Do you play golf?

It’s not something I’ve ever really considered playing myself, but my in-laws both play it on a regular basis and absolutely love it.

There are definitely benefits to playing a few rounds, and the fact that people seem to get hooked quite easily once they start playing suggests that it’s something worth thinking about.

Here are 3 great reasons to take up playing golf.

3 reasons to take up golf

It’s good exercise

Apparently the average golfer will walk around 8 km during an 18 hole round of golf.  Which works out at about 10,000 steps, the target amount of steps for lots of us fitness-tracker-wearers.

What’s great about golf is that you’re distracted by the game rather than thinking all the time about how much walking you’re doing.  Then before you know it you’ve reached your target number of steps for the day.

Researchers in Edinburgh reviewed 5000 studies into gold and well-being and found that there are lots of benefits to playing golf as a form of exercise.  It has various long-term benefits to our mental health and improves our cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic health.

 

It’s social

Playing golf can be a really great social activity, as you take your time going round the course, chatting as you go.  And then there’s the time you can spend in the golf club afterwards, enjoying a drink and getting to know some of the other members.

There’s also something to be said for the positive effects that the dress code has on the social side of things.

The fact that everyone is dressed in a similar style helps to foster a sort of team spirit, making you feel part of something.  You can still express a bit of individuality though; these golf jackets from Function 18 come in a variety of colours so you can pick something that that feels like ‘you’ while still fitting in with the dress code.

 

It gets you out in the fresh air

While there are some places you can practice your golf skills indoors, most of the time you’ll be outside in the fresh air.

There are so many benefits to getting a good, regular dose of fresh air.  It leaves us feeling energised, less stressed and noticeably happier.  A lot of sports take place outside, but golf especially includes a real element of spending time in nature.

This time spent outside in green spaces does wonders for our sense of well-being, and we also get the added benefits of a dose of vitamin D from being out in the sunshine.  Studies have shown that getting enough vitamin D can help to ward off all sorts of things from heart disease to the flu.

 

So there you go, 3 great reasons for us all to think about taking up golf.  I’m still not sure it’s for me at the moment, but I can understand why so many people enjoy it, with the fresh air and exercise it provides giving them a good dose of feel-good serotonin and dopamine.

Have you ever played, or is it something that you think you’ll take up playing at some point?

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

I have to be honest, I’ve never really been a big follower of fashion.

I tend to stick to quite simple, comfy clothes that I think suit me rather than following current trends and trying lots of different looks.  I do wonder sometimes though, what sort of image of myself I’m portraying through my outfits.

How much do the clothes, and shoes, we wear really matter when it comes to what people think about us, and how we feel about ourselves?

Should we all be getting dressed to shoes_

 

There is definitely something to be said for making a bit of effort when it comes to getting dressed in the morning.

The way we dress changes not only the impression other people form about us, but also the way we feel about ourselves.

Studies carried out by Howlett et al. in 2013 and 2015 found that people thought more favourably about a man when he was wearing a bespoke suit, than when he was wearing very similar off the rack suits.  And it wasn’t just that they said he was better dressed.  He was judged by the participants as being ” more confident, successful, flexible and a higher earner” when he was in the custom-made suit.

On a less scientific note, I’m pretty sure we’ve all looked at the mum on the school run who is dressed nicely with her hair and make up done and thought that she must be much more organised and in control than us, when we’re in our old comfy jeans and a messy bun.

casual jeans and shoes

 

It might not be the case that she actually has it all together, it’s just the impression that her appearance gives us.

Saying that though, it may well be that taking that bit of time to get dressed nicely and put on a bit of make up does actually make her more organised and on top of things.

The way we dress has been shown to affect the way we feel about ourselves.  One study in particular carried at Northwestern University found that the clothing we wear can influence our psychological processes.

In this study people were asked to put on a white coat and complete a few tasks.  The people who were told the coat was a doctor’s lab coat were more careful and attentive during the tasks than the people who were told it was a painter’s smock.

