5 Ways Napping Improves Your Life

Naps are often considered unnecessary but there are many benefits to getting in a little sleep during the day. Here are five reasons why a nap may be just what the doctor ordered.

1. Naps may help you live longer.

Research shows a regular nap can lower your blood pressure and cut your chance of having heart attack in later life. One study found that a 20-minute nap resulted in an average drop in blood pressure of 5mm Hg – that’s about the same as a low dose of blood pressure medication.

2. Naps help repair a sleep deficit.

Sleep scientists say for the best physical and mental health we should aim for between seven and nine hours’ sleep every day. Many of us don’t get anywhere near this, and a build-up of sleep loss over a few days can affect us physically, mentally and emotionally. Napping can help plug this gap.

3. Naps improve mood, alertness and energy.

A wealth of research has found that even a short nap can boost your energy and alertness. Other research suggests naps help improve emotional regulation and increase your ability to tolerate frustration.

4. Naps improve our ability to learn and remember.

Neuroscientists at the National University of Singapore reported in the journal Sleep that brief dozes revive the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for forming new memories.

5. Naps can lower your stress levels.

A short sleep during the day can help strengthen your ability to manage stress, says Psychology Today. Recent research shows that naps reduce stress and strengthen the immune system in people who are sleep deprived.

Eat Smarter

Switch to olive oil

Just a teaspoon of olive oil a day is all you need. That is what Harvard nutritionists said when reporting their research findings on the benefits of olive oil in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. They found that this small amount is associated with a 12 per cent reduced risk of death from all causes, compared with people who rarely or never consumed olive oil.

A little more was even better. Consuming just half a tablespoon (7 grams) or more daily was associated with:

  • a 29 per cent reduced risk of early death from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease
  • a 19 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality
  • a 17 per cent lower death risk from cancer
  • an 18 per cent lower death risk from respiratory disease.

Why is olive oil so good for us?

Olive oil contains mainly monounsaturated fatty acids (MLFAs). These are known to reduce inflammation in the body – which is associated with diseases ranging from heart disease and Alzheimer’s to cancer and type 2 diabetes. MLFAs can also lower your unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Olive oil is also packed with antioxidants and polyphenols, plant compounds that benefit your health and help fight disease.

Extra virgin oil contains more of the beneficial chemicals than virgin or regular, as it’s the least processed. It’s also the most expensive, so save it for drizzling on salads and vegetables, and for adding to mashed potatoes instead of butter.

Keeping Your Eyes Safe

Your eyes are extremely delicate, and even a minor injury can cause serious damage, even permanent vision loss.

At work – and at home – always think about how a task or environment might affect your eyes, and plan accordingly.

Remember, just wearing normal glasses or sunglasses will NOT protect your eyes. In fact, these can make injuries worse.

Jobs that pose a high risk for eye injury include those that involve:


-dusty environments

-excessively bright lights or UV lights

-compressed air

-machines or tools that chip, chisel, cut, drill, grind, hammer, sand, smelt, spray or weld.

Plus, you need to watch out for factors in your workplace that can increase the risk of eye injury, such as:

-workers not wearing supplied eye protection

-not enough training on eye protection equipment

-badly fitting eye protection, for example, the glasses are loose and allow particles to enter from the sides

-only the operator of the machine wears eye protection, so anyone in the vicinity who is not wearing eye protection is at risk from flying particles.

How to protect your eyes

Always use eye protection that compiles with your national Standards, and choose protection that fits the situation:

-Low impact protection – for tasks including chipping, riveting, spalling, hammering and managing a strap under tension. Recommended protection includes safety glasses, safety glasses with side shields, safety clip-ons, eye cup goggles, wide vision goggles, eye shields and face shields.

-Medium impact protection – for tasks including scaling, grinding and machining metals, some woodworking tasks, stone dressing, wire handling and brick cutting. Choose items appropriate for medium impact protection.

-High impact protection – for tasks including explosive power tools and nail guns. Recommended protection includes face shields, marked as appropriate for high impact protection.

-For chemicals, use protection designed specifically for dealing with chemicals – the protection may differ depending on the chemicals in use.

-For dust, choose protection designed for dealing with dust and fine particles.

All protection should conform to national or international standards.

