Tips for Increased Happiness and Productivity

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Everybody faces different challenges within their lives, and, when this happens, it is sometimes all-too-easy to fall into a bit of a rut. Rather than letting that happen to you, here are a few tips that will no doubt help you to increase your happiness and boost your productivity at the same time.

Reflect on Your Life
It is always important to take some time out of your busy schedule every once in a while to reflect back on your life. From the good points to the bad, start keeping a journal of your reflections, as this will help you to see where all of your decisions lead you to, and can really help you to make beneficial changes in the future.

Woman in gym attire eating salad

Improve Your Diet
The food that you put into your body has a direct impact on your state of mind, as well as your energy levels, meaning that a few tweaks to your diet could really help to boost your happiness and productivity. While junk food may be easy and convenient, this will zap you of energy and dull your mood, so try to stick to a diet that mainly consists of fresh and whole foods.

Regular Exercise
If you tend to avoid exercise as much as possible, then this will be slightly harder to implement at the beginning, but you will also notice huge changes quite quickly. Exercise releases endorphins within the body, and these trigger the happiness impulse in the brain. In addition to this, regular exercise will leave you with so much more energy during the day, which can then be used to make your day more productive.

Woman relaxing by reading

Learn to Relax
Many people think that they simply do not have time in their busy day to relax, but human beings were not designed to be continuously expelling energy. Instead, the body works best when it experiences periods of recovery and restoration, which is exactly why you need to be dedicating sufficient time each day to relaxing and unwinding. This will have a significant impact on your happiness and productivity, so make sure that you schedule in regular breaks throughout the day, and spend this time actually relaxing, rather than thinking about the next task you need to do.

Wake Up Earlier
If you really enjoy lying in, the idea that waking up earlier each morning can lead to an increase of happiness, as well as productivity, may sound hard to believe, but do give this a try. Waking up just an hour or so earlier in the mornings will make it seem as though you have so much more time in your day, and will give you the chance to take part in more activities that make you happy, whether this may be meditation, reading, or walking your dog.

Woman cuddling dog

With the increasing stressors that people are now facing in their day to day lives, seeking out ways to boost happiness and productivity are important. From learning how to relax to reflecting on your life, following these tips will soon result in significant changes when it comes to having a positive outlook on life.

Boost Your Midlife Brain Health

The human brain naturally shrinks with age, meaning that brain cells do not work quite as effectively as they used to. By the time a person reaches the age of 45, the memory begins to decline, as do other aspects of brain health. However, there are a number of ways in which you can boost a midlife brain to improve its health while giving it some extra protection for the upcoming years.

Man doing puzzle

Brain Exercises
There are many brain games and puzzles out there that are designed to help create new associations between different parts of your brain, which is great for strengthening it and keeping it sharp. You can also try carrying out normal, everyday activities, but using your non-dominant hand. For example, if you are usually right-handed, try using your left hand to do everything from brushing your teeth to hoovering the carpet.

Woman running with dog

Regular Exercise
One of the most effective ways in which you can boost your brain health is by partaking in regular exercise, as this has been proven, for many years, to be able to boost cognitive function. It does this by reducing cell damage and inflammation while increasing the density of brain cells, as well as blood vessels in the brain. When it comes to the different types of exercise out there, aerobic exercise is one of the best, as this can help with the parts of the brain that are associated with organizing, multi-tasking, and planning, while boosting heart health at the same time. Resistance training has been linked to beneficial effects on the memory, as has low-intensity yoga, so try to include these in your exercise routine too.

Control Your Blood Sugar Levels
Not only does high blood sugar levels lead to obesity and diabetes, but this also damages blood vessels in the brain, while impairing the parts of the brain that are responsible for memory. Lowering your blood sugar levels is as simple as making a few lifestyle changes, from practicing regular exercise to eating a diet high in vegetables, fibre and whole grains.

Group of friends

Socializing
Humans are social creatures, and, as studies have shown, socializing is important when it comes to keeping the brain stimulated and sharp. Research has shown that older adults who are less socially active tend to experience more cognitive and physical limitations, so make sure that socializing takes a priority in your life.

Brain-Boosting Foods
While a healthy diet itself is important for your brain, as well as your body, there are certain foods out there that are known for being especially beneficial when it comes to brain health. At the top of the list are foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and walnuts, as these have been linked to improved memory and focus, as well as a lowered risk of dementia.

Your brain is incredibly complex, but boosting its health does not need to be. From physical activity and a healthy diet to brain games and socializing, these tips will help you to keep your mind as sharp as possible while your body continues to age.

