now, don’t go nuts here. While they are truly healthy, they are also packed (and we mean packed) with calories. So, if you’re on a restrictive diet, you might want to use them sparingly.

Cup of mixed nuts

Most experts recommend a handful a day (to keep the doctor away) to get the most benefits without ingesting too much. 

You might have heard that nuts are in general great for you heart. But did you know that eating nuts on a regular basis can reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases and improve cognition significantly?

Nuts are full of healthy fats and antioxidants. They are also rich in vitamin E, which shields cell membranes from free radical damage. This, in turn, slows down mental decline.

When it comes to the type of nuts you should eat – walnuts take the cake! They are full of fatty acids, copper, iron, calcium, manganese, folic acid, antioxidants, etc. Walnuts are the rulers of nuts everywhere.

However, nut allergy is truly widespread so, if you aren’t sure whether you have it, consult your doctor before you start eating  of the aforementioned kinds on a regular basis.

6)   Wholegrain Foods

Yeah, we told you you’d hate us.

We know, we know, nobody particularly enjoys eating wholegrain food. But have you ever wondered why the sudden popularity, then?

Because it is incredibly, incredibly healthy.

We kid you not.

Aside being great for digestion, whole grains are also a source of vitamin E, which, as we’ve mentioned, slows down mental decline by preventing free radicals from damaging cell membranes.

There are numerous ways you can incorporate wholegrain food into your diet. You can eat oatmeal, or wholegrain bread, or even use wholegrain pasta (which, we have to admit, does not actually taste that bad).

Why are whole grains good for the brain?

Well, the body works more to break them down, thus releasing energy in the form of glucose, into the body at a slower pace. This, in turn, extends your energy levels, increases your mood and concentration.

And, another perk is that you’ll feel full for longer.

So, instead of cramming down bacon or pancakes for breakfast, try a nice oatmeal or wholegrain toast. That will raise your energy levels and improve your concentration just when you need it most!

7)   Pumpkin Seeds

Just like nuts, pumpkin seeds are also great as a snack, filling you up for a longer period of time. Again, you can use them in salads or eat them just without anything.

Just. Like. That.

However, they’re also great if you want to put them in your wholegrain bread. This is an awesome way to combine several things that are great for brainpower.

You might not have thought about them, but pumpkin seeds are truly beneficial to your overall health.

But why are they good for your brain?

They also have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, which, as we’ve mentioned, support brain function. But, they also have magnesium (which is essential for learning and memory), B vitamins and tryptophan (which is a precursor for serotonin, improving good mood). Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, as well, which enhances memory and critical thinking, according to certain studies.

So, next time you’re thinking what healthy, brainpower-boosting snack to try out, the choice is simple!

But, again, not more than a handful.

8)   Berries

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring

My summer wine is really made from all these things.

Nancy Sinatra knew what she was singing about.

And she knew how to use it to her benefit.

The song notwithstanding, berries are really a wondrous gift from the earth. Many of them contain flavonoid antioxidants, which can improve communication between brain cells, boost learning and memory, and reduce cognitive decline.

Assorted bowls of berries

When it comes to the type of berries you should be munching on, these include, as Nancy sang, strawberries, of course, but also mulberries, blackberries, blueberries and black currants. These are all great for brainpower, and great for your immune system in general.

And they are certainly versatile when it comes to incorporating them in your diet. You can literally do anything with them, and they’ll still taste good.

Making fresh juice? Great!

Putting them in pie? Awesome!

Making a ham glaze? Why not?

There’s no reason why you should deprive your brain (and your body) from the gloriousness that are berries.

As the saying (that we’ve made up) goes, a new day, a new berry.

9)   Leafy Greens

Tastes differ, but many people apparently share a distaste for this particular type of food.

Ever since we were little kids, our parents had to make us eat spinach, kale, broccoli, etc.

The monsters!

It’s like they wanted us to be healthy or something!

But all jokes aside, the health benefits of leafy greens are well-known and we are now (a little) less reluctant to eat them.

They are simply overflowing with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants good for your entire body. But when it comes to the brain, they have a lot of iron, which improves attention, learning and memory, as well as vitamin K, which increases cognitive function.

Basically, your parents were right.

You should eat your veggies.   

10)    Avocados

Avocado is also great for a number of reasons.

Yes, it’s a bit on the high-calorie side.

Okay, a bit more on the high-calorie side.

However, it is a great source of unsaturated fat. This type of fat reduces blood pressure, which is linked with cognitive decline. They are rich in omega-2 fatty acids, which improve blood flow to the brain.

Woman presenting avocado

Now, if you’re not certain how to incorporate avocados into your regular diet, we have one word for you – guacamole!

11)    Eggs

Eggs are great for a number of reasons. Those reasons mostly include a vast array of ways to prepare them.

But, as it turns out, they also include some health reasons, as well.

Eggs are, in fact, a good source of some nutrients that have been linked with improved brain health – vitamins B6, B12, as well as folate and choline.

B vitamins can delay cognitive decline, while their deficiency has been linked to depression. As some research has shown, folate deficiency is common in the elderly suffering from dementia.

But choline is the star when it comes to eggs. Eggs are some of the richest sources of choline we can get. Choline is particularly important for the development of the memory center. The body uses choline to create acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and memory.

An average egg yolk has about 200 mg of choline, but that doesn’t meet our daily needs. Women need 425 mg per day, while men need 550 mg.

Woman holding head in pain

Avoid These Migraine Food Triggers

There’s possibly nothing worse than getting a migraine.

Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but still – migraines are truly awful! They make you want to simply curl up in a dark room and not leave until sound and light stop causing you pain.

If you’ve suffered from migraines, you know that there can be all sorts of triggers. And truly, the scope of triggers is quite vast. 

Now, there has been research which connects certain types of food with migraines. That means that you should at least reduce the amount of that food in your diet if you want to reduce the frequency and the intensity of your migraine attacks.

What Are Migraines?

Basically, migraines are extremely painful headaches, which can be accompanied by sensory sensitivity. Symptoms can vary from one person to another and can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, and sometimes even longer.

Some common symptoms of migraines include:

  • Headache
  • Disturbed vision
  • Sensitivity to sensory information (i.e. to light, sound, smells)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness

However, migraines are usually also preceded and followed by other symptoms, so the impact of a single migraine attack can actually be quite long and debilitating. It can impact your everyday life to a significant extent, especially if you get them often.

Unfortunately, there is no medical cure for migraines currently. They are usually treated with other pain-relieving medication, or, in some cases, with preventive medication taken on a regular basis, which serves to reduce their severity or frequency.

However, there are things you yourself can do to prevent getting migraines. That may not completely eradicate your migraines, but it will certainly help significantly.

Migraine Triggers

Migraines are incredibly complex (they even used to be called complicated migraines). Even though there is plenty of research being done to see what causes them and to improve treatment, it seems that there is a long way to go still.

However, what most experts seem to agree on is that migraines are usually preceded by a specific trigger. The scope of triggers varies from one person to the next. While some triggers cause migraines in some people, they have no effect whatsoever on others, who are also suffering from migraines.

In any case, the scope of triggers is truly astounding. It involves things like hormonal changes, changes in sleep patterns, too much food, too little food, too much sleep, too little sleep, too much time in front of the computer, dehydration, and even the weekend.

Yes, even the weekend is a possible migraine trigger.

Many people suffer migraines due to the change in daily routine, which is why they experience a migraine at the weekend, when they should be relaxing.

Now that’s a pickle.

When it comes to food, there have been some studies that link certain types of food with the onset of migraines. However, because of its truly specific nature, scientists have been unable to find a common thread in all people who suffer from migraines.

That is why everyone should check their specific triggers. Here are some of the common food triggers that have been linked with causing migraines, which you might want to avoid. Now, this doesn’t mean you should stop consuming them completely. You simply need to control your cravings, and you’re on the right path.

Red Wine

Pouring red wine into two glasses

We know, we know.

This one hits home! How else are we supposed to (politely) manage all those boring dinners without getting (politely) tipsy on wine?

Well, if you’re a wine aficionado, we simply don’t know what to tell you.

And it’s not the wine’s fault, per se. Sulfites, which are used in red wine as preservatives, are, sadly, on the list of foods that may trigger migraines.

Additionally, alcohol in general is a major trigger. While you drink it, alcohol increases the blood flow to your brain and that, as you may have guessed, is known to trigger migraines.

Also – hangovers are simply the worst.

Dehydration, which is a common side-effect of the good ol’ hangover, can also cause migraines or, at the very least, a headache.

So, it might be a good idea to quit…

…fooling around and simply reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.

As they say, moderation is key.

Coffee

Woman holding a cup of espresso

Again, no need to completely quit coffee.

In fact, caffeine aids the absorption of many pain-relieving drugs.

However, if you’re used to several cups of coffee a day, when you don’t get the amount you’re used to, that’s when migraines appear.