Author Mason Donovan explains that “dressing professionally puts us in a different mental state.  We feel more present, and we have a higher level of commitment and engagement”.

It’s not all about work either.

Getting dressed properly rather than staying in pyjamas or joggers all day when we’re at home with our children can really change how we feel and how our days go.

I know I feel more productive and more motivated to get things done once I’ve showered and got dressed into something other than joggers.  If you’ve ever heard of FlyLady and her systems for getting organised then you’ll know that one of her main baby steps is getting dressed to shoes every day.

The theory is that with proper shoes on our feet we’re less likely to spend the day lounging around on the sofa.  Now, I don’t normally wear shoes in the house but I can sort of see the logic behind this.

You could keep a specific pair of shoes that you wear in and around the house; something comfy but still smart enough to feel good wearing them.  A pair of lace up plimsolls or some espadrilles can help bring an outfit together and make you feel more put together in general.

And maybe it could be the answer to finally getting that to-do list cleared.

So what do you think, does the way you dress each day change how you feel and how productive you are?  Should we all be getting dressed to shoes every day to get more done?

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

I may have mentioned before that my son is quite a high energy child.

He has this need to move, to fidget, to wiggle, to jump and run around.  Physical activity and exercise is really important for his well-being.  Even though he’ll tell you he doesn’t want to go out anywhere you can just see how he thrives on being out in the fresh air, moving his body and letting out some of his energy.

Physical activity is important to all of us of course, and has all sorts of benefits throughout the different stages of our lives.

The importance of physical activity at every stage of life

The importance of exercise in childhood and adolescence

Various studies have shown how important it is for children and young adults to get enough physical activity.

One study in particular found that children who walked for just 20 minutes showed increased levels of cognitive function.  They were able to concentrate better and did better on tests too.  So giving children the opportunity to run around throughout the school day can be really beneficial to them academically.

As we get older and move into adolescence we quite often stop being so physically active, but at this stage in life there are some big benefits to getting regular exercise.  It helps us to feel happier and less anxious, and promotes a more positive body image which is quite often a big concern in our teenage years.

 

Adulthood and exercise

Sooner or later we all reach that point of realising we’re not as young as we used to be.

Our bodies feel more tired and we might gain weight more easily.  Starting, or keeping up, and exercise routine can help to give us more energy again, and keep our bodies fit and strong.

Regular exercise can also help us fight the stress that often comes with this stage of life.

 

Benefits of staying mobile and active into old age

As we move into old age keeping active and mobile becomes important in a different way.

Research carried out at Kingston University has found that staying active and having a busy social life are key factors in helping people cope with the challenges of getting older.  But it can be easy to become isolated as we get older, especially if we lose some of our mobility and find ourselves stuck at home more and more.

Keeping up a gentle exercise routine such as walking regularly or swimming as we get older can help to maintain our emotional and physical well-being.  If our health does decline and our mobility is reduced then walking aids can help us to keep our independence and remain active enough to keep up our social relationships.

 

No matter what stage of life we’re at it’s important to keep physically active.

It’s just a case of finding the right activity for you.  It might be walking as much as you can, rather than always taking the car.  It might be finding a yoga class that you can go to with your children, or even your parents.

Whatever it is, make time in your schedule for physical activity and you’ll reap the benefits, no matter how young or old you might be.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

As I watch my children start to find their feet at school one thing that I’m finding I’m paying quite a bit of attention to is the friendships they’re forming.

They both have little friendship groups which for the most part is brilliant, but I do worry a bit to be honest about how they’ll cope with the inevitable arguments and falling outs that will come at some point.

I want my children to learn how to be good friends, and in turn spend time with people who are good friends to them.  It doesn’t stop in childhood though, there are things we can do throughout our lives to be better friends.