Use a Foam Roller to Get Rid of Aches and Pains

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Foam rollers have been used for decades in physical rehab clinics when it comes to pain management, and, when done correctly, can bring about the same benefits that a professional massage does. If you have never used a foam roller before, here is all you need to know to get started.

Purchasing a Foam Roller
Foam rollers are widely available at the majority of sports stores out there, and can also easily be purchased online. If you have never used a foam roller before, then it would be advisable to purchase a softer roller, designed for beginners, and this should be marked on the packaging, whereas if you are a competitive athlete and really require the extra help, a firmer roller would be the better option for you.

How to Use a Foam Roller
When using a foam roller, there are several different moves that you can do, each one targeting different areas of the body. The majority of moves are best carried out on the floor, with a yoga mat or low-pile carpet to provide a bit of support. The Upper Back Roll requires you to place the roller across your back, so that it is supporting your body, before rolling forwards and backwards slowly, to work on tight muscles along the middle of your back. For painful calves, the Calf Roll is ideal, while those who have been experiencing pain in their hamstrings or glutes should gives the Glutes and Hamstring Roll a try. There are multiple tutorials online for each of these moves, and these will help you to get the hang of all you need to do. With all of these moves, you should be applying a moderate amount of pressure to each muscle group, rolling no more than one inch per second. Each time you come across areas that are particularly tight, pause for several seconds and try to relax. Once you feel the muscles releasing, you can continue to move again.

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The Benefits of Foam Rolling
Foam rolling stretches and tones the muscles, while increasing circulation, meaning that a greater amount of nutrients are able to reach all areas of the body, including the muscles, and their surrounding tissue, being worked on. This then helps with the body’s detoxification process, enabling waste to be broken down and eliminated in a far more effective manner. This waste would have otherwise built up within the muscles, causing stiffness and pain. If you often experience areas of tight, knotted muscles, then a foam roller would be able to help with this too, breaking up these bands and providing relief.

After each foam rolling session, you are likely to feel a little sore the next day, as your muscles will have experienced quite the workout. In order to experience maximum benefits, you should try to drink more water than usual after foam rolling, while eating cleanly and getting enough sleep, as all of this will aid in flushing out your system and allowing your muscles to function as effectively as possible.

Beating an Afternoon Energy Slump

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Afternoon energy slumps are extremely common, and can be attributed to the body’s circadian rhythm, which sends out sleep signals during the afternoon, usually at around 2pm. Rather than spending the afternoon wishing that you could curl up in bed, here are a few tips to help you to beat the energy slump and ensure that the rest of your day remains productive.

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A Light, Protein-Filled Lunch
If your lunches are usually packed with carbohydrates, this will be having quite the impact on the way in which your body functions in the afternoon, as carbohydrates tend to zap the body of energy. Instead, opt for foods that are high in protein, such as a tuna salad rather than a tuna sandwich, or a green salad with hard-boiled eggs and sliced turkey instead of a bowl of pasta. You should also try to avoid having a heavy lunch, as the digestion process diverts blood away from the brain, meaning that the more food that needs to be digested, the longer you will feel lethargic for.

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A Midday Workout
Physical activity during the day will not only boost your productivity, but will also help you to beat that midday slump. If you have a gym near you, some light aerobic exercise is all that you need. Alternatively, if you do not have time for a quick gym session, head out for a brisk walk on your lunch break, or pay a visit to the very top floor of your building, using the stairs of course. Even a few simple stretches can help to provide your body with a boost of energy, and these do not require much space or time at all.

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Green Tea
If you tend to reach for a cup of coffee each time you feel your energy levels dropping, you may want to try swapping this out for a cup of green tea instead. While green tea still contains caffeine, it does not have quite as much as coffee does, meaning that it is much better for your health, and will also bring you a range of nutritional benefits.

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Listen to Some Music
Studies have shown that listening to music has the potential to boost the way in which a person focuses, while making them feel more energized at the same time. This is a great quick fix to the afternoon energy slump problem, and if you compile a few energizing playlists on your phone in advance, you will have a pick-me-up to hand whenever you may need it.

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Don’t Skip Breakfast
Considered to be the most important meal of the day, a healthy breakfast provides the body with enough energy to sustain it throughout the day. However, if you skip breakfast, you are likely to experience quite the energy crash at around 2pm, which is why this is a meal well worth making some time for. If you tend to be strapped for time in the mornings, there are many on-the-go breakfast options that may work for you, from berry and yogurt smoothies to a portable bowl of porridge.