Look into your daily consumption of caffeine, since it is not particularly healthy overall to drink too much of it. But, if you’re thinking about reducing the amount of coffee you drink, you have to do it gradually. So, no going cold turkey. Your body will not be happy.

According to most experts, daily intake of caffeine should be no more than 200 milligrams. The bad news is – it’s only one cup of coffee.

Chocolate

Dark chocolate truffles

When it comes to chocolate, many people have also said that it triggers their migraines. However, the jury’s still out on chocolate – some people who suffer from migraine headaches claim that chocolate helps ease their headache.

A study conducted at the University of California, San Diego analyzed oral and stool samples and found that people who experience migraines after eating chocolate have higher levels of gut microbes that modify nitrates.

Now, chocolate is full of nitrates.

The bacteria in our gut modifies and then its waste product, nitrites, become nitric oxide in the blood.

Nitric oxide is usually great for many things, including circulation, but it’s not particularly great for people who experience migraines.

So, again, while chocolate itself is not too bad, having too much of it can lead to headaches.

Tyramine

Sliced ham on wooden chopping board

Yeah, we bet you’re thinking you’ve never had tyramine in your life.

But, you have, you definitely have.

Except in other, sneakier (and tastier) forms.

Tyramine can be found in aged foods, as well as fermented foods, such as:

  • Cured meats
  • Aged cheese
  • Smoked fish

Tyramine is also found in some types of beer and even some fruits and veggies.

Food is more likely to have more tyramine if it is stored for long and if it isn’t kept in sufficiently cold environments.

An enzyme in the human body called monoamine oxidase (MAO) actually breaks down monoamines like tyramine. If you do not have enough of it in your system, it’s possible that you’ll get a migraine.

However, because it is such a complex issue, it’s still not completely clear how tyramine exactly triggers migraines.

Now, for some good news. There are actually types of meats and cheese which have higher and lower levels of tyramine. Here are some of them.

Meat/Poultry/Fish

Freshly cooked sausages and tomato dish, still in pan

When it comes to meat, you should avoid processed meat such as sausages, salami, as well as gravy (we know, this one’s hard for us, too). Another thing you should avoid is pickled fish, but we have a feeling not many people are dissatisfied with this one. However, this also includes smoked fish, so that might be a bit more difficult.

On the other hand, there is also meat which doesn’t have that much tyramine, such as fresh meat, fish, and poultry. Also, canned meats or fresh fish are also good for consumption and are not that likely to cause a migraine.

Cheese/Dairy

Freshly grated cheese on chopping board

Unfortunately, some of the best types of cheese are really high in tyramine. These include all sorts of aged cheese, cheddar, blue cheese, Camembert, Swiss cheese, Parmesan, Stilton, and even feta.

This one’s sad as sad can be.

Seriously, how can you have pasta without Parmesan?

But, people with migraines have to cool it with the cheese.

On the other hand, types like cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese and even cream cheese are good. Also, yoghurt, fresh milk and sour cream are low in tyramine, so you can have them whenever you want.

Fruit/Vegetables

Halved citrus fruits on wooden board

If you’re not a fan of sour fruit, then you won’t be too affected by this. Oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, limes and pineapple are higher in tyramine.

When it comes to vegetables, you might want to steer clear from beans and sauerkraut. Also, you should avoid fermented food. That doesn’t mean you should completely cut them out. It simply means that you might want to reduce the quantity. Fermented foods are otherwise incredibly healthy and they can have many other health benefits. However, if they trigger your migraines, you might want to cool it on the fermented food.

On the other hand, you can eat most vegetables – fresh, canned or frozen – and it is unlikely that they will cause any migraines.

How to Lower Tyramine in Food

Tyramine actually increases the longer food is held at room temperature. That is why you should store your food in the refrigerator.

When you thaw frozen foods, do it in the refrigerator or, if you have it, a microwave.

Another good tip for lowering tyramine is to cook or eat fresh meat or fish on the day you bought them. Otherwise, it’s best to freeze them.

Also, never ever eat something that has been kept in the fridge for more than a day.

Check Your Triggers

So, if you’re wondering whether food really can be a trigger for migraines, the short answer is – yes.

Your diet alone cannot cause migraines. It’s unlikely that you’ll always get migraines when eating certain food.

However, while there are types of food in general believed to be causing migraines, there is also food that specifically causes your migraine.

The best way to identify your triggers is to write a combined food/migraine diary. If you’re suffering from migraines, you already have a pretty good idea what may trigger yours. Migraines can occur a day after eating triggering food.

You should combine a food diary with a headache diary to see whether some foods cause headaches. Headaches themselves are not too bad. However, combined with other possible triggers, they may cause a full-blown migraine.

Then, the next step is to reduce the food that you’ve noticed has that effect on you. If you really like something, you don’t need to completely cut it out. But, it would be valuable for your overall health if you were to reduce it significantly.

There Are Beneficial Foods Too

Now that we’ve listed all the bad food, it’s time for a look on the other side. It has been proven that certain food is “pain-safe,” that is, it does not trigger any conditions.

Including, you might have guessed it – migraines.

Also, they are overall beneficial in reducing the frequency of your migraines and alleviating pain. The food and drinks that actually cannot trigger your migraines include:

  • Rice (especially brown)
  • Almost all vegetables
  • Fruit (which was not listed above)
  • Green tea, ginger tea
  • Fish
  • Chicken

Making ginger tea

There has even been research to show that a plant-based diet can really benefit people who suffer from migraines. So, if you want to get rid of migraines, you know what to do!

(No, you don’t have to go vegan. Simply adjust your diet a bit and you’ll see an improvement in time.)

Home Remedies for Migraines

There are ways to also naturally reduce the intensity of migraines once you get them. While they may not completely cure your migraines, these are known for helping with the symptoms. There are also cures to treat headaches, and they also might alleviate your pain.

Here is what you should do when you get a migraine:

  • Lie in a dark, quiet room. Due to sensory sensitivity, which can worsen your headache, it is recommended that you simply lie down in a room in which the blinds are drawn shut. If you live in a noisy part of the city, use earplugs to make sure the noise doesn’t bother you.

Woman sleeping soundly in bed

  • Cool your head down. Experts believe that cooling the head reduces the blood flow to the brain, which might lower the pain you’re feeling. When you get a migraine, you should put an ice pack on your forehead or neck. Or, if that’s too cold for you, use a washcloth that has been put under cold water and drained. The only problem is that you will have to rinse it often because it can heat up quite fast.
Woman preparing kimchi in clear jars

10 Side Dishes That Are Amazing for Your Health

Most people plan their meals around a main dish, not giving too much thought to the side dishes they add in.

But what if your side dishes could provide your body with an even bigger nutritional boost than your main dish?

Here are 10 side dishes to cook up that are amazing for your health, and are also a delicious accompaniment to a wide range of main dishes.

Kimchi

To put it simply, kimchi is basically the Korean version of sauerkraut.

What’s the difference between the two?

When it comes to making them, a few different things, ranging from the time that they take to ferment to the amount of salt used.

In terms of taste, kimchi is much punchier, but that’s usually because it contains a number of other ingredients in addition to the cabbage. Kimchi often boasts several different seasonings to give it more flavor, including garlic, ginger, fish sauce and spring onions.

Try mixing some kimchi through some rice – it will truly transform the rice into such an exciting side dish!

Sauerkraut

Two fresh jars of fermented vegetables

Often referred to as a superfood, sauerkraut is made from sliced cabbage, making it similar in a way to coleslaw.

However, the two are actually quite different…

While coleslaw is full of mayonnaise, sauerkraut is fermented, making it so much better for you.

Here are just a few of the benefits you will experience from eating more sauerkraut:

  • Better antioxidant protection thanks to the vitamins and minerals in sauerkraut. The fact that these are fermented means that your body is able to absorb them much more easily
  • Sauerkraut is full of probiotics, which improves the health of your gut, your brain and your immune system
  • Full of fiber but low in calories, sauerkraut will keep you feeling fuller for longer

Before you run out and buy yourself a jar of sauerkraut, there’s something you should know…

Store-bought sauerkraut is usually pasteurized, meaning that it has been treated with heat. This destroys the beneficial probiotics in the sauerkraut, while also reducing the potency of its vitamins. Store-bought sauerkraut also usually contains preservatives and sugar, neither of which are good for you.

On the other hand, homemade versions are packed with probiotics and other potent nutrients. The homemade version also usually tastes better too.

Finely chopped vegetables

Wondering if it’s easy to make sauerkraut at home?

Yes, all you need is some cabbage and salt. There are various recipes online, some with the addition of other ingredients, so take a look at what’s out there to see what appeals to you the most.

Teff Bread

Never heard of teff bread before?

You’re probably also wondering how a bread made it onto this list of healthy side dishes…

Finely milled teff grain

Well, teff bread is pretty different from standard bread.

