Health

Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed the festive period and are now moving into 2019 feeling positive and excited for what lies ahead. I’ve decided to write a blog which is quite out of my comfort zone but that’s a good thing. I’m writing about…HEALTH.

Time to face the facts. I am quite an unhealthy person. I am addicted to junk food, I don’t exercise at all and my mental health is often quite poor. I’m frequently fatigued, feel low and get out of breath just walking up stairs. Yikes!

At the age of 24, this is NOT where I want to be. So I’ve decided to set myself some healthy and realistic goals for 2019 and want to invite my friends and family – and anyone who is interested – to join me on my journey.

Goal sharing

The main reason for sharing this very personal journey with you right now is because there are proven benefits of goal sharing and I am much more likely to achieve if I have said it out loud. Mostly because it keeps me accountable for my actions. I see you all as my accountability partners. If you’re interested in the psychology behind goal sharing I found this blog a helpful read.

What do I want to achieve?

  1. Activity. I don’t intend to join a gym and go to 4+ fitness classes a week. I have tried to throw myself in at the deep end in the past and failed to achieve consistency several times. I want to increase my activity by walking more, driving less, getting the stairs instead of lifts and generally standing more. After all, standing is the new smoking. I would also like to attend yoga for both physical and mental reasons.
  2. Nourish. I am NOT on a diet. I have been dieting on-and-off since I was about 16 and so far I am still overweight. I’ve tried Slimming World, Cambridge Weight Loss, Ketogenic diet etc and, personally, I find they work in the short-term but I gain weight quickly after. I’m not disparaging those who find this works because I know it does for lots of people. In 2019, I want to take a non-diet approach which focuses on adding lots of healthy, colourful and nourishing food to my diet and where possible ditching high processed carbs and sugary foods. I’m not restricting myself and I’m not punishing myself or attaching morals (‘good’ and ‘bad’) to food because it’s incredibly unhelpful to me. I’m sure you all know how it feels to be on a diet then fall off the wagon with a Chinese or pizza and you beat yourself up about it and make yourself feel like a failure. Not good. If you want to know more about a non-diet approach to eating, have a read at this blog.
  3. Relax. Stress is a huge factor in all of our lives and it’s something I want to become better at managing – mostly through my first goal of activity but also through regular meditation practices. I will also work on using social media less because this is a huge factor in feeling a bit rubbish about myself. I wrote a blog called Breaking Up With The Internet a while ago which talks about this in more detail.
  4. Sleep. I have been fortunate to never really suffer from insomnia. Unfortunately though I have had long bouts of hypersomnia where I find myself needing to sleep for 12-14 hours every day to feel remotely human. To work on having better quality sleep I plan to reduce my caffeine intake, reduce time spent in front of a screen and create a positive sleep routine which I follow as much as possible. I actually wrote a blog about sleep a while ago which you can read here.

What to expect

I want to write regularly about my health journey and share tools and resources that I have found helpful along the way.

I would also like to share the stories of friends and family who have successfully managed to change their health for the better using lifestyle so please do get in touch if you have any tips.

Love April x

Monday Morning, you sure look fine.

Am I the only person that sings Fleetwood Mac as another hazy Monday morning welcomes you to the working week?

Here I am, it’s 6.50am on a dreich Monday morning in Ayrshire. (For non-Scots dreich definition) But today is different from other Monday mornings because for once I have time to sit and blog. Why? Because I woke up at 6.15am instead of 7.15am. Why? Why would I choose to get one less hour sleep in favour of enjoying the grey and overcast views from my bedroom window?

Well, I recently read an amazing blog by Sarah Whyte from Whyte Happened Next about waking up one hour before you need to get up and give yourself some precious “me” time every morning. I’m a serious sleepaholic and would do anything for 5 minutes more so I was intrigued to see if getting up an hour earlier would actually increase my daily happiness. ‘Cos that’s what it’s all about after all.

Scientifically, early risers are associated with success:

The early bird catches the worm.

According to a 2008 Texas University study, students who identified as “morning people” earned a full point higher in their GPAs than their “night owl” classmates. Harvard Biologist discovered in 2008 that early risers are more proactive and feel “in charge of making things happen.” You can read more stats here but you get the picture.

