Why you need to sometimes give yourself a break.

Being a high-performance individual and expecting a lot from yourself is no bad thing. Hard work is no bad thing, especially if it results in better outcomes for you and your family.

But what is a bad thing, is working so hard that you neglect to look after your own health. This is why it is crucial that you learn to sometimes give yourself a break. That means taking time out to take a warm shower, or to read a good book.

In this post, we’ll explore why this is so important.

The Immediate Benefits of Taking ‘You Time’

The initial benefits of taking ‘you time’ are exactly as you would expect. Firstly, this gives you an opportunity to rejuvenate and improve your health. When we are constantly wired and ‘on the go,’ it places our body into a state of arousal. This in turn means our heart rate is elevated, and that our immune systems and even digestive systems are suppressed. We are simply not designed to remain in this state indefinitely.

When you take time out to relax, you allow your body the chance to recover, while your brain will be able to sort through thoughts and ideas.

Sleeping is not enough. You need additional time out in order to relax and allow your body and mind the chance to recover.

The Long-Term Benefits

What’s more though, is that taking time out to do things you enjoy, will actually help you to be more effective and more productive the rest of the time.

Do you ever feel a lack of motivation and inspiration? This can lead to procrastination and poor performance at work, not to mention a lack of enjoyment in your life.

The problem is that spending all your time being productive can be a little “dry.” You time is important, because it allows you to do things you enjoy. This gives you something to look forward to, and an opportunity to have fun. This contrast makes it much easier to get through a dull day.

Not only that, but most of the things we enjoy will inspire us in some way – whether we find them interesting, humorous, or moving. Being reminded of those emotions can help to give us more ideas and more purpose in the rest of our lives.

Not to mention the fact that relaxing has been shown in studies to stimulate creativity!

In short, being constantly on the go and constantly productive means failing to take a step back and look at the big picture. Taking time out is important not only for your mood, but also for your ingenuity and inspiration.


The top ways that working out/training is ideal self care

Self-Care is very much a trending hashtag at the moment, with more and more people signing up to the notion that sometimes it is pertinent to turn their attention to themselves and to look after their health and psychological well-being.

What most of us will tend to associate with this notion, is taking hot baths, and going through elaborate grooming rituals.

And you know what? That’s great! Looking after yourself like this can help to boost your mood, it can help you to look better, and it can give you a moment of peace and calm amongst everything else you have going on.

BUT that is not the only form of self-care.

What is just as important – if perhaps not more so – is to do the things that are perhaps a little less indulgent. The things that will improve your well-being in the long term.

And that includes working out and exercising.

How is Working Out Self-Care?

Working out might seem like the antithesis of self-care to many. If you think self-care means pampering, then the thought of going to a cold, sweaty gym and working out hard probably doesn’t gel!

But here’s the thing: working out is looking after yourself in a different way. And the way it transforms your health and your short-term mood makes it MORE than enough of a benefit to count.

When we work out, we push ourselves hard. But as a reward, our brains (pituitary glands to be precise) will release vast amounts of reward hormones like serotonin and dopamine, which will help us to feel happier and that will even relax our bodies and reduce any feelings of pain we might be experiencing! (Serotonin is the feel-good hormone and also a “natural painkiller.”)

Moreover, working out is your way of defying those negative feelings and emotions – those feelings of wanting to roll over and go back to bed.

When you train despite feeling unwell, you push through barriers. And you tell yourself that you will always have the motivation and drive to be the best you.

How to Train for Better Self-Care

The key here though, is not to make this into a gruelling and punishing workout. Rather, it should be something that you enjoy, and it should provide what is sometimes referred to as the “MED” (Minimum Effective Dose). That means you are going to be doing just enough to trigger positive changes in your body and mind, without getting to the point where you practically have to wipe yourself up off the floor…


Is there a dark side to mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a currently trending topic that describes the importance of being aware of your own thoughts, and where you are directing your attention. The argument is that by controlling your awareness and focus, you can actually control the way you respond to events in your life – to become happier, calmer, and better.

This goes hand in hand with another popular trending topic: self-care.

But are they one and the same? Could there be a dark side to mindfulness?

Setting the Scene

Mindfulness actually comes from Buddhist meditation, but has since been commoditized to the point of being highly digestible. There are countless apps and books that encourage us to follow basic steps to focus on our breathing, rather than on the feelings of despair.

That in itself might raise some red flags. That such a huge industry has grown around the psychological suffering of others is a little worrying to say the least. But it is also not wrong in principle, so long as it is genuinely helping people.

The big issue then, is that a lot of companies seem to be backing this mindfulness movement, with the hope that it will make their staff more agreeable.

