From sleeping bags to giving yourself a a slap: Top 50 tips for being happy healthy in 2018
Make 2018 your best year yet with Chrissie Russell's helpful hacks for a happier, healthier new you
Want 2018 to be your happiest, healthiest and most productive yet? Of course you do! Well, don't worry: even if the year got off to a groggy start, we've got a wealth of tips - from monks to surf pros, wine masters to meditation masters - to make sure 2018 gets off to the best start possible.
1 Want to Detox? try a twist
"Forget the green juices," says yoga instructor Suzanne McGill from YogaHub. "Seated twists are a great way of stimulating digestion and quite literally ringing out the internal organs. When we twist we temporarily cut off the circulation to certain organs then, when we release, we get a nice blast of freshly oxygenated blood that your liver will thank you for!"
2 Sleep better in a sleeping bag
"Recent research on campers found that even a short period of camping - two days away - can reset your body clock to match what is natural to your body," reveals Con Quill, CEO, Camping Ireland. "Campers tended to get to bed on average two hours earlier than when surrounded by screens and gadgets and woke up earlier after a better quality of sleep."
3 Heal hair with herbs
"Cedarwood essential oil is very effective for clearing dandruff," reveals Christine Courtney, principal at OBUS School and Wellness Centre. "And aromatherapy has been shown to be very effecting in treating stress -related alopecia."
4 Fold your way to a better brain
According to Arklow-based Origami instructor Michaela Bertsch, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding and can help unfold your brain's potential. "Origami trains both sides of the brain," she explains, "which can help people with dyslexia, train memory, train concentration and improve focus."
5 Don't let 'Health' foods make you fat
"Calories count," says personal trainer Dominic Munnelly. "The latest fad might be that 'healthy' gluten -free almond flour cake but it has almost twice as many calories than if it was made with regular flour."
6 Give yourself a slap for better skincare
"If you slap your face lightly and quickly prior to applying your expensive serum, you stimulate the circulatory system and sensory nervous system so your skin is able to absorb the product faster," explains skin and facialist expert, Jennifer Rock from The Skin Nerd.
7 Boost bone strength by drinking milk before you hit the showers at the gym
"If you drink a glass of milk within 10 minutes of finishing exercising, this will increase your aerobic capacity, which means you will have more energy and be able to do more weight-bearing exercise which is essential to building up your bone strength," says Michele O'Brien, CEO at the Irish Osteoporosis Society.
8 Change your socks to be more savvy
"Thinking quickly requires mental agility and the best way to achieve this is with the two Cs - change and challenge," explains Niall MacCaughey, chairman of Irish Mensa. "Make change to your routine at least once a week, take a different route to work, eat something new, visit a new restaurant, wear clashing socks! Challenging your mind is a bit trickier - the best way is to spend time with people who are smarter than you, who challenge your cherished opinions and make you see the world in a different way."
9 Plant your way to peace
"Something that always makes me feel happy is gardening with herbs," reveals garden designer Alexandra Hollingsworth. "Just a few pots can envelop you in evocative and calming aromas and many herbs have strong homeopathic effects. I love the smell of oregano, which apparently contains caffeic acid, which combats anxiety. Try Origanum laevigatum, 'Herrenhausen' - it's really easy to grow, with pretty purple flowers and will be covered in bees all summer."
10 Feel more fulfilled by embracing your inner tortoise
"We are so caught up in our accelerating world that we are out of breath - there is no way we can keep up - we are hurrying through our lives rather than living them," says Benedictine monk Fr Simon Sleeman of Glenstal Abbey. "For 2018 let's get in touch with our 'inner tortoise' and slow down. If you do then you will feel happier, healthier and more productive, but perhaps the most important result is your relationships will grow deeper and richer."
11 Have madiran wine (in moderation) to live longer
Research shows a polyphenol called procyanidin provides cardiovascular benefits. "The native South West France grape 'Tannat' has naturally high levels of procyanidin in the skin and because the skins and juice are macerated for a long time during the fermentation process, lots gets extracted into the wine," explains Master of Wine Anne McHale. "Madiran was one of the wines behind the original 'French Paradox' whereby the inhabitants of Gascony in southwest France were discovered to have excellent cardiovascular health despite their regular consumption of fatty foods like foie gras."
