Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Eat your way to a great night's sleep: part 2

Following on from Part 1 of Eating Your Way To A Great Nights Sleep, we’re now going to look at how to handle the second half of your day. Even if you just try a couple of the tips, I'm sure you'll start feeling the benefits of improved sleep very soon. 

Peckish at 4pm?

Your afternoon snack should be fruit that’s high in vitamin C as this helps to reduce stress. Choose your snack carefully as not all fruits are created equally – this chart will help you size up your options.  Top Tip - Eating a couple of oat cakes at the same time will slow the release of the fruit sugars into your system. 


Choose an evening meal that contains a small amount of brown rice which is a good source of B-Vitamins to keep your system running calmly and smoothly. Combine this with grilled salmon or tuna steak and some green vegetables. Oily fish will give you another burst of tryptophan and the green vegetables contain magnesium to help calm you through the evening. A lack of magnesium can leave you feeling jumpy so top-up on your greens. 

A Glass of Wine with Dinner?
If you like to have an alcoholic drink in the evening, have it with your meal as this will limit any drastic impact on your blood sugar levels that could cause disrupted sleep later on. And stick to one or two drinks maximum. The same rule applies here as with the caffeinated drinks earlier in the day – enjoy the first and then ask yourself do you really want any more or would you rather have a good night’s sleep? Ideally, avoid caffeine after midday and allow your body to rid its effects from your body in time for bed.

A little treat
If you’ve got a sweet tooth and like chocolate then the end of the day is the best time to indulge yourself. Choose a couple of squares of dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids for a burst of feel-good chemicals followed a slight drop in blood sugar to ease you off to sleep. Stop after a couple of squares though and don't feel obliged to finish it all in one go! 

A good quality hot chocolate can be an even better option as the calcium in the milk helps to calm your mind while the drink will cause your body temperature to be raised slightly and then it will cool. This temperature cooling simulates what happens when you sleep and can help you to drop off more quickly. 

Sweet Dreams! 

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Eat your way to a great night's sleep: part 1

Sleep is crucial to fitness, health, stress management, good mood and a positive outlook on life.

So how do you make sure you sleep well and for the right length of time every night?  You are only as good and as effective as the quality of your sleep. In essence, You are what you snooze. 

Making sure you get a good night's sleep begins from the moment you wake up in the morning. Everything you eat and drink each day will have an effect on your sleep patterns later on so managing your energy and keeping your system calm is crucial. 

Here are some great healthy eating tips to help you gear up for a quality sleep.

• Wake up at a regular time and start the day with a glass of water or a cup of warm water with lemon. This is the beginning of a well-hydrated day. Proper hydration prevents irritability and leads to eating well so this is an easy way to get your day off to a great start. Think about this every day - the first thing you consume each day sets the tone for the rest of the day so start as you mean to go on.

• Breakfast on porridge / oatmeal, muesli or fruit and yoghurt with seeds. Oats in porridge or muesli release energy slowly which keeps you calm throughout the morning. Fruit can release sugars into the bloodstream quickly but combining them with a protein such as yoghurt and seeds slows down the digestion of your breakfast. Avoid sugary cereals which cause a quick rise in blood sugar followed by a quick drop which leaves you craving more sugar as this pattern will then repeat itself throughout the day. Climbing aboard this sugar rollercoaster leaves you feeling moody, running on adrenalin and makes it tough to wind down at the end of the day. 

• Drinking caffeine is like taking a quick injection of stress hormones. Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks should be kept to a minimum and for most people, cutting back here isn’t too much of a problem. Usually, you enjoy one or two.  The third and fourth might not feel quite so satisfying and any more than that don't leave you feeling great.  Focus on quality rather than the quantity with your caffeine intake and you won’t feel deprived. Then, when you’ve had your fix, switch to herbal, green or Rooibos (Redbush) tea. These usually have no caffeine, taste great and leave you feeling calm and focused. 

• Your morning snack can be pineapple, kiwi or banana with sesame seeds, peanuts, walnuts or pecan nuts. These are all high in serotonin which helps to regulate frustration, aggression, body temperature, mood, sleep and appetite. Sesame seeds are a particularly good source of zinc which is an essential component of an effective immune system which is vital for dealing well with stressful situations. Keep a small bag of these on your desk at work so you remember to have a handful a day.

• Lunch should be salad-based as the leaves help to calm the nerves. Adding fish or turkey provides you with a helping of Tryptophan – an essential amino acid that increases brain levels of serotonin to keep you calm. 

At this stage, you’re well into your day feeling calm, focused, effective and energised. You've grazed well throughout the morning and restricted your caffeine intake - so far, everything is on track for a calm day and great sleep at the end. 

Now onto the second half of the day...

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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The importance of measuring wellbeing success

How careless - we lost half a person!

Whenever any individual or organisation embarks on a wellbeing programme, it's crucial to be able to measure progress.  

That's why, when we deliver wellbeing initiatives for the companies we work with, we regularly measure a variety of healthy KPIs.

It's how we know the programmes work.  It also helps us enjoy the results we oversee.  For example:

One group of 23 people recently lost 35.6kg between them - which means they finished their programme half a person lighter!

