Hobbies to make you smarter

5 hobbies to make you smarter

There’s something about the new school year that makes a lot of us want to make a fresh start.

To try something new.

If you’re thinking about taking up a new hobby, then here are 5 ideas for things you can try that will let you learn something new, and help make you smarter too.

1. Learn a new language

If your children are learning another language at school this year, then think about having a go at learning it too.

You can go to classes, find a conversation group to join or study online.

Learning a new language is a great way to boost your brain health.   A study carried out by Dr Thomas Bak, from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh found that people who spoke two or more languages showed significantly higher levels of cognitive abilities than they would expect from their baseline tests.

And the age at which you learn a second language doesn’t seem to matter, the benefits are the same.

 

2. Read more

Make a decision to switch off Netflix an hour before bedtime and read something instead.

Reading is a great way to reduce stress, and is the perfect way to wind down at the end of the day, away from the blue light of screens.

If you read a mix of different types of books, from fiction to biographies to poetry to non-fiction you’ll learn so much about different subjects that you might never otherwise come across.  You’ll pick up a much more varied vocabulary and open up your world to different views and opinions.

 

3. Take up a sport

There are so many benefits of regular exercise, including lower stress and better sleep.  But taking up a sport can also help boost your brain power.

Playing sports regularly helps to improve our coordination, confidence and responsiveness.  It also makes our brains more flexible and boosts our overall brain health.

And if you’re really not up for playing sports yourself, you can still get some benefits from watching it from the sidelines.  Watching sports has been shown to engage different parts of our brains, as we learn new sport-related vocabulary and game rules.  All of which leads to increased brain function.

 

4. Pick up a musical instrument

If you’ve not played a musical instrument since you learnt 3 blind mice on the recorder at school, then it might be time to give the whole thing another go.

Whether you decide to go with the guitar, the piano or the drums, you can either find a local teacher to have lessons with or teach yourself with the help of YouTube tutorials.

Studies have found that playing musical instruments increases our memory capacity, teaches us perseverance and improves our concentration.

 

5. Join a quiz team

Or get your friends together and start a new one, and head along to your local pub quiz night.

Testing your brain with quizzes is a great way to keep you sharp and boost your mental abilities.

If quiz nights aren’t really your thing then you can get the same benefits from doing things like crosswords, word searches, sudoku, and word puzzles at home.  These kind of activities help our brains to form new pathways, test our memories and improve our problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

 

Which of these hobbies do you think you might take up this year?

Do you find that the new school year makes you want to branch out and learn something new?

Small changes to boost health

Small changes to improve your health

Summer is on its way out, and for many people this means getting back into the swing of a healthier lifestyle. Being healthy isn’t just about what you eat, there are other aspects that can make a big difference to improving the quality of your lifestyle.

I know how difficult it can be to make big changes, so why not start with little things that will improve your lifestyle without you having to think too much about it? I’ve teamed up with Greensleeves to put together a blog post for some small changes you can make to improve your health.

Keep reading for some of the ways you can change your lifestyle!

Gardening

Gardening can help you lead a healthier lifestyle in many ways. It can act as a great form of working out without having to force yourself to exercise! Depending on what exactly you’re doing and how long you do it for, a simple hour long gardening session could see you burning around 300 calories. Whether you don’t want to go to the gym, or you’re looking for something to go alongside your usual workouts, gardening can be great for your health. 

Gardening is good for your health in more ways than one. If you choose to grow fruits and vegetables in your garden you can improve the way you eat while also burning calories from the physical activity, so it’s a win win! There is also research that suggests gardening is good for your mental health, making it great for an all round healthier lifestyle.

Walk more

Do you find yourself taking public transport or driving your car distances that you could be walking instead? Walking is great for your health, burning calories, increasing muscle strength and improving your cardiovascular fitness levels. It is a pretty moderate activity, so you’ll easily be able to do it as a commute and arrive at your location looking and feeling great. Try and walk for about 30 minutes a day to help live a healthier lifestyle. You’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint, which is a great added benefit. 

Delicious fruity snacks

Snacking can be one of the hardest things to change when you are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. There’s no need to cut out your snacking completely as it is important to eat the right amount of food to support your body, but instead replace unhealthy food with something a bit more fruity. This can just be some fresh fruit, but if you are looking to try something a bit more exciting then you can create some yummy fruit snacks. One idea I love is to get some yoghurt, mix it with the fruit of my choice, pop it in an ice lolly mould and stick them in the freezer. This creates a delicious, refreshing fruity snacks for you to enjoy!