So I’ve been convinced to ditch my 7.15am and rushed morning routine in favour of a slow and easy morning starting at 6.15am. Bonus points for fitting in an extra cup of tea and some reading time. Here are the three things I hope to gain from waking up early and I’ll write a blog at the end of the week.

1. Preparation

Like most people, I scramble around in the morning trying to squeeze in a shower, full face of makeup, breakfast, reading my Facebook timeline and just generally making myself look like a functioning human being before 8am. Something always falls by the wayside as time runs out and that’s usually food preparation. Getting up earlier means I can prepare a healthy lunch to take with me to work and a hearty breakfast that will keep my fuller for longer.

2. Alertness.

I go to bed early every night. You can read my top tips for a good night sleep here. My tiredness every morning cannot be attributed to a bad sleep because I sleep like a log most nights. So I’m hoping that waking up an hour earlier every day will give me more time to come to my senses so that by the  time I get to work at 9am, I’m not reaching for another cup of coffee just to feel human.

3. Happiness.

This is probably the main reason I have for adding an extra hour into my day in the morning. Allowing yourself some “me” time every morning might sound very new-age hippy-dippy to some people but the idea of starting your day with a good book and the gentle tinkling of your favourite radio station sounds so much more appealing than crash landing into my shower half-asleep. I hope to set aside time in the morning to meditate and practise mindfulness!

What about you? Are you an “early bird” or a “night owl”? Let me know on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

5 Tips For A Better Sleep

I love to sleep. Alongside reading, it is my favourite hobby and, as luck would have it, it’s actually really good for you too. Before I give you my super fantastic tips for the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have, take a gander at some of the cool health benefits of catching some proper uninterrupted Zzzzzz.

Health Benefits

[source: health.com]

  • Longer Life-Span – who doesn’t want immortality?
  • Decreased Inflammation Pain– if you suffer from aches and pains in daily life then one thing you could be missing is a proper snooze at night.
  • Get The Creative Juices Flowing – studies have shown that the strengthening of emotional components of a memory during sleep can actually increase creative thought. Perfect for all you bloggers out there with writer’s block.
  • More Stamina – whether it’s on the tennis court, football field, or maybe in the bedroom (hey, I won’t judge) the more sleep you get the less fatigued you will be during the day (duh) so your athletic performance will improve.
  • Become Super Brainy – sleep deprivation = impaired learning. So go to bed early during exam time guys to avoid all that exam time stress.
  • Focus – if you’re finding yourself being inattentive and distracted all the time, you might not be getting enough sleep.
  • Help Weight Loss – apparently, you feel hungrier when you sleep less. The evil hormones that send your appetite through the roof increase as you get sleepier. If that’s not a reason to go to bed right this second then I don’t know what is.
  • Decreased Stress Levels – this is one of the huge benefits I experience from getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep reduces levels of stress and anxiety which in turn decrease your chances of so many other nasty side-effects of stress like heart disease or depression.

My Five Top Tips For Catching Zzz’s

1. Step Away From the Blue Light!

Never heard of the blue light? Well, it is probably the reason you’re struggling to fall asleep at night. If you want the science behind it then read this interesting article from Harvard Health on the dark side of blue light. To summarise, the blue light which is found in all of your electronic devices, like mobile phones and tablets, is like artificial sunlight to your brain. This means that your brain never truly realises it’s nighttime and, therefore, time to go to sleep. It basically attacks your body’s natural biological clock and your sleep will suffer as a result. Since I first discovered more about the dangerous blue light, I’ve tried to cut down my exposure to it about 30 minutes to an hour before I go to bed.

In a world of social media addiction, what can you do? Text your friends or tweet that you are going to bed well before you intend to go to sleep so that nobody bothers you while you unwind. Set your alarm thirty-forty minutes before you go to bed and put your phone out of arm’s reach. No laptops or TV either. Try reading a book (there are plenty of good book reviews on my site if you’re struggling for ideas) or if you’re in a relationship try talking to your partner until you fall asleep.

