Just One Thing Part Two
On a scale of one to ten, how resistant are you to change? I know that with age has come a tendency for me to stick to my daily routines and become a creature of habit. The arrival of the pandemic last year definitely exacerbated this tendency, and successive lockdowns have given us all permission to become extremely risk averse.
However, there is still a part of me that hates the idea that getting older also means becoming ‘set in my ways’. So I have decided to keep challenging myself, to push myself outside my comfort zone and to embrace new experiences as they present themselves. In that endeavour I have just been away for a week in Tenerife. Not such a big deal really, but I could have come up with many reasons not to go. The first was the continuing dangers of Covid infection, the second was all the documentation now required including tests and an incredibly obscure Passenger Locator Form. The third was the hassle of travelling alone via an airport and the fourth was the unknown destination as I’d never visited the Canary Islands before. Then my lovely friend Siobhan said she’d like to come too, so I quickly pressed ‘Book Now’ so that I couldn’t change my mind.
By changing my inner dialogue from ‘Better Not’ to ‘Why Not’ I have just experienced one of the most relaxing and enjoyable breaks that I’ve ever had.
I’ve returned refreshed and with a renewed determination to be more aware of those ruts, however small, and climb out of them. Which brings me to part two of Dr. Michael Moseley’s brilliant radio series ‘Just One Thing.’ I featured series one in July with his first 10 suggestions of small changes in habits and behaviours that can have a big effect on health and wellbeing. As with everything he does, all his suggestions are evidence based, so there is science to back the claims that these small changes are worth considering. Some will appeal more than others, but that’s ok because on the principle that you ‘just do one thing’ then you can choose which might help you most. Here are his latest suggestions, many of which I have started to incorporate into my daily life:
1. Stand Up
I have just done this! I had been sitting at my desk, first taking a call and then writing this blog for about an hour. Without Moseley’s encouragement to stand up two or three times every hour for about two minutes, I would have stayed in a sedentary position until my lunch in about two hours’ time. Simply standing up raises heart rate, clears the sugar which will have accumulated in my blood and will make any ‘proper’ exercise I do later more effective. You don’t even have to do anything beyond standing because the effect of gravity pulling on the body has several beneficial effects. So - if you spend long periods of time sitting, set an alarm to remind yourself to stand up every 15 minutes or so.
2. Drink Water
Hydrating yourself with water boosts mood, improves your skin, and helps with concentration, alertness and short term memory. It can also reduce headaches and can help with weight loss. However there is great confusion about how much water you actually need to drink. The simple rule is to drink a glass of water with every meal. This is in addition to any tea, coffee or soft drinks you consume. Bodies need water to replace hydration lost through perspiration and urination. You’ll know that you have had enough when you’re weeing 5 to 7 times a day and your urine is pale in colour. Less than that, you’re not drinking enough, more than that then you are drinking too much.
A month ago Gail Rolfe gave us all a brilliant steer for fashion trends for A/W 2021. For me the main challenge of the winter season is how to look good when you’re freezing cold. There’s a very big temptation to go for the Michelin Man approach of piling on the layers or wearing an all encompassing huge puffa coat and waiting for spring! I have one of those coats myself. I bought it in Zara and it’s brilliant if there’s horizontal freezing rain (or snow) and you feel as though you’re coming down with flu. It’s a bit like going out wrapped in your 15 tog duvet and about as stylish! I know Gail showed us a trend for huge puffa coats in her recent fashion blog, and I spotted lots of these in a recent trip to Zara, however she’s a slim size 10 and I’m not!
3. Think Yourself Stronger
This sounds completely bonkers but just imagining yourself doing something really strenuous, like a press-up, can actually boost your strength and improve muscle function by up to 24%! It’s called ‘motor imagery’ and is a technique that is widely used by elite athletes, and has also shown benefits for surgeons, musicians and for those in need of motor rehabilitation. To practice motor imagery it helps to be in the location you will do the movement. So if you want to improve your tennis serve then holding your racquet whilst standing on the court would be ideal. Then, as vividly as you can, imagine yourself throwing the ball up and powerfully swinging your arm to hit it. Do this several times and then do the actual movement which will now be considerably stronger, more accurate and more effective.
4. Get Some Houseplants
I don’t have a single house plant, which will be strange to many of you who will have them on every available window ledge and shelf and in every room. And it’s you who will be reaping the benefits of a reduction in air pollution, an increase in humidity in the air and a real boost to your mood and memory. Research shows that volatile organic compounds in the air fell by as much as 50-70% in sealed office spaces with the introduction of house plants. There were also significant improvements in productivity, wellbeing, stress reduction and concentration. You need about 5 to 6 plants per room (more in a big room) and the plants need to be fast growing and thirsty rather than succulents like cacti.
