1 Thing You Can Do Today

Get photos off your phone and into a photo book

When was the last time you sorted through the photos on your phone? The average smartphone user has a whopping 2100 photos on their phone. Lose your phone, and all those memories are gone.

You can upload them onto your computer, but then what? Never look at them again?

Instead, why not get them off your phone and into a phone book?

A photo book isn’t just a great gift or centrepiece on the coffee table, it is also an instant mood-lifter. It triggers feelings of joy, hope and gratitude, which are like medicine for your mood.

You can use one of the many photo sticks, little devices which gather all your photos from your phone and computers and tablets and make it easier to sort through duplicates and dates.

Then you can choose from many different online photobook shops. Most allow you to send photos digitally and then have your fully produced book delivered to you. There are various levels of sophistication, so you can decide if you want total control over layout, or whether you prefer a ‘done-for-you’ template.

Google “photo book” to get started now.

4 Surprising Ways Sleep Affects How You Feel

Chances are you know how awful you feel when you are not getting enough sleep, but on the flipside, have you ever had run of good sleep, and felt amazing? Sleep makes you feel good in a surprising number of ways:

1. So creative!

You go to sleep worrying over a problem, and when you wake up, the answer seems obvious.

According to Professor Penny Lewis from Cardiff University, the two main phases of sleep – REM and non-REM – work together to help us find out-of-the-box solutions to problems.

During non-REM sleep, millions of neurons fire simultaneously and strongly while your brain replays memories. As your brain reruns the memories, it makes links and connections to make sense of patterns.

During REM sleep, it all gets more chaotic, says Lewis. Different parts of your brain become activated, seemingly at random. Lewis suggests this allows your brain to search for similarities between seemingly unrelated concepts, so you can see a problem in a different way.

2. Better reaction times

Like a superhero in a movie, you will find your reflexes and reactions are sharper. Even if your job does not involve split-second decisions, your reaction times can still be a matter of life and death. Every time you get behind the wheel of a car, your reflexes matter.

According to the Sleep Foundation, if you skip a night’s sleep, your impairment is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.1% - that is double the legal limit.

3. Laser sharp memory

When you get enough sleep, you will find you retain information more easily. You read it once, and you remember it. You no longer have that mental blank trying to remember that password – or forgetting why you walked into the kitchen.

Harvard Health says both animal and human studies suggest that the quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on learning and memory. Sleep helps you focus and learn, and it helps you consolidate memories.

4. Brighter mood

Sleep affects your mood, and your mood can affect how well you sleep.

Disturbed sleep is one of the first symptoms of depression. Conversely, chronically poor sleep can lead to depression. A study published in Sleep Journal in 2007 found that out of 10,000 adults, people with insomnia were five times more likely to develop depression.

Another study by the University of Pennsylvania found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood.

* 17 March is World Sleep Day.


Improve your sleep, improve your mood

If you struggle with sleep and stress, the last thing you want to hear is that insomnia can exacerbate depression and anxiety. But it can help to know what you are dealing with, and to know there are many proven tactics and strategies you can use to improve your sleep.

If you are worried about your sleep, Harvard Medical School advises you first look at your sleep habits. Their recommendations include:

  • maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule
  • avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep
  • making your bedroom a comfortable sleep environment
  • establishing a calming pre-sleep routine
  • going to sleep when you are truly tired
  • not watching the clock at night
  • not napping too close to your regular bedtime
  • eating and drinking enough – but not too much or too soon before bedtime
  • exercising regularly – but not too soon before bedtime

Does Emotional Stress Affect Your Skin?

You have been feeling stressed, and now you have got another rash. Which makes you more stressed. What is going on?

It is true: what you are feeling inside will eventually show outside. Stress can cause all sorts of skin problems as well as exacerbate existing conditions.

We often do not realise our stress and our skin breakouts are related, but think about the last time your skin flared up. Were you under stress?

Perhaps it was a new job that caused a red rash around your chin.

Or a relationship breakdown that made you break out in hives.

You might even remember when you were a teenager, stressed about an upcoming performance or party, then horrified to discover your acne had flared up.

It seems like an unfair double whammy, for our skin to betray us when we are down. Why does it happen?


The inflammation pathway

Stress can cause a chemical reaction that affects your skin.

Dr Neera Nathan, writing for Harvard Health, explains:

“The brain-skin axis is an interconnected, bidirectional pathway that can translate psychological stress from the brain to the skin and vice versa.”

Dr Nathan says stress triggers glands which release more cortisol and other hormones called catecholamines, which in turn cause inflammation. Stress can also cause inflammation through the gut-skin connection. Stress impacts the balance of bacteria in your gut, which can lead to inflammation.

The inflammation is intended to help you: it is to heal the wounds that your body is anticipating from the stressful situation. But in our modern world, the inflammation is more likely to cause redness and itching, and trigger conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema.


It is psychodermatological

The study of the connection between skin and mind is called psychodermatology.

A 2020 study review of research studies by the University of Messina in Italy found that people affected by a skin disorder often have a related psychological problem.

They cite numerous studies which showed that people with depression and anxiety often have skin conditions, and vice versa. Interestingly, they also found a link in skin problems with people who reported high levels of anger and disgust.


How to reduce the impact of stress on your skin

The best way to manage stress induced skin flare ups is to manage stress. Dial-up all your stress management tactics such as:

  • Practise mindfulness or meditation
  • Reduce screens and social media in your leisure time and get more sleep
  • Move your body as much as you can with activities you find enjoyable
  • Eat more anti-inflammatory foods, including foods high in vitamin B, magnesium and fatty acids such as fish, whole grains and fruit and vegetables
  • Stay hydrated
  • Take time for yourself as much as possible. Do what makes you feel good, even if it is not “productive”
  • And do not forget to keep up your skin care routine.

Important. Never self-diagnose. If you notice a rash or new skin problem – even if you have been stressed – see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Different skin issues require different treatment.

3 Tips for the Best Packed Lunches

You may carefully plan your evening meals, but lunch can become something of an afterthought – a hasty sandwich from the supermarket, or a burger grabbed from the local café. The best way to guarantee a healthy lunch? Make it yourself.

A healthy, balanced lunch can help you get all the energy, fibre, fat, vitamins and minerals you need to power through the day. Here are a few pointers.

Prepare in advance.

Don’t waste that precious shopping, prepping and cooking time on just one meal. Make sure you have plenty of leftovers that can be packed in portion-sized containers ready for lunches the following day. If you won’t be able to re-heat food, you can mix any vegetables, protein and/or grains from your dinner plate and toss with some greens and dressing to make a salad. Leftover brown rice? Mix with chicken, corn, baby spinach and black beans.

If you feel inspired, you can also cook up meals in advance in the weekend. Casseroles, chilli, pasta dishes, soups and stir-fries can be doubled, divided and stored, suggest the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. In the warmer weather, substantial salads based on grains like barley, quinoa or freekeh can also be divided up for lunches.


Stock up on staples.

No leftovers? Keep some of your favourite lunch items ready to go. Some ideas you can pack in a bento-style box: fruit, hard-boiled eggs, falafel, small cans of tuna, pre-cut veggies like carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes and cauliflower, rice/corn cakes, sliced or cubed cheese, and small servings or trail mix, seeds or nuts.

You can portion out bean dips, nut butters and plain yoghurt, or purchase them pre-packaged. Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter recommends you aim for a lunch that is half vegetables and fruit, one quarter wholegrain, and one quarter protein.



To keep your food safe from harmful bacteria, make sure you pack an ice block in your insulated lunch bag – more than one if your lunch won’t be refrigerated when you get to work.