2. Try a Little Lavender.

Okay, since reading and watching Outlander I am slightly perturbed by the uses of lavender oil but before I knew about the menacing Captain Jack Randall, I was using lavender essential oil to soothe me to sleep. It’s a very simple and natural solution for anyone suffering from mild insomnia. It has calming properties and has been used throughout history for treating anxiety and nervous tension. It’s ideal for those bad days when you’re really worked up and stressed out.

What to do: Sprinkle 1-2 droplets of lavender oil on your pillowcase before you go to sleep at night. Don’t overdo it; you will regret it when your bedroom smells like your granny’s perfume for the next two weeks. Alternatively, put 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your evening bath to relax your muscles and get ready to sleep. Try lavender scented candles too! The Lavender and Chamomile candle from Love Scottish Candles is a great bedtime treat. For more information on the health benefits of lavender, click here.

3. Cut Out the Caffeine.

Up until this year, I took almost no caffeine in my diet other than the trace amounts of caffeine in green tea and even then I wouldn’t drink it before bedtime. I hated coffee and energy drinks so I never had to worry about how this everyday drug could be affecting my sleep. Then I discovered caramel lattes and now I am a self-confessed coffee addict. My body does not react well to caffeine. If I have too much, I get anxious, my heart races and, worst of all, I realised that my sleep was suffering as I was drinking more and more coffee. Studies show that your sleep can be affected by caffeine if you drink it anytime up to eight hours before bedtime!

How to avoid caffeine: Try to stop drinking coffee at lunchtime if you can and switch to decaffeinated for the evening (most cafés offer a caffeine-free option) Drink an alternative hot drink like milky tea, hot chocolate or a malt based drink which are all great for inducing sleep. My secret sleep potion is a cup of chamomile and honey tea. Like lavender, chamomile is a natural relaxant which can soothe aches and pains and promote a good night’s sleep. For more health benefits of chamomile, check this out.

4. Zzz is for Zen.

Some of you may be apprehensive about meditation. There is an abundance of health benefits to meditating and, contrary to mainstream belief, meditating does not need to be a religious experience. Myth busting: you don’t need to be a yoga superstar or a Buddhist to reap the rewards of meditating. Basically, it is just sitting in a quiet and peaceful place and breathing. If I’m really restless or anxious, I find a peaceful moment before I go to bed and listen to the sound of my breathing and float away for a few minutes. Meditation helps to alleviate the stress that has built up on your shoulders throughout the day or week and you can totally unwind.

Meditating for beginners: If you want to create a meditation habit then zenhabits.net have a wonderful guide to practising meditation here. I’ll pick out a few thoughts and I sincerely hope you forget any preconceptions you might have and give it a go. Sit in a quiet place. Breathe deeply. Forget what’s going on around you or what you have on your to-do list and just exist. Count your breaths and scan your body all the way from your toes to your head. What are you feeling? Personally, I like to imagine a little orb of white light which fluctuates with my breathing. It really calms me if I’m struggling to fall asleep.

5. Regular Exercise and Healthy Eating.

I am definitely guilty of not following my own advice here. I’ll give you an example of how your diet and exercise affects your sleeping pattern. Have you ever overindulged on a takeaway? I’m talking large-Domino’s-pizza-to-yourself-food-coma. Visualise that horrible ache in your stomach after you’ve over-eaten and how awful you feel as all the greasy, doughy food lies at the bottom of your gurgling stomach. Think of the wine and chocolate induced heartburn or that kebab-shop nausea. Bad food = feeling bad = bad sleep. It is not rocket science.

What to do instead: Ditch the heavy, fatty and rich foods for fruit, veg and healthy carbohydrates like wholemeal pasta, couscous and rice. Be aware of the food you eat and how it might have an effect on your sleep. Check out this article on the five best foods to eat for a healthy sleep. Aaaaaand, EXERCISE! Go for a long walk at night when the weather’s good or try a new exercise class. Your body will burn up all that excess energy, your muscles will tire out and you will probably fall fast asleep when your head hits the pillow.

Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night – William Blake

Give some of these a go and see how you feel tonight. I promise you there is no cure quite like a proper sleep at night.


Let me know how you get on over on TwitterFacebook and Instagram