Nobody wants to experience an afternoon energy slump, especially if you have a long list of tasks that you still need to complete before the end of the day. From nutrition to exercise, these tips will help you to beat that slump, filling you with energy for the rest of the day.

Best Workouts You Won’t Even Notice You’re Doing

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There is now a continuous influx of new studies that point to the many incredible benefits that regular exercise can bring, ranging from a lower risk of heart disease to a reversal of the aging process. While many may enjoy structured workout routines, these are not for everybody, so here are a few workouts that are guaranteed to get you fit, without you even noticing this happening.

Walking Your Dog 
Your dog needs exercise just as much as you do, so heading off for a long dog walk is a great way to take care of both of you. Being around animals in general also boosts your physical health and mental well-being in so many other ways, so if you are guilty of often letting dog walks slide, now is the time to change that. If you do not own a dog but would still like to enjoy the many benefits that come from spending time with one, there are now many services out there that enable you to borrow someone else’s dog for a few hours, or, alternatively, you could simply find a friend’s dog, or a neighbourhood dog, that would benefit from some extra exercise.

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Playing With Your Kids 
Whether you choose chase, hopscotch or jump rope, playing with your children is a great way to boost all of your fitness levels while creating some long-lasting memories. Each of these activities are effective ways to burn calories, and will also teach your children about the importance of exercise from an early age.

Dancing 
Dancing involves moving your body energetically and continuously, both of which are perfect for keeping your heart rate elevated while burning calories. If you are wanting to learn a new skill at the same time, then a dance class would be ideal for you, but the same benefits can be had simply by dancing to some music at home. All you need to do is blast your favorite songs and let the beat move you, which will, when done on a regular basis, strengthen your heart, tone your muscles and improve your balance.

Gardening

Gardening 
Gardening for around 30 minutes a day can burn up to 300 calories, providing that you are actually moving around, digging and planting, rather than just standing still and admiring the view. Gardening would be classed as a moderate level cardiovascular exercise, and its benefits include everything from a healthier immune system to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. If you like the idea of gardening but do not know where to start, begin by sowing some seeds of a food that you love to eat, as the sense of accomplishment that comes from growing your own produce is a great motivator to spend more time in your garden.

Exercise is key when it comes to staying healthy, but this does not mean that you need to develop a structured exercise regime. Instead, by spending half an hour to an hour a day on one of these activities, you will be gaining the benefits of a regular workout without having to feel as though you are actually working out.

Three Aspects of Healthy Living

While there are many different aspects to consider when it comes to healthy living, there are three that are absolutely key. From physical health to mental well-being to social relationships, make sure that you place a priority on each of these parts of your life.

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Physical Health
There are a number of factors that contribute to an individual’s physical health, but two that you can have full control over are diet and exercise. In today’s world, it is all-too-easy to get the diet part wrong, especially since supermarket shelves are lined with unhealthy, processed foods. Improving on a diet can often seem daunting, so take this one step at a time, making easy and gradual changes rather than dramatic, difficult ones. For example, incorporating a new vegetable into your meals each week could be a great first step, as could making your own healthy smoothies at home. Exercise also plays a huge role in physical health, with the majority of people out there not getting enough exercise at all. Again, this is something else that can seem challenging to initially get motivated about, so begin by picking a few forms of exercise that you genuinely enjoy, such as a certain sport or a dance. Once your fitness levels begin to improve, it will be much easier to branch out and see what else is out there.

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Mental Health
Mental health is an extremely broad topic, but one of the key causes of poor mental health in today’s world is stress. When you experience stress, this triggers an emergency response in your body, which sends the hormone cortisol coursing through you. Chronic stress, which means consistently elevated levels of cortisol, will increase your risk for so many mental health problems, from depression to other forms of mental illness. When it comes to keeping your stress levels under control, you may need to experiment with different tactics before finding one that works for you, whether this may be doing some form of exercise, spending an hour gardening, or spending time on a new hobby.

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Social Bonds
Healthy relationships are a vital part of healthy living, and there is plenty of research out there that shows that strong social bonds are linked to a longer and happier life. Not only do healthy relationships mean that you are 50% less likely to die prematurely, but they can also boost your immune system and help you to deal with stress better, which, in turn, will be a boost to your mental health. If you are looking to expand your social circle but do not know where to begin, look into local groups or clubs where you can meet people that share similar interests to you, or ask your existing friends to introduce you to some new people.

When it comes to healthy living, there are always areas in which you can improve on. Whether this may be making improvements to your diet to support your physical health, or expanding your social circle to support both your physical and mental health, be sure to pay close attention to each of these three aspects of healthy living.