Drink more water

Drinking water is very important when it comes to improving your health. There are so many health benefits that come from drinking water, as well as it being essential for our survival. The human body is made up of around 60% water, and when your input doesn’t match up with your output you can become dehydrated and unwell. Many people would say they don’t drink enough water, which is really easy to change!

Set yourself a goal for how many glasses of water you want to drink a day and stick to it, the change will be easier than you think.

 

So there are just a few things you can change to live a healthier lifestyle. What small changes will you be making to improve your health? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Fit exercise into your life

10 reasons to fit exercise into your life

In my pre-children days I used to exercise loads.

I would do classes at the gym, jog along the seafront and do various workout dvds at home.  Then I had Rhys and it all basically stopped.  I’ve made more of an effort to start exercising again in the last year or so though.

Time is a huge factor for me, so when I do exercise now it’s with one of my trusty old dvds.  The 30 day shred is one of my favourites because the workouts are a little over 20 minutes long, but they are really effective.

I do have to fight with myself to keep at it though.  My motivation to do it is nowhere near what it used to be 10 years ago.

If you’re like me, and are looking for that little extra push to get you moving, here are 10 amazing reasons you should fit regular exercise into your life.

 

1. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety

Studies have shown that all levels of exercise work to reduce our stress and anxiety levels.  So even a gentle stroll around the block can help if you’re feeling anxious.

One study in particular though, by Cox et .al 2004 found that people who exercise at a higher intensity level experience the biggest reduction in feelings of anxiety.

What’s interesting though is that exercise of any kind seems to have a long lasting effect on anxiety levels, so you get the benefits long after you’ve finished your gym session.

 

2. It can help with depression

As well as reducing feelings of stress and anxiety, regular exercise can also help with depression.

Loads of studies have been carried out in this area.  A review of 39 of these studies found that, as a general rule, exercise can give moderate relief from depression.

 

3. You’ll get some self-control

It’s not a long-lasting thing, but studies have shown that short bursts of exercise can give us an immediate boost in self-control.

Worth bearing in mind next time you’re feeling tempted by something that you know you shouldn’t do.  See if a quick set of push ups and star jumps gives you the self-control you need to resist it!

 

4. You’ll sleep better

This is another one that’s not a miracle, immediate cure.

But if you stick with exercise and get active on a regular basis then, studies have shown, you should see an improvement in how much you sleep, and the quality of your sleep.

 

5. It makes you happier

A study by Thayer et. al 1994 found that exercise was the most effective way of getting a happiness boost.

This is thanks to all the feel-good hormones that our bodies produce when we work out.

 

6. You can get some relief from migraines

If you suffer with migraines then it might be worth taking a look at this study by Varkey et. al 2011, that found that people who worked out 3 times a week for 3 months, experienced improvements that were equivalent to taking anti-migraine drugs.

 

7. It can improve your memory

A study by McMorris et al. 2011 found that people’s working memory improves after half an hour of exercise.

So if you’re studying for a test, or working on something that takes a lot of concentration, it could be worth going for a 30 minute run or doing a half hour class at the gym before sitting down to work.

 

8. You’ll be more productive…

Exercise increases blood flow to our brains, making us more alert and more on the ball.  This then naturally leads to us being more productive both at work and at home.

Research carried out with dental health workers found that those who exercised regularly were more productive and had more energy than those who didn’t get as much exercise.

 

9. …and more creative

As well as boosting productivity, regular exercise can also boost our creativity.

If you’re feeling uninspired then try going for a relatively high intensity workout, which can increase creativity for up to 2 hours afterwards.  And if you do something like go for a run outside, you’ll get the added benefits from being out in nature.

 

10. It can boost your brain power

As well as increasing blood flow to our brains, regular exercise can also go a step further and help new brain cells to grow.

Exercise has also been found to improve executive function, which basically covers all sorts of things like our ability to filter out distractions, make plans, and effectively switch from one task to another.

 

Now if none of that will motivate you to get moving, I don’t know what will!

things to try when you're stressed

3 things to try when you’re feeling stressed

When we feel stressed out or anxious it can be really easy to get caught up in our thoughts.

Quite often the best thing to do is get out of our heads, and bring our focus to our bodies instead.

Here are 3 things you can try to shift the focus to your physical body to help calm you down when you’re feeling anxious or stressed.

 

Move your body

Getting some physical exercise is one of the best things you can do when you’re feeling stressed.

When we move our bodies we get a rush of all sorts of feel-good hormones that makes us happier and more relaxed.  There’s also the feeling of satisfaction that comes from pushing yourself a bit and knowing you’re getting physically stronger.

If you can get out and exercise in the fresh air then you’ll get even more benefits.

The natural light and surroundings of your local park for example have been shown time and time again to give us a boost and lower feelings of stress and anxiety.