In another group, 45% of participants lowered their blood pressure

Another group celebrated the fact that 55% of them lowered their body fat percentage

You can imagine how excited and motivated these groups were by their collective results.  It was great to see them bursting with energy and enthusiasm.

And all of this is a great reminder of the key steps needed for fantastic results with healthy living, which are:

1) Set clear objectives
2) Benchmark your starting point and measure progress regularly
3) Ensure a degree of accountability.  Which is where we come in.

If you'd like us to help you design and deliver a wellbeing programme that will inspire your people to great results, give us a call on 020 8995 1302.

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Activity tips to boost your mood and make you more productive

If you’ve got a lot on your plate at work with meetings, projects and deadlines, you might feel like you don’t have time to exercise regularly. It may seem easier to put exercise off for a time when you’re not so busy, so that you can focus on completing projects and meeting deadlines.

However, the times when you might be feeling stressed, burned out or depressed because of your heavy workload are usually the times when you would most benefit from getting active.
According to Harvard Business Review, how we perform at work is linked to exercise. It points out that regular activity can lead to improved concentration, sharper memory, faster learning and prolonged mental stamina. Exercise can also boost creativity at work and lower your stress levels, all of which will improve your mood and make you feel happier.

A study published in Psychology and Aging tested memory before and after exercise. It found that exercise is associated with what the study describes as ‘increased levels of high-arousal positive affect (HAP)’, and this was consistent in both younger and older adults who participated in the study. It concluded that exercise could hold important benefits for cognitive performance.

Exercising during work hours may also boost performance. A study from Leeds Metropolitan University examined daytime exercise among office workers who used a company gym. On days when employees visited the gym, they were more productive at work and had smoother interactions with colleagues than on non-gym days.

But you don’t have to go the gym and you don’t have to get too hot and sweaty to reap the benefits of getting active. Simply leaving your desk at lunchtime to go for a brisk walk or taking short breaks to walk around during the day will boost blood and oxygen flow to the brain, helping you to think more clearly and work more efficiently.

Here are some ideas for activity you can do at lunchtime or when you get a break:

• An ‘out and back’ short run – run to a certain point in ten or 15 minutes. Stop and turn around, then try to run back to the office (taking the same route) in a slightly faster time.

• Find a quiet spot and do ten minutes of stretching.

• Head for some outdoor space and do the following exercise circuit: jog on the spot or skip for 3-5 minutes, then do 15 squats, 15 press-ups, 15 jumping jacks, 15 tricep dips (use a sturdy chair or bench) and 15 abdominal crunches – have a minute’s rest and then repeat.

• Find an empty meeting room and do some yoga or meditation to calm your mind.

• Go for a leisurely walk in a nearby park or around your local area for 30 minutes.  Apart from boosting concentration and productivity, exercise is also a great way to solve problems. So if you’re stuck on how to complete a task, or how to prepare a presentation, take a short break and go for quick a walk. The oxygen and blood flow around the brain will help, and exercise will give you time away from your desk to think and solve problems.

Similarly, if you’re feeling depressed, exercise is also a great mood booster. According to the mental health charity, Mind, regular cardiovascular exercise like walking, running, swimming or cycling can be more beneficial for tackling mild to moderate depression than anti-depressants. It also recommends outdoor exercise for stimulating our senses and relieving stress from daily pressures.

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Healthy eating to boost mood and energy at work

If you’re very busy at work and feeling stressed, it’s not unusual to neglect the quality of your diet, and it may often seem easier to grab whatever snacks you can find in the office vending machine.

However, eating a healthy diet at work can have a significant effect on your mood and sense of wellbeing, leaving you less likely to feel stressed or depressed as a result of your workload so it’s worth giving some thought to the quality of the foods you eat when you’re busy.

Here are six snacks to boost your mood and energy levels, making you happier and more productive throughout the day:

1) Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium which helps fight against depression, irritability and tiredness. Just three Brazil nuts can provide you with 100 per cent of your daily intake of selenium.  They’re a perfect snack when combined with fruit, or eat them on their own.

2) Green tea
Drinking green tea will help to regulate your blood glucose levels, keep you alert and hydrated and help to manage sugar cravings. Swap one or two of your daily coffees for green tea and you’ll feel much more alert and happier.

3) Dark chocolate
The darker the chocolate you eat, the better. A small square of dark chocolate can cause the brain to release endorphins and boost serotonin levels to improve mood. 

4) Tuna or salmon  
Mounting evidence says that omega-3 fatty acids, found in abundance in fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and tuna, may help ease depressive symptoms. Tinned salmon or tuna tastes great when combined with a salad and a drizzle of olive oil or balsamic vinegar.

5) Eggs
Eggs contain a nutrient called choline, thought to help with cell membrane function, which relates to mood and energy levels. It’s also high in protein, meaning you’ll feel full for longer and be less likely to have sugar cravings later in the day.

6) Bananas

Rich in potassium and B vitamins, bananas can provide your body with a more sustained release of energy and can help make you feel full, keeping blood sugar and energy levels stable and your mood positive.

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