Simple Exercises to Tighten the Skin Above Your Shoulders

Loose skin can be caused by a number of different factors, from weight loss to aging, and, once your skin has taken on this looser appearance, tightening it back up can seem like quite the challenge. While there is nothing that you can do at home to transform your skin overnight, here are some simple exercises that, when carried out regularly and consistently, will help to tighten up the skin on your shoulders.

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Push-Ups
While many people perform push-ups to work the major muscles in the chest, this exercise is fantastic for toning the upper arms and shoulders over time as well. It is a common misconception that this is an exercise that needs to be carried out every day, but this actually does not give the muscles enough time to rest in between sessions. Between eight to ten reps is ideal, with two days of rest in between. Place your focus on improving your form rather than increasing reps, and, if you need an added challenge after a while, look into weighted push-ups and decline push-ups. There are many other push-up varieties out there, and not only will these target a different range of muscles, but they will also add some diversity to your workout routine and make it much more interesting.

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Reverse Curls
Reverse curls are known for being able to really help with sagging skin, and are able to help to tone this back up. Hold a five to eight pound dumbbell in each hand, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep the dumbbells in front of your thighs with your palms facing in before curling both hands and bringing them close to your shoulders. It is important to do this without bending the wrists, before ending it by lowering your hands back down to complete the repetition. This should be done in two sets of 20 in order to experience maximum benefits.

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Prone Shoulder Extension
The prone shoulder extension is another exercise that requires the use of dumbbells, and this is because weight training is the best way to fill out loose skin and tone the muscles around the shoulders. Lie face down and keep your arms by your side, with a dumbbell in each hand and your palms facing upwards. Lift your arms towards the ceiling, before pausing at the top of your range of motion and then slowly lowering your arms back down, stopping right before they actually touch the floor.

The shoulder is quite a vulnerable joint, which means that it is at a higher risk of injury than other parts of the body. While these exercises will be able to help in toning the muscle and tightening the skin, it is important to ease into them slowly, giving your body enough time to adjust to the new routine, as this will help you to avoid injury or muscle pain. You should also try to do some back and chest exercises before working on your shoulders, as your shoulders will still be involved in these other exercises, and will prevent them from being fatigued too early on in your workout.

Fitness Trends for 2017

The fitness industry is currently thriving like never before, and, as more and more people strive to keep their bodies in shape, the industry is being pushed to really up its game. While 2016 saw many interesting trends make an appearance, 2017 is set to be more exciting than ever, with plenty of new trends to inspire the masses to take more of an interest in fitness.

Workout Apps
Fitness apps have been exploding in popularity recently, and you are likely to see many more workout apps created in 2017. These enable users to engage in an exercise routine wherever they may be, whenever they have a bit of time to spare, giving them a convenient and extremely cost-effective way to work out.

Live-Streaming Fitness Classes
For those who do not live in a big city, you have likely been frustrated at the lack of variation in fitness classes near you, but, thanks to technology, this is soon to change. Rather than having to opt for yet another DVD workout or YouTube tutorial, these live-streaming sessions will take place, in real time, on platforms such as Facebook and Periscope, and will be broadcast from some of the hottest fitness studios around.

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Adult Playgrounds
Adult playgrounds have been popping up quite a bit this past year, but you can expect to see them take quite the surge in 2017 as they become much more mainstream. These outdoor gyms are not just appearing in public parks as you would expect, but can be found in many more unusual locations, from office roof terraces to spacious sidewalk spots, ensuring that everybody is able to easily access one.

Functional Fitness for the Elderly
Fitness levels can really begin to decline with age, unless an active effort is made to prevent this. In 2017, there is likely to be quite the rise in fitness classes for the elderly, but rather than them being standard fitness classes, these will be focussed more on functional fitness. This means focussing on areas such as strength and balance, as well as joint mobility and general mood, all of which will significantly help to elevate daily living standards for this generation.

Outdoor Obstacle Courses
While intense outdoor bootcamps may be declining in popularity, outdoor obstacle courses, such as the Tough Mudder, are steadily on the rise. The majority of these that are currently available are more suited to those with advanced fitness levels, but the newer courses that you will see next year will make this activity available to all.

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Boxing
Boxing has always been loved by many, but it was often difficult for beginners to become involved with this sport. 2017 sees that beginning to change, not only with the introduction of boutique boxing studios, which practice a no-contact style of boxing, but also due to the increasing number of beginners classes that are now being hosted by traditional boxing gyms.