5 ways to be a great friend

 

1. Remember it’s a 2-way street

A great friendship needs both friends to give and take equally.  If one person is always the one giving, always the one reaching out and making the effort, then the balance is all wrong.  To be a great friend you need to give as much as you take.

Be the one to suggest getting together one weekend, text them randomly with something that will make them smile.

The other side of this though is that you have to be able to take as much as you give too, so accept your friend’s offers of help when you need it, take their advice on board when they give it and welcome love and compliments that they give you.

 

2. Don’t keep score

Following on from the first point, while you try to keep a balance in the friendship you should also try not to keep score too much.

Don’t keep a running record of how many times you initiate getting together vs how many times your friend does.  There might be a number of reasons why she’s not as organised or proactive as you in arranging getting together.

If they’re a good friend in other ways and support you and are there for you, then don’t keep score over the other things.

 

3. Reminisce over past memories, then make some new ones together

Let them know you’re thinking of them now and texting them private jokes, or quotes from TV programs you loved to watch together.  Post old photos of the two of you together on Facebook and write a caption about the day it was taken.

The key though is to not let your friendship live completely in the past.

Make plans to do something new and fun together, to keep making new memories.  Maybe start taking a class together, if there’s something you’ve both always wanted to learn to do.  Or if you have the time and money available, think about booking a weekend break in a new city and go exploring together.

 

4. Cheer them on

Be there as much as you can to support your friend, to encourage them and let them know how much you believe in them and their dreams

The author of ‘The art of friendship’, Sally Horchow, has said “being generous in spirit is said to stimulate the same part of your brain as simple pleasure.  So, put yourself aside and try simply cheering them on”.

If your friend is trying something new, or working towards a goal, it can sometimes be a bit unnerving and we might worry about things shifting in the friendship.  But it’s really important to not let those feelings stop you from being supporting and encouraging.

 

5. Be you

Let your guard down and be as open as you can with your friends.

Let them really get to know the real you.  Sally Horchow wrote, “It’s better to be open, realistic and expressive with your friends, in good times and bad.  This will reinforce your bond”.

While it can be really scary to open up and let your friends get to know the real you, flaws and all, it’s the only way you can properly get close to people.

 

These are all things I’ll be talking to my children about as they get older and hopefully it’ll help them to be great friends and to form close relationships with people who’ll be amazing friends to them too.

When it comes to work we all want to be as productive as possible.

There are things we can do to take care of ourselves like making sure we get enough sleep that can then help us work more efficiently.  We can also make shifts in our mindset to boost productivity throughout the day.

It’s not just us though, there are all sorts of other factors that can influence productivity, from the management style at work to the physical environment of our office space.

How your work environment affects your productivity

 

Making sure that the people working for them are happy and productive is key for employers.  On the technical side things like this hr software solution from Thirsty Horses can be a big help in keeping things running smoothly for their staff.

But there are also various other things that can be done to improve happiness and productivity in the workplace.

 

Improve the lighting

Numerous studies have found that lighting can have a big impact on our mood and our productivity.

If at all possible offices and work spaces should have plenty of natural light, and be bright and airy.  Natural lighting boosts our mood and our energy levels and so makes us work more efficiently and be more productive.

It’s also been found that companies with well-lit offices tend to have lower levels of staff absence as the people working there don’t get as run down as those who work in dark, gloomy environments.

 

Introduce plants

As well as letting in more natural light, bringing nature itself into an office can help boost productivity.

A study carried out in 2014 found that having plants in the workplace significantly increased workers’ satisfaction and levels of focus.  Lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis reported, “Simply enriching a previously Spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15 per cent.”

So while a crisp, white, minimalist office might be thought to be perfect for productivity, with nothing to distract staff from their work, that’s really not the case.  Having enough plants around the office so that everyone can easily see at least one is far better for employee well-being and productivity.

natural light and plants boost productivity in offices

 

Provide a comfortable space for breaks

When we have the opportunity to take regular, quality breaks from our work we tend to be more energised and productive when we get back to it.