Teff is a gluten-free grain that is packed with nutrition. It is native to Ethiopia, although it is now being grown in countries around the world, including a couple of states in the USA. 

When it comes to nutrition, teff contains high amounts of:

  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Manganese
  • B Vitamins

All of these nutritional components mean that teff is able to help with everything from circulation to digestion to immune function. It even helps to re-balance hormonal levels, making it useful for treating the symptoms of PMS.

In order to make teff bread, the grain needs to first be fermented, which then gives it probiotic benefits too.

Not keen on bread making?

Teff can be used in other ways too. You can use it as a side dish in the same way that you would quinoa, although teff requires slightly more water when cooking.

Although teff grains are smaller than quinoa, they fluff up beautifully, making for a tasty and filling side dish.

Fresh or Fermented Salsa

A bowl of fresh salsa

Looking for something healthy to eat with the teff bread mentioned above?

Salsa will do the job perfectly.

Salsa is usually served raw, meaning that your body is able to obtain maximum nutrition from each of the ingredients.

It is also such an easy side dish to make, and can store in the refrigerator for a few days, during which time the flavors will only intensify even further.

If you want to make your salsa even healthier…

Try fermenting it!

This will provide the salsa with probiotics and live enzymes, making it even better for your body.

Salad with an Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing

Putting oil on salad

Apple cider vinegar is another fermented food, which is why it is known for having so many health benefits.

How exactly is apple cider vinegar good for you?

In a number of ways, including:

  • It keeps the body’s pH level balanced, enabling the body to function in the best way possible
  • It lowers blood sugar levels
  • It increases good cholesterol in the body
  • It detoxifies the liver
  • It keeps the appetite under control, reducing cravings
  • It protects the bones by improving calcium absorption
  • It contains antioxidants that help to slow down the aging process
  • It contains anti-cancer properties, and can even shrink tumors 

After reading all of that, why wouldn’t you want to be eating more apple cider vinegar?!

The one thing that people struggle with is knowing how to actually make use of this star ingredient…

The easiest way is by turning the apple cider vinegar into a salad dressing. There are several recipes for this out there, each one containing various other healthy ingredients, from garlic to mustard to olive oil. No matter which you choose, the apple cider vinegar will add a beautiful tanginess and brightness to your salad, turning it into an incredible side dish.

Herring Platter

Small sliced herring and pink pickle on bread

This is a popular dish in Sweden, which also happens to be one of the healthiest countries in the world.

What does a herring platter actually consist of?

Well, as you can tell from its name, herring is the star of the dish. Being an oily fish, herring is packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, with both of these being essential fatty acids that your body cannot produce on its own.

A herring platter usually consists of herring in a few different forms, such as raw, pickled and smoked. This already gives you a variety in terms of flavor and texture.

What else should the platter include?

Here are a few other foods to add in:

  • Wholegrain crackers – a healthy source of fiber
  • Raw vegetables – full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  • Pickled vegetables – these need to be fermented pickles in order to contain probiotic benefits
  • A sauce – the sauce is often made from mayonnaise and fresh herbs. For added benefits, swap the mayonnaise for a creamy sauce made from kefir or yogurt instead. Don’t hold back on the herbs, as these are a fantastic source of antioxidants

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Large stuffed poblano pepper

Have you ever tried poblano peppers before?

They are basically the green version of red Ancho peppers. While some of them can be quite hot and spicy, they are generally quite mild. In fact, a jalapeno is said to be about five times hotter than a poblano.

The fact that they aren’t too spicy means that you can eat more of them when compared to other types of hot peppers, which is something that would be hugely beneficial to your health.

Wondering how poblano peppers are good for you?

They have a number of different health benefits, such as:

  • They contain powerful anti-cancer properties, largely due to their capsaicin and riboflavin content
  • They are packed with antioxidants, with just a single poblano pepper containing almost 100% of your recommended daily allowance for vitamin A
  • They improve the strength and function of the immune system
  • They provide a natural form of pain relief, thanks to their quercetin and capsaicin content
  • They are a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient 

That’s probably enough to convince you to give them a try, but what do you actually stuff them with?

Well, since you’re trying to be healthy, stay away from fillings with bad fats, such as cream cheese and chorizo.

Instead, give barley a try.

Although barley is a grain, it contains over 80 different nutrients, as well as plenty of fiber.

You could also try stuffing poblano peppers with:

  • Brown rice
  • Pinto beans
  • Quinoa
  • Salsa
  • Cooked vegetables

Try combining a few of those filling ideas for a delicious flavor explosion!

Miso Soup

Wooden bowl of miso soup, with wooden spoon

Looking for a healthy soup to serve alongside a meal?

It doesn’t get much healthier than miso soup!

Miso is a fermented food, and is a traditional ingredient in Japan.

What’s it actually made from?

It basically consists of fermented soybeans, along with fermented grains. As you can imagine, there are so many different types and varieties of miso out there, each one varying depending on region, culture and more.

Here are a few of the more common varieties:

  • White Miso – quite a mild-flavored miso since it is only fermented for less than two months
  • Red Miso – fermented for up to three years, red miso has a deeper flavor and should be used in heartier dishes
  • Barley Miso – this is also quite mild and sweet, although it is fermented for longer than white miso 

Foodies would say that miso provides an exquisite umami flavor to food, and can be added to everything from soups to salads to vegetables to marinades.

In terms of health benefits, miso is packed with vitamins and minerals, along with gut-friendly probiotics.

When making miso soup…

You can add in so many other healthy ingredients too. From chilli, garlic and ginger to onions, chard and tofu, miso soup is an easy dish to personalize and make your own.

Black Beans

Bowl of black beans

You probably already know that beans are good for you. The fact that they contain high amounts of protein and fiber is no secret.

However, black beans, which are also known as turtle beans, have a few other nutritional components that make them even better than the rest…

The minerals within black beans, particularly calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc, play an important role in maintaining the health of your bones and joints.

Black beans are also able to decrease blood pressure, help manage diabetes, protect against cancer and heart disease, and aid with digestion

If all of that wasn’t enough…

Black beans are packed with a wide range of phytonutrients, all of which provide antioxidant properties.

How do you actually cook black beans?

It takes a while to cook dried black beans – you need to begin soaking them the day before.

However, the canned versions are much quicker and easier to cook up.

Try cooking them Mexican-style with onions, garlic, cumin and cilantro. Alternatively, turn them into a chilli or a curry for a heartier side dish.

Roasted Beets

Roasted beetroot and shallots

Roasted beets are simply exquisite. Roasting brings out such a sweet and intense flavor that even those who don’t usually like beets cannot say no to them.

If you have never tried roasted beets, now is the time to do so.

All you need to do is place some whole beets into a baking tray with some olive oil and seasonings. Garlic, onion, thyme, salt and pepper work especially well.

Then, roast them for an hour or so, until they are tender. Their skin will pretty much fall off at this point, making them easy to peel.

Then, either slice them or mash them, and then serve them up!

What makes beets so healthy?

They are full of nutrients but low in calories. They help with:

  • Inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Detoxification
  • Blood pressure
  • Immune function
  • Brain and bone health

Plus so much more!

It is always fun to experiment with new dishes in the kitchen, especially when you know that they are good for you. Whether you opt for a spoonful of sauerkraut, a bowl of miso soup or a beautiful herring platter, these side dishes will really help to give your health a huge boost.

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.  

Happy woman working, talking on the phone

Why You Should Kick The Multi-Tasking Habit

Do you often try to multitask? 

For most people, the answer will be yes, with many believing that they are actually quite good at performing more than one task simultaneously. 

However, did you know that multitasking is something that the brain can’t physically do? 

While you may think that you are being more productive, there is plenty of research out there that proves otherwise, while also pointing to the fact that multitasking can be harmful to a person’s health. 

Here are just a few of the reasons as to why you should kick the multitasking habit. 

The Brain Can’t Multi-Task 

The human brain only has a finite amount of attention to give at any one time, and was actually designed to focus on just one task at a time. 

Think that your brain is different, because multitasking is something that you do all the time? 

Well, you may think that your brain is multitasking, but, chances are, it isn’t…

When you think you are multitasking, your brain is actually rapidly switching from one task to another. 

Each of these switches requires two processes: 

It takes just a fraction of a second for your brain to carry out these processes, which is why you don’t really realize that they are going on. 

This doesn’t seem like much time, but, when your brain is constantly having to switch back and forth between tasks, all of those extra seconds begin to add up. 

This routine also encourages bad brain habits…

What does this mean? 

Well, each time you completely one of the tasks that you are doing, even if this is something as simple as replying to an email or posting on social media, a small amount of dopamine is released in the body. This is a chemical that makes you feel good and accomplished. 

