Get outdoors, laugh and sing to beat winter blues

Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, is urging us to get outside to guard against winter blues and to improve mental health.

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Many of us feel a dip in mood as the days get darker and research shows this is largely due to a reduction in sunlight. Our internal patterns of sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity all rely on natural light cycles. As daylight hours diminish to just eight in December, the winter blues can be something that affects us all. You may feel low, eat and sleep more or feel less inclined to get out and socialise or even go to work.

Getting outdoors, or ecotherapy, increases our exposure to sunlight and can positively impact on our mood. Research shows outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

Exercise, laughter and music all stimulate and boost endorphins, the feelgood chemicals in our bodies that help to lift our mood. Make a point of spending time with those who make you smile. Or pop on a quality tune and sing-along gleefully. It is also important to eat well.

“By simply getting outdoors, we can all help ourselves in strengthening mental resilience,” says Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind. “Whether going for a lengthy bike ride, a quick jog around the local park or just time pottering in the garden, I encourage everyone to step outside and find something they enjoy this winter.”

Mind has developed a super information and ideas site to coax people outdoors this winter. Use the Ecominds activity picker to conjure up some truly inspiring, fun and unusual suggestions…

 

 

 

Mouth ulcers – what’s causing yours?

My_mouth_is_sore

I knew I had to go ahead with writing about this topic after sourcing the lovely image of this cute teddy bear with a poorly mouth. I expect teddy knows exactly how I felt for five days earlier this week when my mouth ulcer appeared from nowhere. Aside from constant pain when eating, drinking and swallowing, it also hurt whenever I spoke and I felt as if I was talking weirdly too.

My go-to treatment is always Bonjela which I’ve used right from childhood to presenthood when the odd painful ulcer rears its ugly head. Gels and pastels that contain anaesthetic tend to be the most commonly used treatments, as well as gargling and swallowing soluble paracetamol. Natural relief can also be obtained from chamomile tea, by allowing it to cool and swilling it around the mouth before swallowing.

So what causes those painful lumps or craters in your mouth? Well, accidental damage is often the culprit whether you’ve brushed your teeth too hard, had a minor burn from hot food and drink or bitten your mouth accidentally – the latter is often what happens to cause mine.

You can also become more prone to them if you are feeling rundown or ill, they are more likely to appear before menstruation, can often be stress-related, or the result of injuries to the lining of the mouth caused by a roughened tooth, braces or dentures. Recurrent mouth ulcers can be due to anaemia, a deficiency of vitamin B or folic acid. If you keep experiencing recurring ulcers or have ones that are not healing, please see your doctor for professional advice.

Ulcers can also occur as a result of herpes infection, inflammatory bowel disease and immune disorders, though these are also accompanied with other symptoms.

Be very wary of a mouth ulcer that enlarges slowly or does not heal and lasts longer than three weeks as this can be a sign of mouth cancer. See your doctor or dentist immediately with any concerns. Smokers and drinkers are most at risk.

As a proud north easterner, my latest research with the area’s LAHCC (Look A Head Cancer Campaign) for a nursing healthcare feature led to the discovery that mouth, head and neck cancer rates in my local region are much higher than the national average due to increased smoking and binge drinking. Though the cancers are more common in men and women over 40, they can also occur in younger people too.

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Seven tips to combat hayfever naturally

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Hayfever is a common seasonal allergy that causes discomfort and disruption to one in four people. As peak season is about to start as we move into May, I’ve delved into my previous features research on allergies to put together some handy tips to help you naturally combat your body against hayfever.

1. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine found in a number of food sources such as apples, green and black tea, plus red onion and garlic. The latter two must be eaten raw for maximum effect. 

2. Allicin – garlic has the added boost of its active ingredient allicin and is very effective in easing hayfever, asthma and related allergies.

3. Bromelain is an enzyme found naturally in yummy fresh pineapple that acts quickly to interrupt inflammatory responses and alleviate symptoms quickly.

4. Avoid trigger foods – nutritional expert Jenny Logan advises reducing histamine-rich foods in your diet such as cheese, coffee, red wine, chocolate and beer as they can all aggravate the histamine response and worsen hayfever symptoms.

5. Nettle – drink nettle tea or eat nettle soup to help with clearing catarrh and phlegm.

6. Flower aid – chamomile and elderflower both share a number of anti-allergic properties to help with irritation. Elderflower is anti-catarrhal and helps to dry mucus from inflamed nasal passages, while helping to ease congestion in the head and lungs. Chamomile helps to reduce allergies, anxiety and aids sleep. It can also help to boost the immune system with regular consumption.

Quick relief for itchy eyes: place chilled chamomile teabags onto the eyes to reduce soreness and itching.

7. Acupuncture can also be useful in helping to reduce hayfever symptoms as regular acupuncture sessions can help to stimulate the body’s own healing response.

And from personal try and buy experience, I have found HayMax, the all-natural drug-free pollen barrier balm very effective. Feel free to share any additional natural tips that work for you…

Relieving pain naturally

From tackling headaches, migraines and sinus pain to alleviating allergy symptoms, relieving muscular strains, painful menstrual symptoms or for a helping hand when we’re having trouble sleeping – popping a pill is often our first thought for quick-acting respite from common health complaints. Yet, health experts advise that natural alternatives to over-the-counter options are often the best solution. Expert naturopathic advice is provided by Susse Wedel.