Empathy and Sympathy Are Not The Same – And It Matters

When you feel for someone’s suffering, do you feel empathy or sympathy? And surely both are good? Scholar, author and presenter, Brene Brown, says they have a very different effect on the person we want to help.

“Empathy fuels connection while sympathy drives disconnection,” says Brown.

“Empathy is I’m feeling with you. Sympathy, I’m feeling for you.”

Brene Brown first talked about empathy and sympathy in her hugely popular video, ‘The Power of Vulnerability.’ She has since written more about them in her new book, Atlas of the Heart.

In ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ video, she says: “I always think of empathy as this kind of sacred space when someone is kind of in a deep hole, and they shout out from the bottom and they say, ‘I’m stuck. It’s dark. I’m overwhelmed.’ And then we look and we say. ‘Hey, I’m coming down. I know what it’s like down here, and you’re not alone.’

“Sympathy is, ‘Oh, it’s bad, uh-huh. Do you want a sandwich?’”

What is empathy?

She says empathy is the ability to understand and echo what someone else feels. It’s like being with someone in their hard times, side by side with them. You can understand their pain, you can communicate that you understand and that you are there for them.

You understand and accept the other person’s feelings, even if they might not be the same feelings you’d have in their place.

Brown says empathy is a choice, and is often a hard choice. To feel empathy, we have to tap into our own difficult feelings such as vulnerability, frustration and failure. We have to feel these again, and communicate them to the other person. She adds that compassion is empathy plus action: It’s the practice of relating to others and, as a result, acting to ease their suffering.

What is sympathy?

Sympathy, says Brown, draws a clear line between the person suffering and ourselves. It’s feeling bad for someone, but being unable (or unwilling) to relate to that person.

She adds that pity is sympathy with a sense of hierarchy: We don’t just feel bad for the person suffering, we feel like they are somehow “less than” we are. It’s less active than compassion – we don’t feel obligated to help people we pity.

Sympathy often involves the words “at least”. We try to find the silver lining for the other person.

Brown gives the example:

“I think my marriage is falling apart” – “At least you have a marriage.”

“John’s getting kicked out of school” – “At least Sarah is an A student.”

How to do empathy

Brown gives four qualities of empathy. Use these as steps to be more empathetic and less sympathetic to people who are struggling.

1. Take perspective: understand their perspective, even if it’s not how you would see it or how you would feel in the same situation.

2. Stay out of judgement: “not easy when you enjoy it as much as many of us do,” says Brown.

3. Recognise emotion in other people: again, even if you feel differently.

4. Communicate the fact that you understand and you are there for them without judgement.

Optimism Bias: Why We Believe Things Are Good Even When They Are Not

Ever met someone so optimistic you think they are deluded? It turns out most of us are unrealistically optimistic – and that can be a good thing.

Why are we so optimistic as humans, even in the face of hard facts to the contrary?

Optimism is the engine that helps us plan ahead and endure hard work for a future reward, and to keep on going when we hit setbacks.

It is what got humans through evolution, helping us leave the cave, go after the woolly mammoth, or try sowing seeds and waiting for them to grow.

But you’d think that these days, with all our nationality and logic, and all our access to accurate data and forecasts, we’d be more realistic in our thinking. It turns out, nearly all of us have a bias towards optimism. In other words, we’re often quite deluded.

What is optimism bias?

Optimism bias is a tendency towards optimism. It’s a spectrum, and most of us fall somewhere along the spectrum from “dubiously hopeful” to “blinded by the light”.

Neuroscientist, Tali Sharot, author of Optimism Bias, says our brains are hardwired to look on the bright side.

“We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures. We watch our backs, weigh the odds, pack an umbrella.  But both neuroscience and social science suggest that we are more optimistic than realistic. On average, we expect things to turn out better than they wind up being.” Says Sharot.

She says people underestimate their chance of problems like divorce, job loss or cancer, and overestimate the likelihood their child is gifted. We even overestimate our likely life span – sometimes by 20 years or more.

“When it comes to predicting what will happen to us tomorrow, next week, or fifty years from now, we overestimate the likelihood of positive events, and underestimate the likelihood of negative events.”

On the flipside, people tend to underestimate how long a project will take to complete and how much it will cost.

Optimism bias exists in every culture and age group. Studies consistently report that a large majority of the population (up to 80 percent) have an optimism bias.