The brain loves dopamine, and the fact that these small amounts keep being released encourage the brain to continue switching from task to task, even when you don’t want it to. It also makes you think that you are accomplishing a lot, when really there isn’t much being actually done. 

Productivity Drops When You Multi-Task 

Most people multitask because they want to be more productive, not realizing that the opposite of this is more likely to happen. 

While you may think that you are getting more done in your time, research shows that it actually takes longer to complete tasks when multitasking, especially when compared to carrying out each task on its own. 

In fact, many experts believe that multitasking leads to a 40% drop in productivity, along with a higher chance of you making more mistakes.

Multi-Tasking Raises Stress Levels

You may not feel stressed when multitasking, but your brain definitely does…

All of that switching back and forth between various tasks results in cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, being released into your body. 

Why is this bad? 

Well, when it happens in small amounts, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is this hormone that gave humans the fight or flight instinct, and enabled our species to evolve in the way that it has. 

Infographic on cortisol and the stress response system

 

Cortisol is also important for several other functions in the human body, from bone growth to your sleep cycle. 

However, when cortisol ends up running through the body for long periods of time, this is where the trouble begins…

Excess cortisol has a number of detrimental effects on human health, including: 

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Digestive issues 
  • Increased inflammation within the body 
  • Heart disease 
  • Headaches 
  • Weight gain 
  • Sleep problems 
  • Impaired memory and concentration 
  • Premature aging

As you can see, cortisol, along with stress, is something that you want to keep to a minimum. 

There are likely already plenty of other stressors in your life, so don’t add to this by multitasking. 

Multi-Tasking Lowers Your IQ

Your IQ refers to your ability to think, reason and carry out cognitive tasks.

No matter how high your IQ may be, multitasking is something that will lower this back down.

In fact, multitasking lowers your IQ to the same level it would have been if you had stayed up all night.

Studies carried out on this subject have witnessed such significant IQ drops in men that it brings their IQ level down to that of an eight year old child.

Even just the thought of multitasking, such as knowing that you have an unread email in your inbox, can lower your IQ by 10 points.

It Could Contribute to Brain Damage

Research on this topic is still relatively new, but, so far, it shows that multitasking can actually lead to brain damage, with this damage being permanent in many cases.

How does multitasking result in brain damage?

Well, there have been MRI brain scans carried out on two groups of people – one group of frequent multitaskers and one group of people who don’t multitask much.

The results were surprising…

The scans showed that the group of people who multitasked more frequently actually had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for controlling your emotions.

A person’s memory can also be permanently affected by multitasking. Since the brain isn’t properly paying attention to a task, it will be much harder for your brain to then recollect information relating to the task in the future, not only damaging your short term memory, but also your long term.

It Also Prevents Learning

In order for your brain to properly learn, it needs to have enough attention to give to the topic. 

By multitasking, you are reducing the amount of attention your brain gives to each task, which will then prevent you from learning along the way. 

This is especially the case for younger minds, with research suggesting that multitasking can have a seriously detrimental effect on learning and grades while at school. 

It Could Lead to Over-Eating During Mealtimes

Multitasking isn’t just problematic when it comes to work and productivity…

It can also cause issues during mealtimes too.

Colleagues working late and eating pizza

So many people end up watching TV, going online or checking their phones while eating a meal. 

However, this lack of concentration on the food that you are consuming prevents your brain from properly processing all that you have eaten. This then means that it doesn’t send a signal to your body to tell it to stop eating because it is full. 

This results in you not feeling as full as you otherwise would have after a meal, either leading you to eat more, or to eat again after a short period of time. 

It Inhibits Creativity

If you are working on a project that requires you to be creative, then multitasking is something that you should definitely avoid. 

Why? 

Because creativity requires so much focus and concentration from the brain, especially if you are trying to use creativity to solve a problem. 

If you want nurture your creativity, then you will need to bring all of your attention to the creative task at hand, rather than letting your brain wander off onto other tasks. 

And Prevents Mindfulness 

Many would say that mindfulness is the most advanced form of attentiveness.

What is mindfulness?

It refers to being completely present in the moment, with many considering it to be a form of meditation.

Mindfulness brings with it several benefits, such as:

  • Decreased stress and anxiety
  • Improved cognitive functioning
  • Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increased attention, focus and awareness
  • Calmness

As you can see, mindfulness brings nothing but positives, and is something that could benefit just about everyone.

Unfortunately, multitasking is something that really detracts from this, preventing a person from experiencing mindfulness.

How to Kick the Multi-Tasking Habit

Hopefully, by now, you will be in full agreement that multitasking is a habit you need to beat. 

But how exactly do you go about doing this? 

Well, although research shows that the brain can just about handle two tasks, but no more, at once, your best bet in kicking the multitasking habit would be to give single-tasking a try. 

Never heard of that phrase before? 

It is exactly what it sounds like – concentrating on a single task, rather than multiple tasks. 

This may sound simple, but, for many, it is actually quite difficult…

The key here is to force yourself to focus on the most important task at hand, giving yourself the time you need to complete this. Keep all other distractions well away, so that your brain is less tempted to switch over to another task. If you are at work, a clean and clear desk can really help with this, as simply glancing over at something else you need to do can limit how your brain functions. 

Is your schedule too full to focus on just one task at a time? 

If so, this doesn’t mean that you should multitask. Instead, it means that you need to cut back on some of the commitments you have made in your schedule. 

Try to prioritize everything that you need to do, dropping any tasks that are not actually important. 

For those with a packed schedule, you likely also need to learn how to say no to other people, as well as other tasks. Taking on more than you and your brain can actually handle will only be detrimental in the long run, so make sure that you don’t say yes to extra projects that you don’t actually have time for. 

Woman planning her schedule at work

Another technique that can help is to perform tasks in batches, which is also known as chunking. 

This basically means that you set aside chunks of time each day to perform certain tasks. For example, check your emails and messages all at once, once a day, rather than doing this constantly throughout the day. 

This enables your brain to fully focus on what you are doing, rather than having to switch back and forth. 

Not got enough self control to resist checking your phone and messages throughout the day? 

There are a few apps available that can help you with this…

These enable you to set a length of time during which the app will block you from checking your email, social media, or any other websites that tend to distract you. 

Still finding it difficult to kick the multitasking habit? 

Keeping a journal can really help. 

How? 

Because this will enable you to track how you work, along with how much you get done, while also keeping a record of any distractions you have faced. Being able to see all of this right in front of you can then help you to plan how to overcome your multitasking habit. 

Could Multi-Tasking Ever Be Beneficial? 

Although multitasking is never really beneficial, there are certain tasks that aren’t negatively impacted if you choose to do something else at the same time. 

The perfect example of this would be listening to music, or to an audiobook, while you are working out. 

Since the main task you are focussing on is physical, your body is able to do this on auto-pilot, as the task doesn’t require much brain attention. This then enables your brain to focus more on the second task that you are doing. 

Watching television while folding laundry is another example, as the folding is something that does not require much brain power. 

Multitasking is something that just about everyone does, although the majority of these people do not realize just how detrimental it can be. From reducing productivity to increasing stress, multitasking is a habit that you should try to tackle as soon as possible. Trust us, it won’t be long before you see all of the benefits that single-tasking can bring to your life! 

Happy young woman singing to herself in the kitchen, with headphones

15 Fun Ways To Move More

Keeping fit is very important.

Why?

For a number of reasons, such as:

  • It helps to keep your weight under control
  • It prevents certain health conditions, such as stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, different types of cancer and more
  • It boosts your mood, thanks to the way in which it triggers your brain to release feel-good chemicals
  • It increases your energy levels
  • It boosts brain function
  • It improves digestion and gut health
  • It promotes better sleep

Don’t enjoy exercising?

This is actually quite common, but it only means that you haven’t yet found the right physical activity for you.

If you need some inspiration, here are 15 fun ways to get moving more:

Cook Yourself a Meal

Did you know that you can combine the time you spend cooking yourself a meal in your kitchen with a workout?

You are probably wondering how…

Well, there are a few ways in which you can go about doing this:

  • Enthusiastically wiping down your counters will burn 200 calories an hour
  • Putting away any gadgets, and doing things like mashing potatoes or kneading dough by hand, will really use some muscles
  • Use your counter-tops to do a few push-ups
  • Perform a squat each time you load something in the dishwasher
  • Wash your dishes by hand

Not only will all of this give your body some exercise, but you’ll also end up with a tasty meal at the end of it. Just make sure that it is something healthy, so that you don’t undo all of the hard work you have just done! 

Doga

Never quite taken to the idea of yoga?

You might change your mind if you can bring your pooch with you…

Doga, which refers to doing yoga with a dog, is becoming increasingly popular, because not only is this a great way for people to keep fit, but their dogs benefit too.

Having your dog with you also makes the whole experience so much more fun, as well as social, since pooches are such a great ice breaker when it comes to meeting new people.

