Three essential nutrients to boost energy levels this winter

Feeling tired, moody or blue? You are definitely not imagining that dip in your energy levels at this time of year.

The reduced sunlight hours over winter seriously impacts energy levels, mood and appetite. Research suggests that 9 out 10 people will experience a dip in their energy levels and in more serious cases people can experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD is a type of depression that occurs in winter, where the lack of sunlight significantly reduces the production of the hormones that regulate sleep, appetite and mood. It is thought to affect around 3% of the population and is complex and serious. Luckily the majority are not effected to the same extent, but in all seriousness the lack of sunlight can really leave people in a state of winter blues. 

Simply put, serotonin (the mood boosting hormone) is produced when the sunlight enters the eye and regulates all things related to energy, appetite and mood. When you aren’t producing enough these behaviours get thrown out of whack. Melatonin is produced in darkness (regulating the sleep cycle) and prepares the body for sleep. Hence dark early nights mean your body produces less of the mood boosting hormones and more of the drowsiness inducing hormones, making you want to hibernate and eat more.

Luckily, you can boost energy levels through foods and supplements to avoid dipping into hibernation mode for the next four or so months. Food is medicine as they say and these three nutrients can be found pretty easily, so incorporate into your foods and feel on top form this winter!

1. Vitamin D

This might be the most essential vitamin to take during the winter months. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in converting tryptophan into serotonin so it’s not surprising that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression. The best source is through sunlight so over winter it’s even more important to add in to your diet. Luckily it’s easy to incorporate through foods such as fatty fish (e.g. Salmon, Herring, Tuna), egg yolks and fortified foods such as some milks (check the label). Besides sunlight the best form is in supplements, with a dose of 3000iu having high absorption rates. I cannot stress the importance of Vitamin D enough.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium has been shown to boost mood, as well as being a great all round protector for the body. It helps with serotonin and is often used to help combat fatigue and balance emotions. Magnesium is easy to get through foods, as well as sprays and supplements. Good sources of food include: Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), spinach and beans.

3. Chromium

Chromium works directly with the hormones that regulate energy and mood (serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin). It helps to stabilise blood sugar levels which prevent energy dips. It’s found in small quantities in a lot of foods but the best sources are shellfish, brazil nuts, pears, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and oats. If taken in supplement form, research suggests 200mcg is the best amount to reap the benefits.

Upping your intake of these three nutrients will definitely help to boost your energy over  these long dark evenings!

 

 

 

 

Festive Feasting: healthy eating in December

Since I wanted to focus a new series of posts about the festive season, what better way to kick it off with some healthy eating tips!

The festive period is always the worst time to be healthy. With an endless supply of treats, Christmas parties and indulgent dinners, weight gain is almost inevitable. Then January arrives with a renewed sense of motivation for getting fit, losing that extra 5 or 10lbs and adopting an all round healthier lifestyle. Gym memberships peak and new fad diets flourish… which ultimately fail. Did you know that 80% of New Years resolutions fail before Valentine’s day, a mere 6 weeks later? Sorry to be the barer of bad news but the statistics do not lie in this case.

My question is this: instead of letting yourself totally go in December why not attempt to have a healthier season? It doesn’t have to be about restricting fun but rather indulging in moderation.

I always advocate living a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable and actually enjoyable. It’s never about cutting back or deprivation but more about being aware of how food impacts on your body, health and wellbeing. Christmas is all fun and games until your jeans are too tight!

With that being said, I often get asked how to eat healthily during this season, so I wanted to share some simple tips:

 

Tip 1: Stay hydrated

People often forget to drink water during this time, instead opting for more indulgent or alcoholic beverages. However, dehydration causes lots of issues such as playing havoc on the digestive system, lethargy and drying out your skin. On the alcohol note, be aware of

  • For optimal digestion aim for 2 litres a day
  • Drink a glass first thing in the morning 
  • Have a glass before or with each meal 

Tip 2: Alcohol calories

They easily add up. Simple as. Cocktails, creamy mixers and adding booze to your hot chocolate are easy ways to consume a lot of calories.