Our optimism is irrational

Sharot says that even when we are pessimistic about the state of the world, we remain optimistic about our own little worlds.

For example, we might have felt pessimistic about the covid stats, but we were optimistic about the chances of our family staying safe.

“It seems that our brain possesses the philosopher’s stone that enables us to turn lead into gold and helps us bounce back to normal levels of wellbeing,” says Sharot.

It’s a two-edged sword. While optimism bias might stop us from taking precautions, such as wearing a mask or applying sunscreen, it does help us keep on going even when things are tough.

Researchers studying heart disease patients found that optimists were more likely than non-optimistic patients to take vitamins, eat low-fat diets and exercise, thereby reducing their overall coronary risk.


Without optimism, we’d be depressed

Sharot says the only people who are relatively accurate when predicting future events are people with mild depression.

Healthy people expect the future to be slightly better than it ends up being. People with severe depression expect things to be worse than they end up being. People with mild depression “see the world as it is.”


So should we stay optimistic?

If our optimism is irrational, and goes against logic and facts, should we still go along with believing things will be ok?

Optimistic people live longer, save more and get more promotions at work. They might not be “right”, but they seem to be happy.

Sharot suggests striking a balance: “to believe we will stay healthy, but get medical insurance anyway; to be certain the sun will shine, but grab an umbrella on our way out – just in case.”

1 Thing You Can Do Today

Go for an early morning walk

The internet is full of body hacks, miracle mornings and convoluted ways to supercharge our days.

It is easy to think that unless you can rise before dawn and mediate and write and do yoga and take an icebath and do a 10km run, then you might as well not bother.

But what if there was a simple way that is also free, quick, can be done anywhere and requires no special skills – or even special clothes? The benefits of an early morning walk are enormous:

1. Energy boost

Even a short walk boosts your energy. In fact, one study showed that 10 minutes of walking up stairs was more energising than a cup of coffee.

2. Mood boost

Regular walking (even just for 20-30 minutes) will reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

3. Heart health

Walking for 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease by 19 per cent.

4. Mental clarity

A study of older adults found a morning walk increased cognitive function. Other research shows a walk outside boosts creativity.

5. Better sleep

Exercise in the morning promotes better sleep than exercise later in the day.

Your Guide to Sun Safety

You cannot see it or feel it. It can pass through clouds or lightly woven material and, likes asbestos and tobacco, can cause cancer. Here is how to protect yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UVR).

For anyone who works outside, UVR is a potential workplace hazard. It can cause lasting damage to eyes and skin and is the main cause of skin cancer. You do not even have to work in direct sunlight to be affected as UVR can be reflected off certain materials, such as concrete, metal, snow and sand.

Manage the risk

Like any hazard, risks associated with exposure to UVR must be eliminated as much as possible.

Some recommendations:

  • Working indoors if possible.
  • Replacing the hazard with a safer option. This could be working during the early morning and late afternoon when the risk of UVR exposure is lower.
  • Isolating the risk, such as working undercover or in a well-shaded area.
  • Using engineering controls. These are physical control measures to minimise the risk from UVR, such as permanent shade structures, or altering a surface to be less reflective.

Use your PPE

It is not always possible to avoid exposure to UVR so it is important to protect yourself with personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes:

  • UPF 50+ clothing. UVR can pass through lighter colours or lightly woven fabrics. An everyday white cotton T-shirt has a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) of only about 5, which is why you need to wear clothing that is designed to block at least 98 per cent of UVR.
  • Broad brimmed hats or hard hats with brims/flaps.
  • At least SPF 30+ broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen. Do not rely on sunscreen alone – always use it with other sun protection control measures. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours or more if sweating.

Want to know your risk on any given day?

Try the World Health Organization recommended SunSmart Global UV app available at both the Apple App and Google Play stores.

Everyone’s Talking About HIIT. Should You Be Doing It?

HIIT’s promise seems too good to be true: get fit and strong in half the time. Is it true? And is it right for you?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. It involves short sharp bursts of extreme activity, followed by a short rest. Then repeat.

An example is running on the spot very fast for one minute, followed by one minute rest.

When compared with continuous moderate exercise (CME) such as running or walking, studies show HIIT gives similar fitness benefits in a shorter time.

So what are the real advantages of HIIT, and are there any disadvantages?