Woman doing yoga at home with her dog

There are doga classes held all over the world, but if you would like to give doga a try from the comfort of your own home first, you will find several tutorials online that will help the two of you to get started. 

Geocaching

If you used to love treasure hunts as a child, then geocaching may be right up your street.

Never heard of it before?

All you need to do is download a geocaching app on your smartphone, and then pick a set of GPS coordinates in your area. Follow these coordinates to find the geocache, which is a hidden marker or container at that location, but can be just about any shape or size.

What do you do once you find the geocache?

Open it up and sign the logbook. Some geocaches also have small gifts within them. However, the rule of the game is that if you take something, you need to replace this with a small item or gift of your own

Once you are done, put the geocache back in the same place that you found it. You can then share your experience via the app if you desire.

There are geocaches hidden in 190 countries around the world, with millions to be found, so you will never be short of new adventures to have.

Pole Dancing

Pole dancing as a workout has become so popular, with these moves offering up a fun way to stay active.

The best way to begin is by signing yourself up for a pole dancing class, as these will take you through the basic moves that you need to know.

Wondering how pole dancing benefits your body?

In a number of ways, such as:

Thanks to how popular pole dancing classes have become, these are now available in so many different countries, with competitive rates.

Horseback Riding

For those who love animals, especially horses, horseback riding seems like a no-brainer when it comes to keeping fit.

Two friends riding horses in the woods

Even if you have never ridden before, this is such an easy hobby to pick up.

Just be warned…

Horse riding can become extremely addictive!

Want to know how to get started?

Look for a riding center or stables near you, and then see what sort of lessons they offer. You will usually be able to choose between private lessons or group sessions. Both of these have their advantages, so opting for a mix of both would probably be best.

Circus Workouts

The circus is always so exciting and awe-inspiring.

If you love the circus, why not bring some of that energy and excitement into your own life?

You are probably wondering how to do this…

Many gyms around the world now offer circus-inspired workouts.

What do these involve?

A wide mix of activities, from juggling and trapeze work to tumbling and jumps.

Just one thing to keep in mind…

Make sure that the gym you choose uses equipment that has been modified for beginners.

Community Trash Pick-Ups

Passionate about environmental causes?

That same drive can also help you to get moving more.

How?

You have likely heard of, or even participated in, community trash pick-ups. These are basically when people from the community get together to clear up trash from a certain area, whether this may be a park, a beach, a forest, or any other natural setting.

Not only will you be doing good for your local environment, but joining in on one of these sessions will also get you moving quite a bit, and will work out a number of different muscle groups in your body.

Trampolines

Many people equate trampolines with children, but more and more adults are turning to trampolines as a way to stay fit.

How does all of that jumping help your body?

Well, not only does it tighten and tone your core, but it also helps with calorie loss, and gives you a cardio workout that is just as effective as going for a run, but without stressing your joints in the way that running does. 

Happy excited woman jumping on large trampoline

There are so many different moves that you can do on a trampoline, and plenty of classes that you can join to teach you how to do these.

One thing to remember…

While you may be tempted to get bouncing straight away, make sure that you warm up for a few minutes first, as this will prepare your muscles for the workout ahead. Cooling off for a few minutes once you are done is also just as important.

Exergaming  

If you love video games, then exergaming could be the perfect workout for you.

What is exergaming?

It refers to playing video games that encourage you to be physically active.

Research shows that many exergames can offer up the same health benefits as traditional exercise, and there are an increasing number of studies that continue to back up the many benefits that exergaming has. These include:

One big benefit to exergaming is that not only does it keep you moving, but it is also a form of entertainment, and is one that will likely easily keep you fully engaged.

There are exergames available on all video gaming platforms, from the Xbox to the Wii, and even on mobile devices, making this an easy hobby to pick up.

Play a Musical Instrument

You are probably wondering why playing a musical instrument is on a list of ways to move more…

This is because playing a musical instrument actually results in an increase in physical activity.

How?

Well, no matter what instrument you choose to play, you likely make full use of your arm and back muscles, not only while you are playing but also to hold your instrument up.

Certain instruments, such as the drums, will even give you a cardio workout!

Karaoke Workouts

Do you love to sing?

If so, you definitely need to give a karaoke workout a try.

These are usually found at cycling or spinning classes, with a television screen, complete with karaoke words and instructions, attached to each bike.

If you are quite picky about the type of music you enjoy, it would be worth checking out the song list before signing up to the class. Some instructors, in order to prevent students from getting too carried away, will only open up certain songs during each class.

Friends singing karaoke at home

If you have a friend with a karaoke system at home, that’s even better! This means that you can get a group of friends together to belt out your vocals.

High Heel Workouts

Yes, a high heel workout is exactly what it sounds like – working out in your high heels.

Wondering why you would want to do this?

Well, these workouts not only give you some exercise, but also teach you how to wear high heels safely.

When you are wearing a pair of heels, your center of gravity shifts to the front. These classes will teach you how to adjust your posture when this happens, so that you don’t cause any damage to your lower back or feet.

This will also help you to strengthen your lower leg and foot muscles, both of which will make a long day on your feet seem much less tiring.

Hula Hooping

Hula hooping has become quite trendy recently, with everyone from Kelly Osbourne to Michelle Obama giving it a go.

Hula hooping is a great way to give your body a workout, because not only does it strengthen your core, but it exercises other muscle groups too.

When it comes to weight loss…

You lose about seven calories a minute while hula hooping.

Think this doesn’t sound like much?

It’s actually more than what you would lose per minute when doing everything from walking briskly to aerobics to Pilates.

Unknown woman hoola-hooping at the beach

Never quite got the hang of hula hooping?

Here are a few tips:

  • Go for a heavier, rather than a lighter, hoop, as this makes it easier to build momentum
  • A bigger hoop will be easier, as this gives you more time to react to the movements necessary 

Cleaning Your House

Don’t have time to work out?

Try combining a workout with a house cleaning session instead.

While housework may be boring, giving your body a workout at the same time makes the task seem all the more valuable.

Wondering how to do this?

Here are some ideas:

  • Do squats or forward bends when putting items away 
  • Walk briskly up the stairs
  • Wash dishes to tone your arm muscles, making sure to do 20 repetitions per arm
  • Perform lunges while using your vacuum cleaner
  • Stretch your body and muscles while dusting
  • Iron for an hour, with a good posture, to burn around 150 calories
  • Blast some music and dance around the house while cleaning

Not only will you end up with well-worked muscles, but you will also be able to enjoy a clean house at the end of it all.

An Urban Workout

Do you live in an urban area?

There is no reason why you can’t use the urban environment around you to put together a fun workout.

How?

Begin by heading on over to your local playground…

The equipment that you will find here is ideal for pull-ups, while a picnic table is great for doing some tricep dips.

Found some spare tires?

These can be used for shoulder presses, while a park bench is perfect for push-ups.

Exercising definitely does not need to be boring. There are so many unique and fun ways out there to get your body moving more, so try being more creative when it comes to finding ways to stay physically fit.

Tired woman at her work desk

What’s Causing Your Daytime Fatigue?

Do you often find it difficult to stay awake and concentrate during the day?

If so, you could be suffering from daytime fatigue, which is often linked to another medical problem.

Here are nine different causes of daytime fatigue, as well as tips on what you can do about them.

Hypersomnia

Hypersomnia is a condition that refers to either:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • An excessive amount of time spent sleeping

If you have hypersomnia, you will likely find yourself falling asleep at random points during the day, even while you are talking or driving.

Hypersomnia is extremely common, affecting around 40% of people at some point in their lives. 

What causes hypersomnia?

Here are a few of the most common causes of the condition: 

  • Sleep disorders, which will be explained in more detail below
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • A head injury
  • Being overweight
  • Genetics
  • Depression and anxiety

So, if you have hypersomnia, what can you do about it?

You should first have this confirmed by your doctor, who will also be able to prescribe different drugs to help treat the condition.

You can also try to identify the cause of your hypersomnia, and then work to reverse this. For example, if it is caused by being overweight, losing weight can help, while changing your sleeping habits so that you get more sleep will prevent sleep deprivation from causing your hypersomnia.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is extremely common, and simply refers to a person not getting enough sleep

How much sleep is enough?

Experts recommend between seven to nine hours of sleep each night, although this does vary between individuals, and also changes with age.

While missing out on a couple of hours once in a while will not cause any harm, experiencing frequent bouts of sleep deprivation can definitely lead to daytime fatigue.

How can you overcome this?

The obvious answer would be…

Get more sleep!