  • Opt for lighter spirits such as gin and vodka
  • Tonic water and sodas are lower calorie mixers
  • Drink water in between drinks

 

Tip 3: Never go to a buffet hungry

You’ll end up overeating. Buffet food is rarely healthy because it’s cheap and full of salt and sugar, making those little nibbles far too addictive.

  • Have a small snack beforehand to avoid turning up ravenous
  • Don’t skip other meals or ‘save yourself’ throughout the day as it will lead to overindulgence
  • Always eat breakfast (full of protein, healthy fats and slow release carbohydrates) to balance blood sugar levels and preventing a sugar crash. It’ll set the tone for the rest of the day

Tip 4: If you don’t love it, forget about it

Just because you’re surrounded by a plethora of food it does not mean you have to eat everything. Try to only indulge on the foods that are worth it and you really love or want to try. Before filling your plate at a buffet, look at the entire spread to decide what few things you want to indulge on. Fill the rest with healthier options such as protein and vegetables. The fibre will prevent overeating. You don’t want to be in the situation where you have eaten three desserts before spotting your absolute favourite! If it’s a three course meal, try to choose two healthier or lighter options out of three, or better yet share!

  • If you like the decadent dessert option then go for a lighter starter & main (and vice versa) 
  • Share a starter or dessert
  • Ask a waiter to adapt the option to make it healthier (restaurants can be very amenable to intolerances)

Tip 5: Don’t forget to eat the rainbow

Fruit and veggies that is! A plate of vegetables isn’t the most attractive food option at this time of year, but aim to eat around 5 portions a day. Why? If not you’ll end up with sluggish digestion and stomach problems. The fibre will also fill you up, potentially stopping you from overeating and preventing a sugar crash.

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables
  • Opt for fruit based desserts
  • Seasonal fruit and vegetables are delicious!

Tip 6: Out of sight out of mind

Simple. If it’s not in eyesight wont be as tempted.

  • Eat from a plate to be aware and accountable for what you’re eating

Tip 7: Be mindful and guilt free

Be mindful over the choices you make and remember the bigger picture. One indulgent day is not going to make a lot of difference in the grand scheme of things, but several could lead to unwanted weight gain. It’s easily done. Eat only when you are hungry and not out of boredom. Eat in a way to fuel your body and your soul.

  • Are you hungry or bored?
  • It’s ok to say no!
  • Do you really need that second helping? The first and last bite are always the best so enjoy in moderation
  • Going out? choose healthy options for the rest of the day but don’t restrict (e.g. Fill up on lean protein and lots of veggies for lunch)

 

Most of all, relax and enjoy the season! Focus on the bigger picture: taking time out and spending it with loved ones 🙂

 

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Do you have toxic people in your life?

Unfortunately toxic relationships affect us all at some point in our lives. When it comes to relationships we seem to be pretty well attuned to spotting this toxicity yet let it slide with others. We can verbalise reasons why a relationship didn’t work – selfishness,  lack of understanding, not able to be yourself, and list goes on…

So why do we allow these traits or situations manifest in friendships?

To live our most happy lives we must be surrounded by those that lift us up. Since we are supposedly the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time around, it’s imperative to  choose wisely! It can be difficult to spot negative and toxic traits, especially when you’re in the thick of it. I’m certainly guilty of being oblivious at the time then looking back and spotting and reflecting on negative traits and situations. Captain hindsight is a wonderful thing, eh?

Reflecting on those traits in my personal experiences as well as talking to others I noticed a few key traits and commonalities.

Negative energy

I think this might be the biggest for me. I tend to absorb people’s feeling quite easily and  always notice a negative vibe straight off the bat. Some people are just terribly pessimistic and their glass is always half empty and whilst it’s not necessarily your problem it’s definitely not nice to be around. If you notice that you come away from being with someone always feeling negative, pulled down or a bit bleak, perhaps that person has had an effect on you. Maybe you cannot put your finger on it. I’d suggest re-assessing your time spent and the situation with them. Everybody goes through a bad patch from time to time and if it’s a close friend you might not mind spending a bit of energy trying to lift them up, but nobody needs to be around a constant stream of negative energy. It might start rubbing off on you. Not nice.