12 Eat kiwis for a speedier track to sleep
"Eating two kiwis one hour before bed has been shown to improve sleep onset, duration and efficiency!" reveals dietician Orla Walsh.
13 Increase your life expectancy by knowing what can kill you
"We all think we are immune to disease - that of the half of smokers who die from smoking, it will be the other guy. That of all the people who text while driving, we are the better multitaskers," says Cork-based psychologist and psychotherapist Sally O'Reilly. "We are not. Understand that you are as fragile as your neighbour or the person in that tragic accident you heard about last week. You can increase your life expectancy by not doing things that will kill you."
14 Add an inch (or more) by adopting the alexander technique
"The Alexander Technique makes you taller for two reasons," explains Richard Brennan from the The Irish Society of Alexander Technique Teachers. "When practicing it you learn to release the muscles that have become over tense so they get longer. Also, as the muscles get longer, the invertebral discs are able to expand and they are able to absorb fluid, so that after the end of a lesson nearly everyone is taller and after a few lessons that extra height becomes permanent." Alexander aficionado George Bernard Shaw managed to add three inches to his height at the age of 80!
15 Fight the munchies with a banana
"Bananas are rich in a fibre called pectin, which gives the flesh its structural form," explains Mary Minihane from vegetarian.ie. "Both pectin and resistant starch may moderate blood sugar levels after meals, and reduce appetite by slowing stomach emptying."
16 Decongest with the downward facing dog
"This pose allows for the lowering of head below heart, which is a great way of draining the sinus passage and clearing congestions. Have tissues ready!" warns yoga instructor Suzanne McGill from YogaHub.
17 Cut stroke risk by switching condiments
"There's a proven link between a high-salt diet and high blood pressure," says Caroline Cullen from the Irish Heart Foundation. "To cut your risk of stroke and heart disease swap salt for black pepper, lemon juice, herbs and spices."
18 Grapple with gravity for greater grit
"Boost your stamina and sticking power by learning to hang tight," says Tough Mudder champion Sergej Dikun. "To really get the edge add pulling movements into your training routine."
19 Ward off wrinkles by washing your brushes
"Not cleaning your make-up brushes can leave the skin exposed to oxidative stress from free radicals," explains make-up artist Lyndsey Cavanagh. "This in turn causes a breakdown in collagen and elastin in the skin which can result in premature aging. The skin needs all the help it can get, so ensure you have good hygiene habits with makeup: wash brushes once a week with a mild shampoo and leave to airdry."
20 Sniff stress away with Neroli oil
"Research in Taiwan has shown that inhaling Neroli is more effective than taking Xanax," says Christine Courtney, principal at OBUS School and Wellness Centre.
21 Stroll your way to a higher IQ
"The link between IQ and stress is well researched," says outdoor counselling psychotherapist David Staunton from Walk Inniú. "Walking outdoors in nature can help us to reduce our stress and anxiety levels significantly and this in turn allows improvement in our memory function, IQ and Emotional Intelligence (EI)."
22 Relieve a headache by having sex
"A headache may often be used as a reason to avoid sex but, before you reach for the painkillers, neurologists have found that sexual activity can relieve head pain associated with a migraine in some people," says GP Dr Nick Flynn. Research found that 60pc of people reported an improvement in pain after sexual activity while 37c of people with a cluster headache reported an improvement. "The University of Munster researchers explain that sex triggering the release of endorphins (the body's natural painkillers) is the mechanism behind the relief," explains Dr Flynn. "In other research, women were found to experience reduced pain sensitivity and had an increased pain tolerance when experiencing pleasure through self-stimulation."
23 Listen to Michael Jackson to be a better person
"A study was conducted to see if songs like Michael Jackson's 'Heal the World' and Bob Sinclair's 'Love Generation' could change people's behaviour for the better," explains Dr Helen O'Shea from UCD. "Half of the participants listened to a few pro-social songs, the others listened to neutral songs then all of them completed various tasks or questionnaires. In the experience, participants who listened to 'Heal the World' and other pro-social songs were less likely than participants who listened to neutral music to actually be aggressive."
24 Eat blackcurrants to help you recover faster from a workout
"Blackcurrants have a direct effect on your body's inflammatory response," explains dietitian Gillian Killiner. "The high GLA and anthocyanin content can help reduce joint or muscle pain, stiffness, soreness and damage."