Here are a few tips to help you to get more quality sleep:

  • Set a regular schedule – a regular sleep schedule will help to train your body clock into feeling tired at the same time each evening, while waking itself up at the same time each morning. Make sure that you stick to this schedule, even on the weekends
  • Stay away from caffeine or alcohol from late afternoon onwardsboth of these can hugely impact your sleep, as well as its quality
  • Don’t keep blue light-emitting electronics in your bedroomthe blue light that comes from the screens of these devices keeps your body awake for longer
  • Avoid daytime nappingeven if you feel tired during the day, avoid the temptation to nap, as this will only prevent you from falling asleep at the optimum time that night
  • Work out in the morningsyou may think that exercising would help you to fall asleep, but this actually raises the heart rate and triggers the release of adrenaline into your body, both of which will keep you awake. However, exercise done in the mornings, or even the afternoons, can actually help you to sleep better at night
  • Avoid eating two hours before bedthis sets your digestive system in motion, which can keep you awake

Infographic on how to get better sleep

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders cause you to frequently wake up during the night, which then interferes with the quality of your sleep, leading to you feeling chronically fatigued each day.

These are some of the most common sleep disorders:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea – the most common sleep disorder, affecting more than 20 million adults in the USA alone. This disorder consists of a blockage in the airways, meaning that the brain wakes itself up to send a signal to the respiratory system to continue functioning normally. This usually causes a person to stop breathing for about 10 to 20 seconds, and can occur hundreds of times throughout the night, without a person even realizing it
  • Narcolepsythis is an autoimmune disorder in which the brain is not able to properly control its sleep and wake cycles. This means that you experience the REM stage of sleep, which is when you are sleeping the deepest, at random points during the day
  • Restless Leg Syndromethis neurological disorder causes a person to feel an uncomfortable sensation in their legs, which leads to them moving their legs around to relieve this. Since this makes it difficult for a person to fall asleep, as well as stay asleep, the result is daytime fatigue

Treatments vary for each sleep disorder, and in some cases, especially for restless leg syndrome, these disorders can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. This makes it important to see a doctor if you think that you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. 

Depression

Depression is much more common than you would think…

Around 300 million people around the world, including 16.2 million adults in the USA, have depression. It is also believed that around 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lives. 

What does this have to do with daytime fatigue?

Research shows that people with depression are much more likely to experience daytime fatigue. Not only that, but people who already have daytime fatigue are much more likely to end up depressed.

As you can see, this results in a vicious circle that can be difficult to break out of.

When it comes to treating depression…

There are many treatment options out there, depending on the severity of your depression. This is something that only a professional can advise you on, so make sure that you speak to a doctor if you think that you may be depressed.

Too Much Caffeine

Coffee is commonly drunk to help people stay awake and alert, but, sometimes, it can have the opposite effect.

Woman holding a cup of espresso

While a cup or two won’t do any harm, drinking too much caffeine can lead to:

  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • A jittery feeling
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

What happens once the caffeine wears off?

You end up “crashing”, resulting in you feeling completely fatigued.

What can you do about this?

Well, let’s begin by what you shouldn’t do…

Drinking even more coffee in order to overcome this would be the worst way to deal with the problem.  

Instead, try to cut back on the amount of caffeine you drink.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to completely cut caffeine out of your life, because this will only leave you with withdrawal symptoms.

Try slowly weaning yourself off the coffee, as well as any other caffeinated drinks. Replace these with water or other drinks, so that you are consuming less caffeine each day.

A Poor Diet

The food that you eat fuels your body, so it only makes sense that your body will feel weak and tired if it is not being fed with the right nutrients.

Let’s begin with the most important meal of the day…

Breakfast!

So many people out there skip breakfast, not realizing just how crucial this meal is.

Why is it so important?

Because the food that you eat for breakfast helps to wake your body up, giving your metabolism a kick start for the day. Without breakfast, your energy levels will be lacking from the start of the day.

If you don’t have time for breakfast, or are simply too tired early in the mornings…

Try putting a small grab-and-go morning snack together the night before, and then slowly build up your new breakfast habit to encompass larger and more filling meals.

Now on to the rest of the food you eat…

Try to avoid large and heavy meals during the day, as these can often leave you feeling bloated and lethargic.

Make sure that your diet is a balanced one, featuring plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, nuts and seeds. 

Why is this important?

Because if you eat processed, high-sugar foods instead, this causes a spike in your blood sugar levels. Once this drops back down, it leaves you feeling fatigued and low.

Premenstrual Syndrome

PMS manifests differently in every single woman out there.

For many, daytime fatigue is one of the symptoms, and this is actually extremely common.

Your body produces a hormone called melatonin, which helps it to regulate its sleep cycles. During your premenstrual phase, as well as your menstrual phase, melatonin levels fluctuate, often decreasing. This then keeps you up at night, making you feel fatigued during the day.

Not only that, but the hormonal changes during your premenstrual phase can lead to an increase in the amount of deep sleep that you experience. However, this occurs during the day as well as the night, causing you to feel tired and sluggish.

Dehydration

Did you know that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated?

This is a condition that affects millions of people, even though it is so easily prevented.

How does this relate to daytime fatigue?

Because research shows that dehydration is the number one cause of midday fatigue.

How does dehydration cause this?

Due to the way in which a lack of water causes your blood pressure to drop. This then leads to headaches, fatigue and a loss of concentration. 

How much water should you be drinking each day?

This varies, not only depending on your weight but also your activity levels through the day. A good amount to aim for would be around two liters a day, but don’t forget that you will also be getting a small chunk of this from the food that you eat, especially if your diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Infographic on daily water intake

Can’t seem to drink enough water during the day?

Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Mix up a pitcher of fruit-infused water to give your water some extra flavor
  • Try to drink a full cup of water before every meal
  • Download an app to help you to track how much water you are drinking, as well as setting alarms to remind you to drink some water
  • If you are drinking a sugar-filled drink, try diluting this down with some water
  • Install a water filter, as this can help your water to taste better
  • Mae sure that you drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume

Remember…

If you are feeling thirsty, then this means that you are already dehydrated.

A Sedentary Lifestyle

More and more people are experiencing a sedentary lifestyle these days, and this is actually a common cause behind daytime fatigue.

How are the two connected?

Well, the lack of physical activity leads to your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems de-conditioning, while also depressing your mood. Both of these can then result in daytime fatigue.

There is so much research out there that backs up the way in which exercise is able to help reverse daytime fatigue, making this something well worth trying.

Hate the idea of exercise?

Physical activity doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours in the gym.

If you really think about it, you are guaranteed to be able to find some form of physical activity that appeals to you. Whether this may be a dance class, a group dog walk, a visit to the beach, a gardening session, or even blasting some music at home and dancing around the house, any activity that gets you up and moving regularly can help you to feel less fatigued during the day.

Daytime fatigue is extremely common, but so frustrating to deal with due to the way in which it impacts everyday life. In order to overcome your daytime fatigue, spend some time working out the cause of it, as treating the root issue will be the most effective way to deal with the problem.

Athletic woman enjoying a glass of orange juice in the kitchen

Key Foods for a Heart-Healthy Life

In the fast-paced world of health and fitness, it seems like there’s a proclamation of new “superfood” every other week. Does it get confusing? We think so. Which is why we’ve narrowed it down to the top eight foods you should be consuming for your best heart (and life).

Leafy Greens

“Eat your greens” is a mantra that should definitely not be disregarded even in adulthood.

Green-hued veggies are among the healthiest foods you can feed your body.

And if you’re not sure where to start in this green sea of health, here is a simple primer on the most beneficial leafy greens.

Spinach, one of the most accessible and user-friendly leafy green is not only supremely tasty, but also great for your immunity, your skin, as well as your mental capabilities.

This is because this particular leafy green is absolutely loaded with all sorts of immunity-boosting minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients. These include vitamins A, C and B6, but also beta-carotene, lutein, potassium, zinc and magnesium.

Bonus points: due to its mild flavor, spinach can be consumed fresh, which makes it easier to prepare and incorporate in your day-to-day meals.

Kale, an absolute favorite among wellness enthusiast, has earned it celebrity status for its incredible nutritional stats. Namely, kale is one of the richest sources of Vitamin K, which helps keep your bone healthy and promotes better calcium absorption.

Often overlooked but equally healthy are collard greens, which 

Leafy green nay-sayers might object to leafy greens, either because it might seem like they’re difficult to plan meals around or simply because their taste isn’t exactly palate-pleasing for everyone.

Luckily, both of these issues can be solved, and the only thing you’ll need is a good blender. Smoothies made with leafy greens are not only super quick and easy to make, they can also be made delicious by adding natural sweeteners like banana, mango, berries and other juicy fruits.

Citrus Fruit

Vitamin C is one of the most important components for preserving your health and enhancing your immunity.

As you probably already know, fruits like lemon, orange and grapefruit represent treasure troves of this powerful antioxidants.

A glass of fresh orange juice, with halved orange

Oranges are your first go-to for Vitamin C, but don’t forget about other citrus fruits like lemon and grapefruit.