Let’s say you’re in a dead-end job that you find stressful and crushing. Your impulse might be to up and leave, but by following a course of mindfulness, you could control those feelings of stress and thereby be able to continue focussing.

And given that the entire purpose of mindfulness is to be “in the moment” and not to think about things that stress you out, this happens to be a very good way to prevent people from thinking about how much they hate their jobs – or what alternative options they might have.

We often see dystopian futures in fiction that depict a workforce kept in-check through the use of happiness pills. Is this so much different?

Then there’s the other issue: that mindfulness encourages us to be in the present moment at the expense of other mental states.

Daydreaming doesn’t only lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. Daydreaming can just as easily help us to come up with exciting new ideas or plans. Likewise, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally reminisce, or to experience a bit of positive, motivating stress (called eustress in the literature).

We’re not saying that mindfulness is bad. We’re just saying that it isn’t perfect either. Don’t just learn how to use it, but also when.


How your emotions affect your health, drive and more

Want more proof that self-care is critical? How about the fact that your emotions affect everything.

What do I mean by that? Simple: your emotions control and influence everything from your health and your sense of wellbeing, to your motivation, focus, success, and even physical strength.

If this sounds like a whole lot of nonsense, then consider what emotions really are: they are neurotransmitters and hormones. Now what many people don’t realize about neurotransmitters and hormones, is that they have a huge range of different roles in the body that go far beyond simply affecting our mood. That is to say that when you change your mood, you also change many other things.

For example, did you know that norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter with much in common with the hormone adrenaline) can increase your physical strength? Hence, when you are “amped up” in the gym, you can lift more!

Did you know likewise, that if you have high cortisol (the stress hormone), then you will be more likely to store fat, you will have more anxious thoughts, you will struggle to sleep, and you will even degrade your muscle? Worse, cortisol can actually direct blood away from your immune system and digestive system, which is why chronic stress can lead to so many health issues over time. This same process is useful of course if you are in a life or death situation!

Hormones and neurotransmitters regulate our appetite, they control our sleep-wake cycle, and they impact on our ability to store memories. They can even increase or decrease our perception of pain! Did you know for instance, that serotonin is a natural painkiller? Whereas cortisol makes it much higher?

There are no good and bad hormones or neurotransmitters. That is not the point here!

The point though, is that if you can take control of your emotions, then you can take control of your entire body and system. As a result, you can be calmer, happier, stronger, healthier, and more resilient against illness. And that is all pretty amazing really when you think about it.

And this is why self-care really matters. Because if you don’t look after your well-being, it’s more than just your mood that is going to suffer. Learn to control your mood and you can perform your best, you can combat feelings of pain and lethargy, and you can feel amazing doing it.


How to unwind with an indulgent bathroom soak.

It’s important that we sometimes take the time to indulge ourselves. Having a great bathroom design can do this and will give you the opportunity to lie back and forget all your worries while being soothed by bath products, warm water and beautiful smells.

So how do you go ahead making the most of that beautiful bathroom and taking some much needed ‘me’ time? Read on for some pointers…

Clear Your Schedule

First and most important is to clear your schedule. This means making sure that all those little chores around the house are done and that your phone is somewhere where it’s not going to disturb you. Lock the door and tell everyone not to enter.

More importantly, make sure that you have taken the time to get into the right ‘mental zone’. It doesn’t take your boss calling you for you to think of work again – we’re highly capable of getting stressed about our to-do list in the office on our own! That’s why you need to take some time to put your concerns aside and to imagine locking them away in a box to worry about later. They aren’t going anywhere and you’ll actually be more productive if you take the occasional time out. So give yourself permission to switch off for a bit and then see that you do!

The Right Atmosphere

Most people find a long bath to be one of the most relaxing things they can do. If you run a hot bath, add all the right bubble bath and other products and shut the world out for a good hour then you’ll be a new man or woman by the time your emerge.

But if you want to go one step further then you need to set the right atmosphere. This means lighting a few candles (maybe scented) and it means playing some relaxing music. These little changes can make the difference between being relaxed and being in bliss so it’s worth taking the time out to set the scene.


Or perhaps you would be more relaxed if you had something to distract your mind from the stresses of life. That could mean a good book, or it might mean a bath radio. Other people might prefer to download a podcast and once you’ve set it up you can have that playing while you unwind.

If you want to go one step further then you can even get tablets that are fully waterproof. You’ll be able to play games, browse Facebook and read blogs while you’re in the tub! That’s living the dream…


5 Ways you are neglecting yourself right now

Self-care is a popular trending hashtag right now. It describes the practice of deliberately looking after yourself. That means sleeping well, it means taking the occasional bubble bath, and it means grooming.