 

Stand still

If you’re in a situation where you can’t just go for a walk in the park or head to the gym, then try standing still instead.

Find a quiet spot where you can stand still and just focus on something.  It might be that you clench and unclench your fists, focusing on how it feels to tighten and relax your muscles.  Or you could try focusing on your feet.  Notice how they feel in the shoes you’re wearing, or how the ground feels underneath them.

When you focus fully on something like this, there’s no space for your mind to worry and you should feel less stressed.

 

Check yourself

If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or just a bit ‘off’ but you’re not sure why, then check in with yourself.

Are you hungry or thirsty?  It might be as simple as your body needing a glass of water to start feeling better.

It could also be that you’re tired and need a rest, or possibly actually in need of physical activity if you’ve been sat at your desk all day.

Take a bit of time and check in with your basic needs to make sure they’re being met.  If they’re not then do what you can to eat well, rehydrate and get enough sleep.

 

What do you tend to do to help yourself when you’re feeling stressed or anxious? 

Please do let me know by leaving me a comment.

 

Be more productive

Try this trick to be more productive all day

You know those days where you have a never-ending to-do list and yet you can’t seem to get going?

Those times when you get to the end of the day and know you could’ve been so much more productive, but just couldn’t quite get going.

I know I’ve had quite a few days like that, and so I love learning about different techniques and tricks to try to be more productive.

Here’s one thing you can try that just takes a few minutes, but can make a big difference to how productive you are all day.

 

First thing in the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, do something active.

 

You could do push ups, sit ups, star jumps, or just jog on the spot.  Just move your body in some way, for at least a minute.

If you’re looking to get fit then you might want to do a longer workout, but to get a productivity boost all you need is about a minute.

 

No matter how busy your morning is, you should be able to squeeze in just one minute of physical activity.

And that short burst of exercise will be enough to get your body releasing feel-good endorphins that make you feel happier and energised.  That boost first thing in the morning will then carry through to the rest of the day, giving you the energy to make you much more productive all day long.

Starting your day with a rush of endorphins really does set you up for a better day all round.

 

The beauty of this trick is that it is so easy.

It doesn’t require much effort or time but the impact it can have on your day can be huge.  And if you commit to doing this on a daily basis then it can transform your whole lifestyle.

You don’t have to do the same thing every day.  You can mix it up as much as you like.  The key thing is to move your body, in whatever way you feel like each day.

 

On those days when you’re snug and comfy in bed, and really don’t want to get up and get active, then try Mel Robbins’ trick of counting down from 5.  When you get to 1, just get up.

Just do it.

Count down, then go, before you give your mind the chance to come up with more excuses and talk you out of it.

So, what will you do tomorrow morning to get moving and boost your productivity?

 

Tips for fitting exercise into a busy schedule

7 tips for fitting exercise in to a busy schedule

I think we all know how important regular exercise is for both our physical and mental wellbeing.

But it can still be really hard to fit in regular workouts when our lives are as busy as they so often are these days.  If you’d like to start exercising a bit more, then here are 7 tips that might help you fit it in to a busy schedule.

7 tips for fitting exercise into a busy schedule

 

1. Workout at home

If you have a jam-packed schedule it can be incredibly hard to fit in a session or a class at the gym.  Because you don’t just have to find the 30 minutes for the class in your day.  You also have to factor in the time it’ll take to get to the gym and back.

Working out at home, either with a DVD or by streaming a workout, can be much easier to fit into your day.

 

2. Work out your best time to workout

If you’re trying to fit exercise into a busy schedule then you need to be able to just get stuck into it as quickly as possible.  So you need to find the best time of day for you when you feel most keen to workout so you don’t waste valuable time dragging your feet before you get started.

If might be that setting your alarm half an hour earlier in the morning and getting out of bed to exercise first thing is the best option for you.

Or you might find that a 30 minute gym class on your lunch break works best for you and gives you an energy boost for the afternoon.

 

3. Walk more

If you can’t fit in a formal workout then you can still get more exercise in your day by walking more.

The standard advice is to aim for 10,000 steps a day and getting something like a fitbit can really help keep you motivated to try and reach that target.

You can add to your step count by walking round town in your lunch hour, or doing the classic things like parking a bit further away from work or the shops so you have to walk that little bit more.

If you work in an office you can also do little things like walking to a colleague’s desk or office for a chat rather than emailing them, and taking the stairs to the toilets on another floor when you need to go.

 

4. Set an alarm and move every hour

Another tip for those who can’t fit a whole exercise session in to their busy day.

Set an alarm to remind you to get up from your desk on a regular basis and move around a bit.  Take a walk to the staff kitchen on a tea/coffee run.  Or even just do a few stretches at your desk.