Lemon, which due to its zesty flavor is best consumed in juice form, is known for its incredible detoxifying powers which can effectively flush out the pollutants that your body amasses in day-to-day life.

Nutrients found in lemon water can also promote healthier digestion, liver performance, but also reduce the visibility of fine lines, wrinkles and age spots on the skin.

And if you’re not in the mood for something that sour, you can always go for oranges, which also pack a punch when it comes to health benefits.

This wintertime favorite is laden with Vitamin C, which is crucial for shutting down free radicals that are causing oxidative damage to your cells. Through antioxidant activity, you are helping slow down aging processes and reinforcing your body’s natural protective capabilities. Also, improved consumption of antioxidants like Vitamins C means preventing cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cognitive degeneration.

Grapefruit has been a longtime favorite for people who are looking to shed pounds. Not only does the low calorie count make grapefruit an appealing diet-friendly snack, regular consumption of this citrus can promote your health in ways you couldn’t imagine.

For example, a grapefruit a day can help your body stave off a number of illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and kidney failure. Moreover, grapefruit can also boost your metabolism and contribute to lower insulin levels.

Fatty Fish

Even though the word “fat” carries a lot of negative connotation in the world of health and fitness, this doesn’t mean that all fats are automatically bad.

On the contrary, healthy fats are crucial for keeping your heart, your brain and other organs in your body healthy and shielded from diseases.

The only trick is to source these heart-healthy fats straight from nature.

And one of the principal sources of nature-derived fats is oily fish, which is often talked about when it comes to slowing down aging processes and enhancing immunity.

This is because certain creatures of the sea represent a rich source of Omega-3, powerful fatty acids.

The benefits of Omega-3 for your body are numerous: they promote healthy cardiovascular activity, enhance the performance of lung and the entire respiratory system and that can also help keep you mentally sharp.

On a more skin-deep level, regular consumption of these all natural fatty acids can contribute to a plumper, more glowing complexion.

If the benefits of Omega-3 peaked your interest, you might be wondering which particular fish to go with for your next meal if you want to replenish your body with this nutritional powerhouse.

To help you make that choice, here is the list of fish that contain high levels of Omega-3 acids:

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Anchovies
  • Trout
  • Mackerel

When shopping for fish, try to go for the wild instead of the farmed ones, as they are more likely to contain lower levels of mercury and other harmful pollutants found in water.

Avocado

Avocado? That’s right, you can’t have a list of the healthiest food out there without mentioning the fruit that defined an entire generation.

Sliced avocado on bread, surrounded by halved avocados

So, what is it that makes this creamy green treat so appealing?

It might be the fact that avocado manages to combine a plethora of nutritional benefits while remaining supremely yummy at the same time.

And that’s not all; this Central American fruit is also super-easy to incorporate into our busy lifestyles due to its filling flavor and incredible versatility.

There are no limits to what you can do with a single avocado fruit in your kitchen: spread it on a piece of toast, chop it up in a salad, mash it in a guacamole or, simplest of all, toss it in a blender and call it a smoothie-energized day.

If you’re already sold on the idea of more avocado in your diet, you’d be pleased to hear that you will also get a number of health perks from it, as well.

For one, avocado is one of the richest sources of healthy, monosaturated fats, which are essential for keeping heart-related illnesses and other serious medical conditions at bay.

Moreover, avocados happen to contain plenty of carotenoid, which can improve both your vision and your brain function.

Another great thing about avocados is that they are jam-packed with proteins, which makes it an excellent dietary addition for anyone looking to lose weight, build muscle or tone their body.

Nuts

Now that we’re talking about protein rich-foods, it might be a good time to focus on nuts.

This food group is known for its powerful nutritional properties, and your body and immune system would certainly benefit from more of these bite-sized powerhouses in your day-to-day life.

For example, almonds – one of the most easily accessible nuts – is packed with health-restoring nutrients, including zinc, selenium, calcium and magnesium. Still, the most potent nutrient found in almonds is Vitamin E, which is known for its powerful reparative capabilities.

For something a little different, you can also try snacking on more walnuts. This tasty nut is jam-packed with nutrients that can rejuvenate your body in varied ways.

For example, walnuts are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can greatly contribute to cardiovascular health by stabilizing blood pressure and regulating cholesterol levels.

Moreover, walnuts are a treasure trove of antioxidants, which can reduce inhibit growth of malignant cells in the body.

One of the most convenient things about nuts is that they can be pretty much consumed anywhere and at any time. Because of this, walnuts, almonds, cashews and other nuts make for a great post-workout, mid-study or office snack. They can provide an instant sensation of fullness without stuffing your body with unnecessary salts and saturated fats.

Berries

When it comes to suppressing aging processes in your body, it’s crucial that you start consuming more antioxidants in your diet.

And the quickest shortcut to more of these body-rejuvenating components in your everyday life is simply more berries.

Bowls of assorted berries on table

Now, don’t be fooled by their size – despite being bite-sized, berries manage to pack a punch when it comes to health-enhancing nutrients.

For example, blueberries, which can be a welcome addition to any smoothie or oat bowl, represent a treasure trove of flavonoids, a potent polyphenol that can be of immense value when it comes to fighting free radicals and reducing oxidative damage in your organs.

Furthermore, the antioxidants found in berries can enhance your cognitive and mental capabilities and stave off degenerative processes in the brain.

And if you’d like to add another berry to your diet, why not make it a blackberry? This summertime treat contains a host of good-for-you nutrients, including the immunity-boosting Vitamin C. In fact, one cup of blackberries a day will already supply you with half of your recommended daily intake of this powerful antioxidant.

Seeds

You’ve probably never given much thought to how much presence seeds have in your diet, but once you take into consideration their immense nutritional properties, we are positive you will be rushing to replenish your meals with chia, flax and other micro superfoods.

To start with, seeds represent a rich source of protein, a substance your body needs in order to regulate insulin and control blood cholesterol.

Moreover, these tiny nutritional powerhouses are loaded with healthy acids such as Omega-3, which means that they can improve your cardiovascular health and notably slow down aging processes in your body.

So, now that you are convinced in the immense health-related power of seeds, you might be wondering which one you should go with first? And how to include them in your meals, exactly?

One of the most hailed sees is flax or linseeds, in no small part because they represent a rich source of an Omega-3 acid called alpha-linoleic acid or ALA. Flaxseeds can be a welcome addition to your morning smoothies, as they can provide your AM meal with more body-energizing fiber and nutrients.

Chia seeds are also popular among the health-conscious crowd, largely because of the high doses of fiber and antioxidants they contain. When it comes to food preparation, chia seeds can be incredibly versatile: you can toss them into any smoothie or salad to add extra crunchiness. Alternatively, sprinkle them on top of your rice or pasta-based dishes for an extra fiber kick.

Sweet Potato

Carbs seems to be the bane of everyone’s existence when we’re talking about attempts at establishing a healthier way of life.

And yet, not all carbs have to be necessarily as evil as weight loss advice resources might make you think.

And one of the most satisfying, delicious sources of the good-for-you carbs is sweet potato, which contains high doses of valuable nutrients.

One of them is Vitamin B6, which can greatly diminish levels of homocysteine, a harmful substance that’s been connected to a number of degenerative diseases.

Sweet potatoes also contain high concentrations of Vitamin C, which can help rebuild your immune system and keep your organs strong in the fight against free radicals.

Thanks to its palate-pleasing, filling texture, sweet potato can be prepared in a number of different ways. You can lightly coat it with olive oil and seasoning of your choice, toss it into the over and – voila – you got yourself a serving of healthy chips.

Alternatively, boil your sweet potatoes and combine them with a bit of butter and thyme to create a tummy-filling mash. 

And there you have it – some of the healthiest ingredients you can start consuming as soon as today! Thanks to all these nature-derived vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber, we are sure your body will feel younger, more energized and better equipped to stave off any nasty illnesses.

Relaxed woman sitting on the bank of river

11 Steps to a Calm, Relaxed Mind

Learning how to relax your mind is an essential life skill to have, especially in this day and age where stress is so abundant. Not only will this help to mentally rebalance you, but calming your mind will also give your brain a bit of a boost, resulting in higher creativity and productivity.

  1. Listen to Some Music

Music can have quite the impact on your mind, with different genres of music having their own unique effects.

For those who need to reduce stress, studies have found that instrumental music can be extremely effective at relaxing the mind, especially Native American, Celtic and Indian tunes. Light jazz and classical music can also have this same effect, as can sounds of nature, such as rain and thunder.

If you need some help getting to sleep at night, try spending 45 minutes before bed in a relaxed, comfortable position, while listening to some calming music.

Alternatively, if you need some help lifting your mood, go for something lively and upbeat, as this can really help you to feel more positive.

Of course, singing along to music is also a great way to release tension while boosting your mood at the same time.