25 Be your own best friend
"That thing you just said about yourself when you looked in the mirror - would you say that to your best bud? Would you follow anyone around and whisper the nasty things you say to yourself into the ears of a beloved? Feel better every day by treating yourself as well as you would a friend," says psychologist Sally O'Reilly.
26 GIY to save on your shopping
Put a smile on your face and some extra cash in your purse by growing your own - you don't need a garden or an allotment to do it. "Sow your own mixed leaf in trays on your windowsill to save money on prepacked bags of lettuce leaves from the supermarket," urges thrifty food blogger Caitriona Redmond (aka @wholesomeIE)
27 Get slim in your sleep
"Poor sleep will make you fat," explains personal trainer Dominic Munnelly. "Get at least seven hours per night to reduce cortisol, improve insulin sensitivity and regulate your appetite hormones."
28 Know your colour palette
Most of us wear 20pc of our wardrobe 80pc of the time because we only have a limited number of clothes we feel good in. One of main reasons for this is buying colours that don't really work for us. "We all have either warm or cool pigments in our skin undertones," explains Maria Macklin, Irish House of Colour Image Consultant. "When we wear colours that match those undertones, we will look brighter, younger, thinner and healthier. Wearing the wrong colours can make us look drained, tired and therefore alter our moods negatively."
29 Lower your cholesterol with strawberries
"One cup of strawberries provides 50 calories and about three grams of fibre, most of which is soluble fibre," explains Mary Minihane from vegetarian.ie. "Studies have shown that fibre, particularly soluble fibre can help lower LDL or 'bad cholesterol' 2."
30 Turn down your thermostat to chill out
"Hot, noisy, brightly lit and busy environments add to stress," says Dundrum-based psychiatrist and stress expert, Abbie Lane. "Turn the room temperature down a notch."
31 Drink milk for better hydration
"Dehydration leads to poor energy levels and fatigue," warns dietician Orla Walsh. "According to
the Beverage Hydration Index, whole milk and skimmed milk are more hydrating than water."
32 Can't sleep? climb the walls
Pop your legs up against a wall (with your back on the ground) before your head hits the pillow. "This restorative yoga pose reverses the blood flow which has a calming effect on the whole nervous system and helps you sleep better," says yoga instructor Suzanne McGill from YogaHub. "Just two to three minutes before bed will have you nodding off in no time."
33 Pour a glass of pinot noir to protect against diabetes
There's some evidence to show that resveratrol, a polyphenolic antioxidant found in red wine, could have potential health benefits like: preventing insulin resistance and protecting against diabetes, protecting nerve cells from damage and plaque build-up (linked to Alzheimer's) and anti-inflammatory properties. "Pinot Noirs are grown in cooler regions and have the highest concentrations of resveratrol so - enjoyed in moderation - they potentially present a great addition to a healthier life," explains Anne McHale, a Master of wine and wine consultant for the Westbury Dublin.
34 Scoff walnuts for better sperm
Dietician Orla Walsh explains: "Walnuts added to a man's daily diet improve sperm vitality, motility and morphology."
35 Use aspirin to banish blackheads
"Crush up aspirin, add it to an oil-based solution and apply it to the skin," urges skin and facialist expert, Jennifer Rock from The Skin Nerd. "Aspirin - aka acetylsalicylic acid - has similar anti-bacterial qualities to salicylic acid as they are both derivatives of willow leaves. Applied as a mask or a spot treatment and washed off after 10-20 minutes, this can help to zap spots and blackheads and prevent them from forming in the first place."
36 Eat chocolate to be healthy
"Chocolate is no longer a junk food!" says Ann Rudden, managing director of Áine's Handmade Chocolates. "Good quality chocolate containing high cocoa solids has become a new superfood. Antioxidant polyphenols that neutralise free radicals provide some of the most compelling aspects of eating chocolate, because they can reduce processes associated with the development of diseases like Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer. Chocolate also contains anandamide (named after the Sanscrit word for 'bliss') which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and anxiety."
37 Combat period pain with grapes
"Grapes are a great source of potassium and iron which can assist with muscle cramps and anaemia," says dietitian Gillian Killiner. "The purple or red kinds have the highest concentration of healthy compounds."