Lack of respect

An unwritten rule of any friendship is a mutual respect for one another. A lack of respect can come in many forms from you feeling used, your values not being respected or feeling pressured into something. On a more subtle note, is the person actually listening to you? Do they sit on your phone whilst you’re talking, do they talk over you or do you feel like you have to hold back for fear of offending? Do they constantly take and never give? In reality we all have differing options but you should never be made to feel as though you’re tiptoeing around someone or as though you’re not able to be your true self. True friends accept you for who you are.

Emotional abuse

The word abuse is such a loaded term because it can have serious implications, which makes it difficult to acknowledge. Over time, emotional abuse really impacts on your self-esteem and self-worth which is why it is important to cut it out of your life. It might be that you’re constantly put down, criticised or ridiculed by that person. Other signs to look out for are snide comments, being made fun of or not being listened to. These factors can seriously hurt and affect the way in which you view yourself and can lead to serious self-esteem issues.

What signs do you notice?

Lianne

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Motivational Monday: Kick start your morning for a productive day

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Morning is probably the favourite part of my day as it sets the tone for what is about to come. Kicking off in a positive way carries good karma for the day; whereas a bad start definitely does not result in a productive day. There are so many self sabotaging bad habits, whether these are unhealthy for your body, cluttering your mind or just generally overwhelming yourself.

Habits are a funny things. Bad ones are easy to get in to and hard to break… whereas good ones are difficult to maintain and easy to break.

However, since I have adopted the following positive habits my life has improved ten fold. I get more done in the same amount of time, I have a healthy mind and body, meaningful connections and live a more fruitful life.

RE-HYDRATE

Water! Whether it’s hot or cold or flavoured with cucumber, lemon or lime. Whatever way you have it, aim for around a pint before doing anything else. It’ll wake you up, start your digestive system and get your body ready for the day.

I also recommend a shot of Apple Cider Vinegar to improve circulation, detox your body and really get your digestive system fired up.

MOVE THAT BODY 

Exercise, gym, dance. Whatever you like to do, don’t over think it, just move.

There are countless reasons to exercise and it should be a priority to get a regular amount of exercise. Most importantly to protect your heart, but also to wake you up (the extra oxygen in your muscles) and to boost your mood (endorphins released from exercise absorb extra serotonin, the feel good chemical).

Some people see exercise as a chore but it doesn’t need to be. I believe there is a form of exercise for everyone but it may just take time to find something you enjoy. Whether it’s the gym, yoga, a dance class or simply walking the dog.

I personally cycle to work because it wakes me up and gets me motivated for the day, or I’d pop to the gym for a quick class. Don’t have that luxury? YouTube! These can be done anywhere, anytime. My personal favourites are The Body Coach, Blogilates or Yoga with Adrienne.

DITCH THE SUGAR & NOURISH YOURSELF

Eating something high in sugar first thing is probably the worst thing you could do from a health perspective. It reaps havoc on your blood sugar levels, causing you to peak then crash soon after. Ever wonder why you’re starving at 11am or craving sugary or junk food all day? Probably because you ate the wrong breakfast, probably laden in hidden sugar or fat. It’s time to ditch the cereal, granola and fry ups.

It is essential to eat a good balance of macronutrients at breakfast! Aim for a good source of carbs, protein and good fats. Slow release carbs (e.g. oats) provide sustained energy, protein keeps you fuller for longer and good fats will fill you up and prevent overeating. Oats, eggs on toast, avocado, fritatas, full fat/greek yoghurt with fruit are all great options. If time is not on your side it’s not an excuse PREP the night before. Overnight oats, yoghurt and berries are such easy options, or have some hard-boiled eggs ready to go with some toast. Probably taking the same amount of time as pouring that cereal.

DISCONNECT 

STOP scrolling your Facebook feed, DONT check emails and DONT respond to messages!