Fitness is key when it comes to healthy living, and an increasing number of people are beginning to become aware of this. Thanks to this mainstream attention, the fitness industry is now witnessing a surge in adrenaline-pumping trends, all of which promise to help keep your body, and mind, in perfect condition.

What You Can Teach Your Children About Healthy Living

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Helping your children to develop healthy living habits while they are still young will really set them up for success in the long run. From educating them about food to making exercise fun, these are a few ways in which you can easily teach your children about how to live a healthy, and happy, life.

Food Education
Many schools do not include modules on healthy food and nutrition in their syllabus, meaning that it is up to you as the parent to ensure that your child learns as much as possible on this subject. There are so many ways to do this, and it is best to use a variety of methods to ensure that they do not become bored. Taking your child grocery shopping with you, and then helping them to prepare a healthy meal by themselves, will teach them about making healthy food choices when shopping, while learning how to read food labels. For those aspiring young chefs out there, help them to create their very own cookbook that features healthy recipes, and introduce them to some television personalities that promote healthy eating, so that they have positive role models to look up to.

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Make Exercise Fun
The recommended amount of physical activity for children is one hour a day, but with children these days spending more and more time indoors, this can be quite difficult for some parents to implement. The key here is ensuring that physical activity is always fun for your kids, and perhaps starting off with a smaller amount before gradually building this up as their fitness levels improve. There are many activities out there that children can get involved in, from dancing to cycling to team sports. For younger children, fun games such as tag or hide and seek will keep them on the move, while older children may enjoy the challenge of a fitness app that tracks their steps.

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Be a Positive Influence
Your children will look up to you as a role model, so you need to make sure that you are providing them with a positive influence to follow. This means that, not only should your children be making healthy food choices and staying active, but so should the rest of the family. By working on a healthy lifestyle together, you will increase your chances of success, as you will have so much extra support, and it will also help with family bonding. When it comes to picking out rewards for your children, do not veer towards the standard, unhealthy, choices, such as extra television time, and opt instead for a reward that is in line with your healthy living practices, such as a family outing to the local national park.

As a parent, there are many ways in which you can encourage your children to be making healthy choices from a young age. By doing so, you will be helping to set healthy habits that they will be able to carry with them for the rest of their lives.

You Can Be Physically Fit

Keeping your body physically active is vital when it comes to good health, with studies showing that regular activity can go a long way when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are two of the nation’s biggest killers. From aerobic exercises that benefit the heart, to muscle strengthening activities that boost stamina and flexibility, working on building your physical fitness will bring about a range of benefits to your body.

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Aerobic Exercises
Aerobic exercises keep the larger muscles in your arms, legs and hips moving, which, in turn, will make you breathe deeper and faster. This then increases the amount of oxygen that your blood is able to carry, and, with your heart beating faster, boosts blood flow to your muscles and lungs. Aerobic exercises will hugely benefit heart health, and there are many that you can choose from. For those who are not yet physically fit, walking is often the best aerobic exercise to start off with, as not only is it free and easy, but it is also quite a social activity. If you find yourself needing some extra motivation, there are several walking programs that you can sign up for, and these are proven to help increase success rates. Other aerobic exercises that are fantastic for the heart include biking, swimming, jogging, rowing, dancing and climbing the stairs.

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Muscle Strengthening Exercises
Engaging in exercises at least twice a week that strengthen the muscles is not only recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services, but also by the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine. The reason for this is due to the way in which improved muscle strength is able to prevent bones from weakening with age, otherwise known as osteoporosis, cuts back on age-related muscle loss, and boosts an individual’s range of motion. For many adults and seniors, muscle strengthening exercises are just as, if not more, important than aerobic activity, and both of these should be incorporated into your weekly schedule. There are a number of activities that can help strengthen your muscles, from yoga to weight exercises to resistance training, with each activity improving muscle strength in different ways.

Minimum Amount of Exercise Needed
While exercising every day is always going to be the most beneficial, there are different recommended amounts depending on the health issue that you are hoping to address. To give your cardiovascular health an overall boost, you should be engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity over the course of the week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. You should also be including muscle-strengthening exercises two days a week, although this should be increased if you feel that your age puts you at a higher risk. When it comes to lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, 40 minutes of activity four times a week should be sufficient, but if this seems as though it may be too challenging for you, set yourself some shorter goals and work up to the optimum amount.

For those that live a relatively sedentary lifestyle, becoming physically fit can seem like an uphill battle. However, everyone has to begin somewhere, so start off small and work your way up until you have managed to reach the fitness level that you have aspired to.