The popularity of this movement is of course born out of the sheer importance of looking after ourselves. Failure to do so is liable to result in illness, and to prevent us from performing at our very best.

But before we start “adding” things to our routines to try and be healthier and happier, perhaps it makes sense to look at our current routines first – and to identify the ways in which we aren’t taking care of ourselves.

Here are some prime examples.

You Punish Yourself for Mistakes

Punishing yourself for past mistakes is a common mistake, but no less destructive for it. When we punish ourselves, we essentially lack compassion for ourselves and we treat ourselves with unfair expectations. We all make mistakes, so why force yourself to relive them?

Ask this: would you treat someone else this way?

You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

This is another extremely common mistake: to work hard and long, or just to fail to think about your health; and thus to not get enough sleep.

This has major deleterious effects over time, that will ware down your health, mood, and drive.

You Never Go to the Doctor

Does this one sound familiar? Again, it’s a case of treating yourself with less dignity and care than you would show a stranger. How many times have you told friends and relatives they should see a doctor? Isn’t it time you took your own advice?

You Don’t Rest and Relax

Another serious mistake that many people make is not resting and relaxing enough. When was the last time you kicked your legs up on the couch, put on a good movie, and just enjoyed the peace and quiet?

When was the last time you read a good book? Or just sat outside and looked at the sky?

You Work Late

Working late is another extremely common example of putting your own needs last. We place so much pressure on ourselves to perform, that we are happy to let it grind down our energy and our health. Not only does this rob us of the free time we deserve, but it actually isn’t productive. Countless studies show that most of the work we do late at night is ineffective and not urgent!

Just try going home on time tomorrow, and see if it noticeably impacts your working week!


The most relaxing way to spend your day off.

Much of life is nothing but a mad rush from our beds to the place where we work and back again. We’ll spend a great deal of our time in meetings or sitting in front of the computer and for many of us that’s not really what we’d like to be doing. 

As such then it’s important to make sure that we look for other ways to spend our time when we’re not forced to go to work and that we really make the most of our spare time when we get the opportunity. Here we will look at some of the ways you can unwind on your days off… 

Go to a Spa 

Spas are of course ideal for relaxing and are entirely devised with that purpose in mind. When you visit the spa you’ll be able to relax in the hot tub, to sweat out toxins in the sauna and to cool off by having a swim. If you have a little more money to spare though you’ll also be able to pay for treatments which means even more indulgence as you get massages and manicures to help your skin and muscles feel like putty. 

Go Fishing 

Fishing is one of the most relaxing hobbies out there. It’s addictive and challenge but it still requires a lot of sitting  and waiting in the sun – which is fine by most people. Going fishing is a great way to keep yourself busy while you sit and enjoy a good book or a nice cup of tea in the sun. It’s also a fun activity to enjoy with friends and can make for a surprisingly sociable day out. 

Rent a Boat 

Boat isn’t too expensive, but it provides a brilliant way to relax and unwind in the sun. Take some drinks with you and a good book or some friends, and you can enjoy soaking up some sun while you enjoy the relaxing rocking of the boat and the amazing views it affords. If you enjoy fishing or swimming then you can also enjoy both these activities from your boat. 


If you have a family and don’t want to spend the Earth, then just heading to your local park with some food and a rug to eat it off of is a great way to enjoy relaxing and getting some sun. Good food and relaxation is a match made in heaven… 


The healing power of music

I want you to imagine a scene for a moment.

You just had a bad day at work. Like a really bad day. You are currently feeling absolutely miserable, and as though you just want to curl into a ball and forget the day happened. You can’t though, because you also have debt you need to sort out, and dinner you need to cook, and the house is a mess.

And you did want to work out tonight!

For many of us, this crushing sense will become too much and we’ll end up curling in the fetal position on the couch nevertheless.

But instead, you pop your headphones on, and you start listening to your favorite music. It’s an up-tempo tune that reminds you of better times, and that has lyrics about taking on anything. You feel supercharged, and you get to work!

This is the healing power of music! So, what just happened? It goes beyond the simple fact that the music you listened to happened to be something you really enjoyed and that perked you up. Rather, music can actually trigger the release of specific brain chemicals. Several studies for example demonstrate that listening to music can actually reduce the stress hormone cortisol. This works best as you might expect when the music is upbeat. It can also encourage the release of dopamine, which tends to occur during the “peak emotional moments.” Why this happens is uncertain, but it possibly has something to do with alterations in brainwaves affected by rhythm and pitch.

For those looking for a method of self-care that can help them to improve their mood, a good piece of music might be just what they need.

The Problem

The problem? Many of us will tend to listen o music that won’t help our mood, but that will rather echo their current mood.