Mindlessly reading updates on social media is an unproductive activity that merely fills your head with other people. On others, not you. Focus on you and your goals by starting your day with a clear mind. Empty your mind in the morning and start with a blank slate for a positive and fruitful day. I personally have do not disturb on my phone in the morning (and night!) and I sure as hell am not checking emails or messages until I’ve got to work. My morning is purely for me.

TAKE A MINDFUL MOMENT

Connect to yourself and your body. Take 10 minutes to stretch, do a bit of yoga or listen to some feel good music. 10 minutes is probably the same amount of time you spend on social media, so you do have time. Even just 5 minutes of gratitude, meditation or clearing your mind can work wonders for your motivation and productivity for the day. How you feel in the morning will have a knock on effect for the rest of the day, so make sure you de-clutter your mind.

I like to take a moment to live in the now, read about why here.

TAKE ACTION TO PREVENT PROCRASTINATION

Action comes before motivation!

Just because you might not feel motivated to do something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Just do it anyway. Procrastination evokes a huge feeling of boredom which has been shown to decrease happiness, satisfaction and productivity. Don’t put something off that you’ve been meaning to do.

Write a quick to do list! What are three things you can achieve or need to get done today. Don’t think, pick the easiest and just do it. I’d also recommend listening to motivational ted talks/podcasts/upbeat music, recognising and replacing negative self talk with positive mantras, and/or standing in a power pose like this.

What are your morning habits?

Lianne

Tips for living in the now

One thing I’ve learned about being too wrapped up in the past and/or future is that it conjures up emotions of guilt and anxiety, respectively. Overthinking about something in the past can lead to feelings of resentment and guilt; whilst being too focused on the future is a breeding ground to invoke anxiety or fear. It’s self-destructive yet startling to see the number of people who live this way.

I’ll refrain from throwing around overused quotes such as Live for the now or You might not get tomorrow because whilst true there overuse waters down their meaning, in my opinion …But being absentminded isn’t productive and certainly doesn’t lead to living a fruitful life full of happy thoughts.

Living in the moment and being focused on the now stems from teachings of mindfulness, and if there was one book I would recommend  Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now. This book really changed my thinking around creating a more mindful approach to my everyday life.

Why?

Increase your joy for things happening around you in the moment, find the extraordinary in the ordinary and simply starting to love life for what it is – and not resenting it for what it’s not. It’s the idea of living a fulfilling week rather than waiting for the weekend.

Increase your self belief  Doing rather than thinking about doing  is much more fruitful for squashing those nagging feelings of self-doubt. People often worry about things in the future because they waste too much time worrying about what could happen.

Learn to love what is by letting go of what was and not focussing too much on external goals.  The more time spent ruminating over something that caused grief, the longer the time spent wrapped up in a cycle of negative thinking. On the other hand, focusing too much energy on end goals stops you appreciating life now. Goals are great to have but don’t kid yourself into thinking that you will suddenly become happier when you lose that weight, buy that car or land that job. When you get there, if your mindset is still future focussed you’ll feel a sense of dissatisfaction and end up simply yearning for the next goal. Sure as hell not reaping the rewards of all of the work paying off.

My top tips for focussing on the now:

  • Practice gratitude: what are you grateful for?
    • Practice being grateful. Gratitude has been shown to boost feelings of happiness. Simply start your day with taking note of something that you’re greatful for, be thankful or text somebody you appreciate. It needs to be genuine though and not forced. It could literally just be that the sun is shining. You’ll start to appreciate things in your life a lot more and actually start to feel grateful for who you are and the great people you have in your life.
  • Pay attention: to other people, to your thoughts, to your feelings and the environment
    • Delete the crap from social media. Seriously stop wasting your time scrolling(!). Life is busy and those hours spent absent-mindedly scrolling Instagram or Facebook add up. Imagine actually using that time on being productive or taking care of yourself, instead of investing time reading about what everybody else is doing.
    • Be mindful. Do you notice what’s going on around you? Do you look up when you’re walking? Smell the fresh air? Or put your phone away when you’re in a meeting/with friends?(!) The amount of time I see groups of people looking at their phones rather than chatting to each other in cafes is startling! I notice this because I look around 🙂
    • Smile at strangers. Simple but effective. We are social beings, so make eye contact with people. Connect. In real life.
    • Eat slowly and taste your food! It takes your brain 10 minutes longer than your stomach to notice feeling full.
    • Check in to your body. Meditate and be mindful of your body, move with purpose, notice areas of tension and learn to slow down.
    • Breathe. Deeply.
  • Practice acceptance
    • The 5 minute rule. Something that’s caused grief? Give yourself 5 minutes to be upset and have a pity party, then tell yourself no more!
    • Stop worrying. A simple tip. If it will not matter 5 years from now do not waste for that 5 minutes worrying about it.
  • Be spontaneous 
    • Remember the last time you were spontaneous, how great did you feel? You don’t need to go booking a crazy spur of the moment trip (especially not if you’re using a credit card) but stop, breathe and ask yourself what would make you feel happiest in that moment.
    • Stop waiting for the weekend. It’s great to have things to look forward to but don’t focus all your energy and effort waiting that you forget to appreciate what you’re doing right now.

Hope this brings a little positivity to your day! x

 

 

 

Thursday Thinking: loving yourself

It was World Mental Health on Tuesday but it still feels that we are a long way off reducing the stigma that surrounds issues of this kind. However, raising awareness and generally pushing people to open up more is a big step in the right direction.

It really should be a priority to take care of ourselves and look after ourselves our minds. Loving yourself is part of that parcel.

You should go and love yourself. Yes I did just quote Bieber 🙂

Working on your self-esteem can be great for all aspects of your life. You feel better in your own skin and actually start to believe in yourself and in turn this translates to a more improved, healthier and happier you. Even the notion of feeling positive can have such a vast impact on improving your quality of life. Who doesn’t want to feel more positive, happier in their skin and be in better health?

What actually is Self Esteem?

From a psychological point of view, self-esteem is the subjective feelings that a person attributes to themselves about their own worth or value. People with high amounts of self esteem believe they are good, worthy and deserving of love and good things, whilst people with low amounts believe the opposite to be true. Of course this is over-simplistic as we fit somewhere along the continuum,  and as with all aspects of our lives it’s more intricate and interconnected with the context, time and situations changing how a person views themself.

We all have a self-esteem lens through which we see the world based on psychological makeup, life events and our upbringing. We are inclined to interpret the world in line with our beliefs we seek out those examples that provide evidence to support our views and disregard those that do not fit our biases. For example, the person who is inclined to think negatively might received 10 compliments and 1 piece of criticism (or what they may interpret as such) yet ignore the praise and be fixated on the negative. It fits with their perception of their self.

Whilst self-esteem is somewhat learned from being a child you can help yourself if you feel like you want to boost it. However, replacing negative views or a negative lens does not happen overnight. Building self-esteem is the same, it’s all part of an ongoing process of self-development. As with any process of building any new habit, it takes time, determination and process. But trust that process. Believing in yourself is SO IMPORTANT for a healthy and happy life.

Below are my ways to boost self-esteem.

Talk about believable positive affirmations.

Positive self talk and affirmations are powerful tools that relatively easy to implement. But the key is whether you believe them or not. Telling yourself something unrealistic such as that you had a great day when you feel down in the dumps will not make you feel better. Telling yourself you are beautiful when you don’t truly believe it only leads to feeling worse! The key is to remove the permanence in the statement and you might be more inclined to believe it. e.g. replacing ‘I am beautiful’ to ‘I look OK/good/great today, I particularly like my x/y or z today’. Don’t kid yourself into positive self talk that you simply do not believe. Be more realistic.

Making lists about yourself is a good start. Write down qualities that you believe to be true and start there. Make a list of your strengths: are you friendly, creative or caring? Or list your greatest achievements, or things you admire about yourself. Are you really stuck, merely list 5 things you could do to help someone else. Re-read these lists. These lists can be your positive self talk.

Accept compliments.