  1. Snack on Some Calming Foods

Feeling anxious or worried can often lead to stress eating, which is the term used when someone eats to make themselves feel emotionally better, rather than eating because they are hungry.

When this happens, the foods that are eaten are often high in salt, sugar and other unhealthy ingredients that only end up making the stress feel so much worse.

In order to keep your mind feeling relaxed, try opting for one of these calming snacks instead:

  • Walnuts – helps to regulate cortisol in the body, which is the stress hormone, as well as adrenaline
  • Asparagus contains enough folic acid to quickly boost the mood
  • Oranges, Berries and Other Vitamin C-Rich Fruits studies have shown that vitamin C can lower cortisol levels, while also lowering blood pressure
  • Chamomile Tea calms nerves and reduces symptoms of anxiety
  • Dark Chocolate maintains calmness in the body while lowering blood pressure
  • Oatmeal stimulates the brain to produce serotonin, which is a chemical that immediately lifts the mood
  1. Give Meditation a Try

If you have been looking into different ways to relax your mind for a while now, then you will likely have already stumbled upon the recommendation of meditation

So, have you given it a try yet?

Meditation is something that so many people do not fully believe in, dismissing it as something that would never work. However, science has now backed up some of the many calming benefits that meditation can bring.

To begin with, studies have found that meditation can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression in the same way that antidepressants can, and to the same extent as well. It can also trigger changes in the way in which the brain thinks about the self, which can really make such a difference to anxiety.

If you are not feeling anxious, but simply have trouble controlling your distracted mind, then meditation can help with this too. Research has shown that meditation can decrease the activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for your wandering mind, keeping you focused on the task at hand.

  1. Write it Down

When your mind is racing with what seems like a million thoughts, writing it all down can really help.

How?

Firstly, the act of writing in itself is enough to engage the mind enough to slow it down a bit, while putting your thoughts down on paper helps to organize them, preventing everything from seeming so chaotic.

woman writing in a notebook

Want to give this a try?

Use a notebook if you prefer writing by hand, or create a special document on your computer if you prefer to type. Then, spend 15 minutes or so jotting down everything that happens to be in your mind.

This does not need to be in any particular order, so long as you are able to get all of your thoughts down.

Once you are done, put this aside for now. You can then return to it a bit later and really give everything your attention, once things are not so frenzied.

You will likely find that writing it all down makes you feel so much more in control of things, and helps to ease some of the stress taking place in your mind.

  1. Get Moving

It has been proven countless times now that exercise is an extremely effective way to improve well-being, especially when done on a regular basis. 

Wondering how it does this?

Firstly, exercise triggers changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters, the ones that are responsible for your mood. What makes this even better is that these changes are quite long-lasting, meaning that they will still be in effect hours after you are done exercising.

For those who are feeling a bit down about things, a 2006 study found that exercise can actually have similar effects to antidepressants in the way that it promotes the growth of new neurons in the brain, therefore alleviating depression and anxiety.

To make it even better, exercise that features repetitive motions, such as running, is actually classed as a meditative activity, and, for those who have a tough time calming their mind enough to fall asleep at night, exercise can help with this too, making it much easier to sleep each night.

  1. Spend Some Time in Nature

Another easy way to quickly calm your mind is to simply step outside and head somewhere where there is plenty of natural beauty.

This is something that has been proven quite a few times, and there is a very interesting reason behind it…

Plants and trees release special chemicals that help to slow down the rate at which they decay, and these same chemicals can help to slow your mind down as well.

Studies have found that just a short walk in the woods, or anywhere else where there is plenty of nature, can significantly lower cortisol levels in the body, helping you to feel less anxious, while also boosting your memory at the same time. 

  1. Play a Game

Playing certain types of games, such as puzzles, can really help some people to relax their mind and lower stress levels.

How?

Well, due to the hectic nature of modern day life, many people end up feeling bored when they try to relax, as they have become accustomed to always having a certain level of stimuli in their life. Puzzle-type games can help with this, as they do still provide a mental challenge, but not too much, meaning that they are able to still pull people into a state of mindfulness.

Puzzle games also trigger the brain to produce more dopamine. This is a neurotransmitter that helps to improve the mood and balance out brain chemistry, keeping you in a state of relaxation.

Wondering which games you should be playing?

Give one of these a try:

    • Sudoku
    • Crossword puzzles
    • Wordsearches
    • Brain-teasers and riddles
    • Electronic puzzle games, such as Bejeweled
    • Jigsaw puzzles

woman playing sudoku

  1. Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Sleep

Sleep is essential for your well-being, and this not only refers to the number of hours that you sleep for, but also the quality of sleep that you generally have.

Wondering how much sleep you need each night?

Eight hours is what the average person needs, but many people do not end up getting this amount, often due to an over-active and stressed out mind.

If you can relate to this, then there are a few steps that you can take to help your mind and body to unwind before bed, so that you fall asleep quickly and easily:

    • Spend an hour before bed relaxing your mind, keeping away from your TV, computer, phone, or any other electronic devices
    • Develop a pre-bedtime routine that promotes relaxation. This can include a warm bath, a good book and some calming music
    • Drink a cup of chamomile tea before bed, as this helps to induce sleep
    • Make sure that you are wearing comfortable clothes
    • Try a breathing exercise while lying in bed
    • Develop a regular sleep schedule that you stick to on weekends as well as weekdays
  1. Stop Multi-Tasking

While it may often feel as though you are getting more things done by multi-tasking, this may sometimes not be the case. By having so many different distractions, your mind will end up scattered, and you will actually not be very productive in the end.

One key to keeping your mind relaxed, calm and focussed is to only concentrate on a single task at a time.

Do you find it difficult to do this?

Try making a list at the beginning of each day, writing down all of the tasks that you need to accomplish that day. Then, prioritize the tasks, and tackle them one by one, starting with the most important and working your way down.

In addition to only working on one task at a time, you should also try to stop multi-tasking in other ways. For example, you are likely to be regularly checking your phone, or your emails, while you are doing something else. Try to put a stop to this, so that you really are completely present in the task that you are currently doing.

  1. De-Clutter Your Environment

While having some clutter in your home or at work may not seem like that big of a deal, research has shown that clutter can actually have quite the impact on the way in which your brain processes information.

In the same way that multi-tasking can impair your ability to properly concentrate, having too much clutter will end up overloading your senses, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and drained of mental energy.

The brain actually finds organization much easier to deal with, meaning that when you enter a de-cluttered space, your brain will not have to work so hard, which will have you feeling far calmer. 

You’re probably thinking…

“That all sounds great, but how do I actually get started with de-cluttering?”

Begin with a small part of your home, even if this is just a single drawer in your dresser.

Take all of your belongings out and then sort them into the following piles:

  • Keep – these are the items that you often use
  • Sell items that you do not use, but could be worth some money
  • Give Away items that you can donate to charity
  • Trash or Recycle items that would be of no use to anyone

Once you have organized a small part of your home, move on to the next, allocating yourself an area of your home to de-clutter each evening, or even each week.

woman decluttering her environment

Before you know it, your home will be de-cluttered. You can then take this principle and apply it to other areas of your life that need de-cluttering, such as your office or your car.

  1. Ensure That You Are Having Enough Social Contact

Social contact is such an important part of keeping the mind and spirit relaxed and happy, but, as a person becomes older and more stressed, this is an area of life that often ends up being neglected.

Having friends that you can talk to can really help to keep you calm, in a number of ways:

    • Talking to a friend about a problem can lower cortisol levels in the body
    • Having close friends tends to make people healthier in terms of diet and exercise, both of which will help keep your mind calm
    • Laughing on a regular basis can reduce stress and improve your mood

If you know that you have been neglecting the social side of your life a bit lately, then this is something that needs to change. Try setting aside a chunk of time each week that you dedicate to spending with friends, even if this may just be a quick drink after work.

Woman massaging her temples due to a headache

Having Killer Headaches? Try These Cures

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

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

Sip on Ginger Tea

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

So, what exactly does ginger do?

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

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

ginger tea

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

Stretch It Out

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

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

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

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

Give Acupuncture a Try

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

Sound painful?

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

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

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

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

acupuncture

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

Drink Up

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

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

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

Take a Screen Break

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

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

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

Use a Compress

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

hot compress

Wondering whether to go hot or cold?

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

Sniff A Soothing Scent

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

Here are a few to try:

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

Try Yoga for Tension Headaches

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

Why?

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

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

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

Take a Magnesium Supplement

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

Why does this matter when you have a raging headache?

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

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

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

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

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

Try snacking on one of these:

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

sources of magnesium

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

Eat Some Headache-Busting Foods

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

Feel the pain beginning to come in?

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

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

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

Walk It Off

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

How?

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

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

Relaxation Exercises

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

What exactly are relaxation exercises?

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

Try this the next time you have a headache:

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

Change Your Pillow

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

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

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

How often should you be changing your pillow.

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

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