Advantages of HIIT

  • Fat loss

For most people, HIIT is better for weight loss than moderate exercise.

High intensity interval training has been shown to significantly reduce subcutaneous fat, especially abdominal fat, as well as total body mass.

A 1994 study showed that a HIIT program resulted in a nine-fold greater reduction in body fat compared to a continuous moderate exercise program, with a more recent study from 2008 finding a similar result.

  • Cardiovascular health and fitness

Harvard Health says HIIT boosts cardiovascular fitness and produces equal or greater improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar compared with moderate-intensity exercise.

Plus, HIIT has been shown to result in a reduced risk of cardiovascular events in both males and females.

  • Convenience

A HIIT workout is quick. You can improve your fitness in less time than with other types of workouts.

You don’t need special equipment. You can do HIIT at home with just your body weight.

Disadvantages of HIIT

  • It’s not comfortable

You’ll feel your muscles burn and your lungs pushed beyond your normal state.

  • You need to be motivated

Because you have to push yourself, it’s hard to do HIIT when you’re feeling flat. In these cases, you might find it useful to do a free HIIT workout on YouTube or try a HIIT class at the gym.

As always, the best exercise for you is the one you will actually do. So give HIIT a go, and see if you like it.

If you’re just starting out, ease into it. For example, switch between 30 seconds of very high-intensity activity and two to three minutes of slower activity. You can look for ‘Beginner HIIT’ workouts on YouTube or at your local gym.

Are You Overwhelmed by Email?

We all know the feeling. No matter how many times you respond, delete, or move your emails, the number of unread, unsorted and unanswered ones keep building. The result is stress – every single time you open your inbox.

“Email has become the biggest and worst interrupter the universe has ever experienced,” says Marsha Egan, a workplace productivity coach and author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. ‘It’s cheap, it’s immediate, and you can copy 200 people if you want to.”

Not only that, says Cary Cooper, organisational psychology professor at UK’s Manchester University, but the added stress affects our health.

“Email overload is causing people to get ill,” he says. “It’s a great way to keep in touch with people, particularly who are remote,” he says. “It’s a great way to send data, to send information. By itself it’s fine – it’s the way people are using it that’s the problem.”

Get smarter with your email by putting up some boundaries.

  • Avoid opening each email as it arrives

Instead, process them in a batch, preferably just a few times a day. If this is not possible for you, then check email between other things, rather than while you are focusing on a specific task.

  • Stick to ‘the four Ds’.

Egan recommends this technique for every email you receive: do, delete, delegate or defer. If you can deal with it within two minutes, do it. Defer if it will take longer, popping it in a folder to which you return later. The key is to deal with each message before moving on to the next, to stop them all piling up unread. If you can, delegate the email to someone else, and always delete emails you do not need.

  • Turn off notifications.

Constant dings telling you that you have mail makes it almost impossible to stay focused, and your productivity will plunge.

  • Find and delete.

There are easy ways to filter out messages you can quickly delete – for instance, any that you are copied in on that are more than three days old.

  • Unsubscribe.

Those newsletters that you thought you should read but never do? Delete and unsubscribe. The same goes for emails from shops you once bought from, or restaurants you once ate at. It takes a little longer than deleting, but you only have to do it once.

1 Thing You Can Do Today

Call a friend (with a real phone call)

If a phone call with a friend came in pill form, doctors would prescribe it to everyone. A real phone call – not a text – can give you comfort, energy, fulfilment, and deep connection. Here’s why:

1. Phone calls reduce stress

Once you get over the anxiety of making an actual call, you will find that phone calls give you one thing texts don’t: immediate human response. When you ask a question, or make a slightly awkward statement, you don’t have to watch those three dots of doom “<Someone is typing>”.

2. Phone calls create stronger bonds

A 2020 study published in Journal of Experimental Psychology asked 200 people to make predictions about what it would be like to reconnect with an old friend by email versus phone.

People worried a phone call would be too awkward, but when they did actually call, people felt more connected. “When it came to actual experience, people reported they did form a significantly stronger bond with their old friend on the phone versus email, and they did not feel more awkward,” explains co-author Amit Kumar.

If you are worried about disturbing your friend at the wrong time, then set up the phone call via text first. Simply ask, “are you up for a phone call?” or “Let’s arrange a phone call tonight.”