In other words, when we are down, we tend to seek out sad music. Happy or upbeat music is simply too incongruous.

A solution to this issue though, is to listen to music that starts low tempo and perhaps a little melancholic, and that then rises in tempo and mood until it reaches a happy crescendo. By doing this, you can actually gradually raise yourself out of a funk.

That said, research also shows that sad music can be cathartic when we are feeling low.

So, whatever you need to feel, take some time out to close your eyes, and put on some headphones. Let the music take you away.


How to create rejuvenating zen spaces in your home

These days life is pretty much just one big rush from one crisis to another. We wake up in a hurry to get ready for work, we rush to work, we rush home, we quickly make dinner, we fit in any phone calls, we grab an hour in front of the TV and then we start getting ready for bed lest we be late again tomorrow. This places such a strain on our bodies and minds that it’s hardly any wonder that most of us struggle to keep our eyes open throughout the day… And that’s before you take into account all the coffee we drink, the explosive games we play, and the action-packed films we watch. We’re constantly ‘on’, constantly ‘excited’ and never resting.

If you want to put a change to this though then you certainly can – and that change starts in the home. If you want to encourage yourself to get more sleep and relaxation, then you simply need to think about how you can make life a little more relaxing through interior design. Create spaces where you can sit and reflect, and you’ll actually be able to grab a moment’s quiet in your hectic day that can help you to still your heartrate and grab a moment to reflect on anything. The changes to your health and lifestyle will be enormous.

For example…


Balconies involve a bit of expense and work, but if once you have a great balcony added to your home you will certainly see how worthwhile they are. The best balconies will not only give you a fantastic view over your local area, but they’ll also provide you with a place to get some fresh air and some cool breeze when you’re upstairs. Balconies are also an ideal spot for sitting with a meal at a garden table, or for enjoying a glass of wine with a loved one. Add a sliding door and you’ll be able to shut out all the noise from home and just enjoy some peace and quiet…

Window Seat

If you’re luck enough to have a bay window, or a window on your stairs, then creating a larger windowsill will give you a great spot to sit and gaze out into the garden. Put a floor cushion here and you can kick your legs up and close your eyes to feel the sun on your face, or to just have a deep think – something most of us don’t get nearly enough time to do.

Spa Bathroom

A bathroom can be a place to hurriedly get washed in the morning/evening or it can be a place to really indulge yourself and to enjoy some warm water that will help to massage and relax your muscles. Add a spa bath, a waterfall shower, a sauna even, and you’ll have a great spot for letting your problems wash away and really emerging rejuvenated. You’ll hardly need to ever go to an actual spa!


3 Easy ways to improve your bad mood

Being in a bad mood is often taken lightly and seen as something of a joke. We’ll often tease our friends or relatives for ‘getting out the wrong side of bed’ or ‘being a bit moody’ and generally we don’t consider this to be a big deal. Sometimes though, being in a bad mood can be a serious problem if it happens often or is consistent. Not only can being in a poor mood prevent you from enjoying yourself, it can also lead to severe depression (or be a symptom of depression or stress), cause you to make bad decisions and even cause you to drive your friends and loved ones away. When a bad mood is severe, or when it emerges a little too often, it becomes a serious problem and you need to do something about it.

Here’s how to improve a bad mood using the right psychological techniques and tricks…

Let it Go

There are a lot of articles and books out there advising on catharsis when you’re in a bad mood. ‘Vent your anger’ they recommend, ‘by punching a punch bag or screaming into a pillow’. Unfortunately, though there is one small problem with this advice – it’s unfounded. Studies have shown repeatedly that punching a punch bag or ‘venting’ anger in any other way will achieve nothing and in fact only make you angrier and for longer. The better way to deal with anger is to make a conscious decision to ‘let it go’ – because after all you’re not going to help anyone by being in a strop. Likewise if you’re very upset, make the conscious decision not to wallow.

Be Incongruent

A piece of advice that is more useful, is to do something incongruent with being in a bad mood. Watch a funny film, sing a happy song or otherwise act in a way that doesn’t sit well with being angry or depressed. This can actually become a self -fulfilling prophecy: you act happy and suddenly you start to become happier. Even just smiling can help to improve your mood due to a process known as ‘facial feedback’.

Go Incremental

One slight problem though – you need to actually convince yourself to listen to that happy music if it’s going to have any effect. This can be tricky seeing as your bad mood will be clouding your judgement and will be affecting what you want to do.

The solution is to be incremental – to listen to gradually more upbeat music, or to watch gradually more upbeat programs. Doing this you will be able to ‘ease’ yourself into a better mood and it won’t seem quite so off-putting.