This might be a learning curve but when you receive a compliment, write it down. Not all the time. But when you receive a compliment that makes you feel good, or is about something that you don’t usually feel positive about or that has taken you by surprise. Re-read your list/book of compliments and try to find extra evidence! Better still, turn these compliments into positive affirmations because they are based on real life evidence. You might not believe your own thoughts but I bet you’ll believe in other people’s words.

Challenge negative thoughts. 

When you find yourself slipping into negative talk, e.g. I’m useless, I did a bad job, I look terrible write these down.  Imagine that your best friend/partner/mother said this about themselves, what would you say back? What would a more reasonable thought be? If you feel comfortable share these with others and get their objective views. Replace the permanence and subjectivity with a temporary statement or find the objective evidence. This can help you to take a step back and realise where your disordered thoughts lie. It might be that objectively speaking really are not fat, or last week you received praise ‘My boss said thanks on that job, so it must have been good’. Find the evidence in the world that you might have overlooked. You really are not a failure and you are not useless. Do you have a job, a degree, certificate in something, friends, family or a roof over your head? You really are not a failure.

You have power to boost your self-esteem and choose to think positive thoughts 

Replace bad habits with good ones

You always have a choice of feelings

🙂

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Thank you to the lovely Anita for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. I love answering questions as it makes you stop and think 🙂

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The Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer the 11 questions asked.
  • Nominate 11 other blogs and ask 11 new questions for them.
  • Finally, list the rules and include the Sunshine Blogger Award logo somewhere in the post.

Nominees:

Questions for Nominees:

  1. What are the three items you could not live without?
  2. What is the one item of clothing you could not live without?
  3. What is your biggest fashion mistake?
  4. Where is one place you would love to visit?
  5. What are the three foods you could eat every day forever?
  6. What is your one wish?

 My responses:

  1. Do you have any big travel plans coming up?

I’m currently at a point where I feel quite satisfied travel wise as I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of it in the past few years, but I am never one to turn a travel opportunity down. Visiting new places and being immersed in new cultures is what totally makes me tick, so I’ve just agreed to a new work trip. In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina to co-host a workshop with local artists in order to discover new talent. What makes me most excited is the fact that I know nothing about the West Balkans, so i’m excited to learn and explore!  Personal travel wise I’m hoping to start planning 2018. I’m sort of thinking of a blow out trip to celebrate my 30th! (Maybe Vegas, maybe Miami, maybe Cuba!?)

2. Where would be the one place you could travel to?

I would cheat and get a ticket for a world round trip! I would love to visit India; it’s on my list.

3. What is your dream job?

I think i’d be a travel photographer

4. Could you survive without social media?

I’d be kidding myself if I said I could give it up indefinitely. But short a short period? YES. I go through periods where I cleanse myself from social media for a short while. I think it’s healthy to do this once in a while and re-connect with real life. I really do not like the pull that social media can have on me. There was a time in my life where I felt I wasted too much time looking at utter tripe that did not serve any purpose for me. I’ve learnt to let go of FOMO and as a result I’ve gained so much more time to do things I actually want to do. I feel better when I’m not procrastinating or wasting my life in that sense.

5. What do you have planned for the Christmas season?

Countless trips to the Christmas Markets, outdoor ice skating and drinking copious amounts of mulled wine.

6. Share a good Samaritan experience you’ve undergone?

I actually used to be a Samaritan listener, so I think that fits the definition 🙂

7. Have you ever broken a bone?

Nope, fingers crossed.

8. If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be?

I actually wouldn’t. Even the dark times taught me lessons and the struggles I’ve faced have turned into my strengths.

9. Coffee or hot chocolate?

I cannot live without coffee.

10. What are some of your 2018 goals?

For me 2018 will be about self-development, as I’ve unfortunately let that slip for a while this year. Self-development in both a personal and professional capacity.

11. What is a goal that you have achieved?

One thing I’m really proud of it having my dissertation published. At the tender age of 20 I set a goal of getting my work published and it happened with my first piece of empirical work. I feel that it’s ingrained within British Culture to downplay our success but I’m going against the grain and saying I’m proud of myself. That was a while back and luckily I’ve achieved much more since then 🙂

I hope you liked reading my responses  ❤

Lianne x