If you’re at home then you have a bit more freedom to do something like walk/run up and down the stairs a few times.  Or do a quick circuit of sit ups and push-ups.

 

5. Play with your children

Whether it’s at the weekends if you’re out at work during the week, or vice versa, make time with your children a chance to fit in some exercise.

If your children are still little then pushing them in the buggy to the local park is a great way to get your body moving.  When they’re older you can play games like ‘it’ and hide and seek with them, or do a few laps of the playpark while they’re busy playing.

 

6. Include the children

Another solution for busy parents is to actually include your children in your workout.

Babies and toddlers can be brought along to a buggy fit exercise class, or you can use their weight as extra resistance by babywearing while on a brisk walk.

Another option is to find a gym with a creche where they can play while you workout.

And older children can be encouraged to work out with you, either by playing sport together, finding a family friendly yoga class or seeing if your local parkrun session offers a junior option.

 

7. Make the housework work for you

Another great way to fit exercise into your everyday activities is to step things up a gear when you tackle the housework.

Set a timer and move quickly to tidy, dust and hoover the house.

 

 

I think the thing to keep in mind is that exercise doesn’t have to just mean a full-on session at the gym or a 5k run.  Those things are great and hopefully some of these tips will help you fit them in once a week, but they’re not the be all and end all of exercise.

If you really don’t have time to fit something like that in to your life then making other parts of your routine, like doing the housework and playing with your children, more active will still have so many benefits to your health and wellbeing.

Do you have any other tips for fitting exercise into a busy schedule? 

Try this one little trick to help start a new exercise habit

Try this one little trick to start an exercise habit

I used to exercise quite a lot before I had the children.

I would go to the gym several times a week; for classes and to use the equipment.  I would go for jogs along the seafront.  And I would do exercise DVDs at home.

Then I had Rhys and it all stopped.  I just lost my motivation to do any formal exercise, and was happy with pushing the buggy everywhere as a way of keeping fit.

In the last few years though I’ve got back into the habit of doing exercise DVDs at home.  I think they’re the best option for me at the moment, it’s so much easier than trying to get myself out to the gym.  The thing is though, it can be really hard to get into the habit of exercising when you’ve taken a break from it.  Or when you’ve never really done it before.

So here’s a little trick I’ve used that you can try to make it more likely that you’ll get started with a new exercise habit.

Try this one little trick to start an exercise habit

 

Do whatever you can to make it almost impossible to not do it.

Make it so easy to do whatever kind of exercise you’re going to do that you simply can’t not do it.  How’s that for a fun double negative!

 

If you want to start fitting exercise into your life, but find that you can quite easily talk yourself out of actually doing it then you need to make the whole thing as easy as possible for yourself.

So if you’re planning on doing an exercise DVD at home once you’ve dropped the children off at school then put your exercise clothes out ready to change into as soon as you walk back through the door.  Better yet, wear them on the school run so you don’t even need to change once you’re home.

Put the DVD in and ready to go so all you have to do is hit play.  Or if you’re doing a workout from YouTube then get it all lined up ready to go as soon as you get in.

 

The trick here is to not give yourself time to overthink it and talk yourself out of exercising.

Make everything so simple that before you know it you’ve already started.

 

This isn’t just something  that works for stay at home parents of school age children.  

It can be applied to pretty much any situation.

If you plan to get up a bit earlier and exercise before heading to work, then the same thing applies.  Put your workout gear out so you can pull it on as soon as you get out of bed.  Have the video lined up ready to simply press play.

On the other hand, if the best solution for you is to hit the gym after work then the principle is still the same.

Pack your gym kit the night before and have it ready to go by the front door.  Pick a gym that is either close to work or close to home if you can, so you don’t have to go too far out of your way to get there.

 

Make exercising a no-brainer, the easiest thing you’ll do that day.

If you still find that you’re coming up with excuses not to start, then take a look at them one by one and do whatever you can to bust them.  If you feel you don’t have time to fit an hour-long exercise session in to your day, then look at the alternatives.

There are some great 20 minute workouts that deliver the same results.  Or you can change up your routine a bit to squeeze in tiny bits of exercise, if your schedule really is jam-packed.

 

The main thing is to make it so easy to start exercising that you don’t have a chance to decide not to do it.

I also know that coming home from the school run and seeing my exercise clothes out ready makes me feel like I’d rather just get on and do it, rather than feeling bad about packing it all away again having not worked out.

 

Have you been wanting to start a new habit of exercising regularly? 

Hopefully this trick will help you get going with it, and if you have any other bits of advice or ways to make it easy as possible please do leave me a comment and let me know!

 

This post has been linked up with KCACOLS