This can be in a choir which will have multiple mental and physical benefits, even inducing a natural ‘high’ equivalent to using cannabis, but could also be five minutes a day singing along to a song that you love, or bursting into song whilst you take your daily shower. Either way, music, especially that generated with your own voice, has proven to have a considerable biological impact including reduction in stress, depression and blood pressure and improvements in lung function. In some G.P practices they are even prescribing choral singing as a way to manage chronic pain. So think about ways you can incorporate singing into your daily life and prepare for the activation of multiple beneficial mechanisms.
Playing video games boosts the cognitive skills which we also use for driving
6. Play Video Games
Yes - really - and my grandsons are delighted by my request to get me set up to play a video game! The right sort of such games are good for brain function and eyesight. They boost memory, focus, spatial skills and your ability to muti-task and there is even research to suggest that they improve abstract reasoning and problem solving. The eyesight benefit is an increase in contrast sensitivity, useful for night-driving when there are more shades of grey and older eyes find it difficult to differentiate between them. Best games are fast paced action ‘shooter’ games or ‘driver’ games and you get best results if you play for half an hour, five times a week. I currently enjoy more sedate activities like jigsaws and Scrabble, but I’m keen to give this a go.
7. Change Your Meal Times
This is one I have now instituted daily. The idea is that when you eat is as important to health and wellbeing as what you are eating. So, I have started to eat my evening meal at around 7pm (instead of my usual 8 - 8.30 pm) and then not eating or drinking anything other than water until 9.30 am the following morning. Research shows that such Time Restricted Eating (ie leaving at least 14 hours between last and first meal of the day) lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, helps with weight loss and even cuts the risk of developing diabetes. The best result for me is that when I go to bed as usual at around 11.30pm I have fully digested my evening meal and the discomfort I was experiencing has gone. As a result I am sleeping much better and with fewer stomach cramps from eating so late.
8. Eat More Chocolate
Another one I have been very happy to institute as a daily treat. Very dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve cardio-vascular health and boost brain power. I buy Lindt 85% cocoa rich chocolate and allow myself the recommended two large squares a day. It’s actually quite bitter and, unlike the sugary, milkier varieties like Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, it’s less moreish and much easier to restrict to the suggested amount. The value is in the flavinoid compounds called flavinols which are found in cocoa beans and have been shown to have the various benefits already mentioned as well as a reduction in insulin levels and cholesterol.
9. Exercise Less, More Often
Instead of setting aside 30 minutes for five days a week to get your recommended 150 minutes of aerobic (heart rate raising) activity, it’s now thought that ‘exercise snacking’ might actually be more beneficial. So a short walk before breakfast, taking the stairs several times a day, standing and doing some squats from time to time might be a better way to get what you need, especially if you lead a busy life. I have started to go for shorter bursts on my exercise bike, maybe three times a day for around 10 minutes, especially on days when I am mostly sitting and writing.
10. Get Some Sun
Controversial for some of you. but sunbathing without sun protection for around 25 minutes in the middle of the day has been shown to significantly boost our Vitamin D levels. We have been taught to fear the sun and skin cancer to the point where many are now deficient in a vitally important vitamin which strengthens our bones and muscles and offers protection from dementia, heart disease and multiple sclerosis. Sunlight is a sort of Vitamin D factory, whilst also improving serotonin levels in the brain which in turn combats Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can also improve skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. The important thing is not to burn, so apply sunscreen if you sunbathe for longer than 25 minutes. In the winter take around 10mg a day of Vitamin D in tablet form.
Having a break in Tenerife from my usual routines has given me the time and space to think long and hard about the next few years. My French house sale will be finalised in early December which will end a chapter in the book of my life which has lasted for twenty-four years. I am about to start writing a new chapter and who knows how or when that will end. However, I am determined that my life will expand rather than contract. Every day I will do ‘just one thing’ or maybe incorporate several of Michael Moseley’s suggestions in order to stay open to the possibility of growth and change. And as opportunities arise for new experiences I’ll grab them with both hands and keep saying ‘Why Not’ rather than ‘Better Not’.
Upcoming Event Information:
Teatime with Tricia - Karen Haase, Owner of Yorkshire Eyeware
Karen is an eyeware expert, dispensing optician and owner of 3 'Yorkshire Eyeware' practices with her husband. She has a passion for eyeware and can advise customers on colour, shape and style. Tricia and Karen met at a 'Silver & Sassy' Event, where Tricia was drawn in by the exciting glasses frames that Karen had on display
Day: Tuesday 30th November
Password (if needed): LOOKFAB
Film Club - Nomadland
available on Amazon Prime
Day: Friday 3rd December
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Makeup Magic Monday - All About Party Makeup
Makeup Magic with Tricia Cusden and Sally Deung: we are going to be hosting a LIVE Zoom session in which Sally and I will talk all things party makeup ahead of the holiday season!
We will be running you through our favourite products and techniques for achieving a dazzling night time look fit for any formal do!
Day: Monday 6th December
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