So creating a pleasant and comfortable space for staff breaks, and encouraging everyone to use it throughout the day, is a great way to boost productivity.  Studies show that the optimal ratio for productivity is for us to rest for 17 minutes after every 52 minutes of diligent work.

It makes sense really, if we try and work too hard for too long we’ll wear ourselves out and end up making mistakes and actually being less productive.

Our brains need regular breaks and periods of rest for us to be able to work at our optimum levels.  So employers should be encouraging their staff to head to the break room and make a cuppa now and then, or pop out for a quick walk in the fresh air.

 

With these things in mind, employers can create great working environments for their staff to be happier and far more productive.  We can apply the same ideas in our day to day lives too, making sure we get enough natural light and regularly spend time outside in nature.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

I’ve been a mum for several years now and while it is quite possibly the best thing I have ever done, it’s also possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I really don’t know how I would have managed these last few years without the amazing support system I have in my life.  And a big part of that is the mum friends I’ve made along the way.

Most of my friendships have been formed at babygroups and at the school gates, although there are all sorts of other places you can meet other mums if you’re feeling a bit lonely.  The thing is though, it can be really hard to know how to take a new friendship to the next level.

How do you go from general small talk at baby group to arranging playdates and actual nights out together?

I’m naturally quite an introvert and if I’m honest I’m still working on some of these things myself, but here are my essential tips for asking out a new mum friend.

Essential tips for asking out a new mum friend

Keep it casual at the start

When you first try to make the leap from acquaintance to friend it can be hard to know if the other person wants the same thing.  So it can be a good idea to keep things casual and quite open-ended to start with.

Next time you’re at playgroup together (or wherever you normally see each other) try asking if they’d like to get a coffee together sometime, or meet at the park at some point for a play and a chat.

Keeping it open with the ‘sometime’ line rather than offering a set date or time lets you gauge their reaction and takes the pressure off both of you a bit.  If they don’t seem interested you can just leave it and maintain the friendship as it is.  If they say yes though then you can follow up with a firmer plan to get together.

 

Choose your moment and watch your body language

Things are always a bit manic with babies and young children around, but try and find a calmer moment to ask your new friend out.  Don’t do it when they’re trying to calm down their screaming baby or juggle school bags and lunch boxes at the end of the school day.

If you’re at playgroup you can use a little psychological trick to your advantage and ask them when they’ve got a nice cup of tea in their hand.  Studies have shown that when we hold a warm drink in our hands we think more warmly about the person we’re interacting with at the time.

Try to act confident when you’re talking to them too, and don’t fidget too much or cross your arms which can come across as really defensive.

Instead try gently touching their arm as you’re talking to them.  Diana Mather, author of Secrets of confident communicators says;

“People who are tactile are often more popular than people who never touch others.  Touch enables us to voluntarily and involuntarily get closer to each other”

If the thought of doing this makes you feel uncomfortable though, try to find something else to do with your hands while you’re talking, like holding a cup of tea or one of your baby’s toys.

Tips to help ask out a new mum friend

 

Focus on what you have in common

If you want to start with getting together with your new mum friend and your children then this is pretty easy.

You can use the fact that you both have children to your advantage and ask them on a play date or child-focused activity.  So see if they want to check out a new baby signing class with you, or meet up at the local pool for the baby swimming session.

If you actually fancy trying to do something with your new friend without your children, then it might help to find out what else you have in common.

It might be that you both love films but never get to see the new releases any more.  In this case it could be really easy to suggest a trip to the cinema together once you know what sort of films they like most.  Maybe you’ve chatted about the fact that you both want to get back in shape, and so you could ask if she wants to for a walk/run sometime or to check out a new class at the gym.

 

Make it easy for them to say yes

We all lead such busy lives that we don’t always want to add more things to the chaos.