38 Feel more energised by upping your d3 (or moving to Madrid)
"Irish? Take some Vitamin D - D3 to be precise. And ideally only between October to March, where north of Madrid there isn't enough UVB strength to biosynthesise our own hormone," reveals GP Nick Flynn.
39 Ace an interview by listening to Queen
Researchers from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that we experience a greater sense of power when listening to a heavy-bass song compared to those who listened to a light-base song. Top of the empowering pops was 'We Will Rock You' by Queen.
40 Take an icy plunge to beat a cold
"Increasingly, evidence is emerging to support the power of immersion in cold water as a form of 'blue therapy'," says pro surfer Dr Easkey Britton, who is currently involved in a project at NUIG studying the health impacts of sea bathing. "Early preliminary findings suggest the potential mood-enhancing and stress-reducing benefits with first-time sea swimmers, as well as a heightened sense of self-awareness in a multi-sensory environment. Studies also show that cold water stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and with long-term exposure boosts the immune system. But build up slowly so you don't shock the system and always swim safely (Irish Water Safety has great courses)."
41 Smell your way to health with spearmint
"Inhaling spearmint essential oils can help nausea," reveals Christine Courtney, principal at OBUS School and Wellness Centre.
42 Take the espresso route to a healthier heart
"Studies have found that coffee drinkers may have a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cirrhosis," says dietician Orla Walsh. "If coffee suits you, drink two cups a day before 3pm for improved health."
43 Try 'edging' for longer orgasms
No, not a horticultural term. "Edging is the practice of becoming aroused to the point of orgasm but holding back and allowing the arousal to relax and die down a little (not all the way) but enough so it's not imminent," explains Cork-based relationships and sexuality coach, Beth Wallace. "When you finally orgasm, most people report an orgasm that is more powerful, deeper, longer and stronger than usual."
44 Fight feeling sluggish with liver and carrots
Feeling under the weather (poor immune system, low energy, fatigue and cold hands etc)? It could be a sign of iron deficiency - the number one nutritional disorder in the Western world, says Dr Eva Orsmond. "Growing up in Finland, my mother served liver with carrots once a month, the perfect combination of iron rich food and vegetable to enhance its absorption!"
45 Balance blood pressure by scoffing beetroot
"The nitrates naturally found in beetroot help your blood vessels to dilate lowering your blood pressure naturally," explains dietician Orla Walsh.
46 Improve gut health with an essential amino acid
"I have leaky gut syndrome so I have loads of tips for improving gut health but a big one would be taking L-Glutamine powder in water daily," says Caitriona Kelly, aka The Food Intolerance Lady. "It makes food pass through your system faster and makes you feel lighter." New research also suggests the amino acid could help improve metabolism, and help the intestines rebuild and repair.
47 Hug a tree to be happy
According to psychologist Owen Connolly, a grateful embrace produces positive hormone production in the body. "Hug a tree and thank it for cleaning the air that gives you life," he urges. "Then start hugging people who are important in your life."
48 Eat tomatoes to protect your prostate
"Tomatoes are not only a great source of vitamin C, they also have been shown to have a protective effect against prostate cancer," reveals dietician Orla Walsh.
49 To sit up straight, lie down
"Lying down 15 minutes a day with your knees pointing towards the ceiling and your head supported by books or a cushion will improve your posture," explains Richard Brennan, author of How to Breathe or Change you Posture - Change your Life.
50 Give your 'happiness muscle a workout'
"It takes just 15 minutes each day to strengthen your 'happiness muscle' and boost positive emotions with practices that are proven to help reduce anxiety, stress and depression," reveals Orlaith O'Sullivan, who teaches courses on Mindfulness and Cultivating Happiness. "Try practicing 'Three Good Things'. Our brain naturally scans for problems and challenges, leaving us with a distorted version of how bad our life is. But we can form a new habit of attention and over time notice the many good parts of our daily life." Scan through your day for experiences that felt good - even a nice coffee counts - then name it, describe it, find the source and re-feel it. "Giving yourself a little time each day to reflect on the good things in life literally rewires your brain to feel more connected, supported and positive," says Orlaith.
NB: Consult your GP before taking supplements or making major dietary changes