Healthy Lifestyle & Wellbeing Tips

Easy wins: week-by-week tweaks for a happier 2023

Jess Spiring,-Deputy Editor

Week one: nurture your mind

Given the year we’ve had, tasking ourselves with hardcore new year’s resolutions is surely a hard no? But the wellbeing benefits of a health reset? That we could use.

Which is why we’re suggesting a softly-softly approach to achieving greater happiness in 2023. Teeny-tiny tweaks that will promote better mood, boost your body, support your skin and improve your diet. Over four weeks, we’ll serve up daily inspirational habits that are effortless to adopt. String them all together and you’ll have set yourself up for a happier and healthier 2023.

To get you started this week, we’re focusing on your mental health, helping you minimise the impact of stress and anxiety with happy habits you’ll love. 

Monday: tune into some thrilling tales

There’s a scientific reason kids are so wedded to nightly storytime. It turns out that listening to tales improves our mood. According to a study conducted on children in intensive care, having stories read to them not only boosted the ‘cuddle’ hormone oxytocin, it also decreased the stress hormone cortisol and patients reported lower levels of pain.

If that’s not enough to have you plugging in your headphones for a listen, may we suggest these hot new podcast drops:

Sweet Bobby
Tortoise Media

True-crime devotees, get involved in this investigation into the most jaw-dropping catfishing tale you’ll ever hear.

Wild Things
Apple Original

Take a deep dive into the lives of eccentric illusionists Siegfried and Roy and discover the shocking secrets behind their final show.

British Scandal
Wondery

Alice Levine and Matt Forde take a light-hearted look at some of the UK’s biggest tabloid tales. This season Boris Johnson is under their side-eyed scrutiny.

Tuesday: listen to sad songs

The benefits of putting on some banging music for exercise or a kitchen disco on a Friday night (not just us still doing that, right?) are obvious, but did you know that listening to sad songs can also make you feel better? 

In a scientific study, participants were asked to select emotions from a list of feelings while listening to sad music. ‘Nostalgia’ came out as the most popular, with ‘peacefulness’ in second place (and who doesn’t crave that after the Christmas-new year marathon?) then tenderness (ahhh). So whack on some Robyn/Adele/Bon Iver (delete as appropriate) and get down in the feels because: science.

Wednesday: stick some salmon on the menu

Whether you’re into smoked, sushi or just a steamed side with some veg, there are so many reasons to add salmon to your diet. Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids which are said to support healthy brain function (they’re also good for your heart and even your energy levels – bonus). Our bodies can’t make omega-3 fats on their own so it’s a good idea to up our oily fish consumption to make sure we’re getting enough.

Try roasting salmon fillets in a foil parcel with soy sauce, sesame oil, freshly grated root ginger and shredded veg (we like peppers and spring onions). Boil some rice while that’s cooking in the oven and you’ve got yourself a delicious midweek meal. Or find more salmon recipes here

Thursday: get cultured

For tips and inspo on living well, doing winter well, heck, just doing everything well, we turn to Scandinavia. Specifically in this instance: Norway, where a study of 50,000 people showed that engaging in cultural activities made them feel less anxious and just happier overall. 

Of course, heading to a theatre, museum or the cinema also means you are away from your desk (win), not bathing in the blue light of your phone screen for a while (win) and you’re out of the house (WIN). Greater life satisfaction just from hitting a gallery for a couple of hours? We’re in.

Friday: turn on your out of office

If you struggle to mentally log off from work once the week is over, take some solace in the fact that you’re not alone. A recent survey found that 3.5 million UK workers felt pressured to check their work emails outside of their contracted hours, a pretty shocking number that probably explains why (among other factors), we struggle to properly relax come the weekend.

It's time to take control. Putting on a clear out of office each Friday at 5pm will act as a clear virtual barrier, aka let whoever is emailing know that contrary to popular belief, you do in fact have a life and will not be replying until you’re back online Monday morning. You can even go one step further and delete your email app off your phone. Out of sight, out of mind…

Saturday: volunteer in nature

Science says that a daily dose of fresh, outdoorsy air can improve our self-esteem and our mood, and help to reduce anxiety and depression. It works wonders for our physical health too. Great news if you walk the dog on the reg, but venturing outside in 0C does require a certain amount of willpower. The answer? Volunteering. The Wildlife Trust is on a mission to make socialising and exercising in natural places central to our daily lives, from bird feeding to litter picking or Wild Work Days, there’s something to tempt all types and temperaments – ideal if you’re looking to connect with your local community.

Prefer some peace and quiet? Forest bathing – shinrin yoku – is the ancient Japanese process of relaxation. All you need do is stand calmly among the trees, bathing in the forest atmosphere (no trunks required). And if you’re time-poor? Try a 20-minute stroll. The more daylight exposure you get, the better you’ll sleep (shout out to all that melatonin) – speaking of sleep… 

Sunday: head to bed early

Can’t switch off? Highly strung? Feel tired 100% of the time? Getting an early night is the quick-fix-healthy-habit-hack for very busy people – proven to help lift our moods, ward off bugs, improve relationships and boost our productivity – plus it should help us to look and feel less knackered too. 

Enjoy your Zzzs with a side of science?

1. Keep cool – the optimum room temperature is 20C (68-70F).

2. Switch off tech (blue light blocks melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy).

3. Listen to calming music (classical is proven to help us sleep better).

4. Invest in separate duvets for you and your OH (it’s the Scandi way to slumber right, and will change your life).

5. If you can, be consistent with your sleep routine for a better start to every day. 

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