So don’t make the first move with your new friend too complicated, think about making it something that’s really easy for them to say yes to.  Ask them if they fancy a coffee at the cafe by school after you’ve dropped the children off.  See if they fancy joining you and your little one at the park round the corner from babygroup.  If you can find something that’s nice and convenient and doesn’t really put anyone out they may well be more likely to say yes.

 

Assuming everything goes well and your new friend says yes to getting together, try not to put too much pressure on yourself for it to go well. 

Just relax, be yourself and try to have fun.  And remember that she’s probably feeling the exact same way and is just happy to have another mum to chat to about life with babies and children.

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

As a parent I try to follow the rule of modelling the behaviour I want to see in my children.

So if I want them to be polite and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ I will make sure they hear me saying those things and see me being polite in my interactions with them and with other people.

In some areas though I’m aware that I don’t always stick with this.

Screen-time before bed is definitely one of those areas.

We have a pretty regular bedtime routine in our house for the children, with the standard bath, book, bed thing going on.  And all of that starts with switching off electronic devices and leaving them downstairs when the children go up for their bath.  They’re pretty good about it too, and generally give up the computer and tv without too much fuss.

I, on the other hand, will take my phone and tablet to bed with me. 

And I do wonder how much it’s affecting the quality of my sleep.  It turns out it most likely is having an impact, and here are 3 reasons why.

3 reasons screen time before bed affects your sleep (1)

1. It’s too stimulating

More often than not if I have a tablet in bed with me it’s so I can watch something on Netflix before I fall asleep.

The big problem with this is that I tend to watch things that aren’t really conducive to falling asleep.  They’re either shows that make me feel quite tense, like Prison Break or things that make me laugh like The Good Place.

Either way I get hooked on the story and the characters and then find it hard to disengage and switch my mind off from wondering what’s going to happen with them next.  It also means that I end up having some very strange dreams featuring random characters from the programmes.

 

2. It pushes back the time you get to sleep

Not really surprising but when we spend time in front of any kind of screen before bed it tends to result in us getting to sleep later than we normally would.  If you’re overstimulated from watching your favourite programme, or from the stress of reading a work-related email at bedtime then it will take time to relax enough to actually fall asleep.

There’s also the risk that you allow yourself ‘just one more’ when really you should just go to sleep.  Whether that’s just one more episode of Stranger Things or one more scroll through Instagram.  It all adds up to a later bedtime meaning we end up not getting as much sleep as we need.

 

3. The light from the screen interferes with your body clock

Our bodies rely on cues from the world around us to know when it’s time to wake up and fall asleep.  In particular light is really important for good quality sleep.  In the evening, as it starts to get darker, our bodies produce melatonin which is a hormone that prepares our bodies for sleep.

The thing is though, the blue light that’s given off by computer, tablet and phone screens interferes with this process.

If we spend too much time in front of these kinds of screens at bedtime our bodies end up not producing enough melatonin and we just don’t feel sleepy.

 

So, what can we do to reduce the affect that screen time at bedtime has on our sleep?

 

Well the obvious thing to do would be follow the same bedtime routine as the children.  Stop allowing ourselves to have that extra screen-time before bed and choose to have a nice bath and then read a book instead before falling asleep.

In reality though, I’m not sure I could stick with that every night.

It might just be down to habit but I like winding down by watching a film or a series on the tv or tablet.  I can help myself by choosing more relaxing things to watch at bedtime; I still find Gilmore Girls is good for pretty low-stress viewing.  And I’ve realised recently that there’s a night-time mode on the iPad that brings the brightness down to make it less stimulating.  You can also get a blue light screen protector for most devices which reduces the amount of blue light given off.  This would help our bodies to keep producing the melatonin we need at bedtime to help us feel sleepy and fall asleep.

I have a few books on my to-read list so I think it might be time to try and change my habits a bit and have a few evenings a week when I read in bed rather than watch something.  I’m not sure I’ll ever completely break the habit of having screen-time at bedtime though, but knowing that there are things I can do to reduce its impact makes me feel better.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post