June 22nd 2018
Our team health hacks: what really makes the difference
April 30th 2017 / 1 comment
In the murky world of wellness, there are a few standout products, workouts and techniques that we’ve found indispensable. From dental health to making fitness commitments stick, we reveal what’s worked…
If you could list one thing that's tangibly improved your health, what would it be? With a launch a minute and daily health headlines scaring the life out of many of us, it can sometimes be difficult to identify the health habits and tweaks that could make a positive difference to our wellbeing. Whether it’s a hefty investment for the sake of your health or just a fitness class you factor into your schedule when you can, ‘health improvement’ is a deeply personal endeavour, but you’ll know when you’ve found the fix you need. Here’s what turned things around for a few members of our team…
Anna Hunter, Senior Features Writer
“A tenner for a toiletry basic is a lot, there’s no doubt about it, but when it actually delivers on the kind of promises that other toothpastes trumpet yet ultimately don’t live up to, I’m interested.”
“A high school Diet Coke habit left me with weakened enamel, sensitivity and a yellow tinge - I hadn’t realised back then but despite the sugar-free element, the soaring levels of acid in a single can of the stuff was quite literally fizzing me teeth away, and fast. Discomfort, visible dentine (the yellow bone tissue beneath tooth enamel) and a fear of losing my teeth jolted me into kicking my coke habit, but I’d assumed that the damage had been done and there was no going back of the appearance and sensitivity front. I began to brush my teeth rather aggressively with an electric toothbrush in an attempt to improve my dental health, but too much gung-ho brushing resulted in gum recession, and ironically, more sensitivity. A run-in with a cowboy dentist only compounded matters.”
“Now that you have my less than sparkling tooth CV, I’ll let you know what’s turned things around for my teeth, alongside ditching the acidic soft drinks for the most part and sending the dubious dentist packing (I’ve since registered with an excellent one which has no doubt helped).”
“I tried Regenerate toothpaste when it launched and was initially impressed in terms of how smooth it made my teeth feel and how much less ‘touchy’ my teeth were when I finished the tube. Three years on, I can honestly say that’s made a nothing short of a miraculous difference in my book- my feel and look healthy, and have been deemed so by professionals, I’m no longer on the ‘special patient’ list at the dentist, my sensitivity has decreased noticeably and happily my gnashers are a good few shades whiter too.”
“Apparently the calcium silicate and sodium phosphate in the Regenerate formula are the notable ingredients in terms of remineralising power, as they mimic the composition of dental enamel and wrap the teeth in a protective structure, increasing hardness and improving the appearance of teeth. While it only works on the early stages of erosion, it’s a unique effect that I’m yet to find elsewhere, and for the sake of my future smile I’m prepared to pay the undeniably eye-watering price. It was on offer in Boots last month and the cashier obviously thought I was running some kind of black market dental product operation. But I’m not. It’s mine. All mine.”
Judy Johnson, Digital Editor
Vedic meditation at the London Meditation Centre
“When I first decided to learn meditation, I admit I had different expectations of it; as a long term anxiety sufferer who struggles with stress, constant feelings of overwhelm and at times an inability to focus or think straight due to a racing, worrying mind, I thought the whole idea was to calm me down. Soothe my mind. Stop a panic attack in its tracks. A quick tool for making me feel better right there, in the moment that the stress occurs. But when I went to learn vedic meditation with Michael Miller at The London Meditation Centre I soon realised this wasn’t a replacement for my Rescue Remedy; it was a long-term commitment to looking after myself and feeling better overall (with less anxiety) as a result.
“Now, I’d argue that spending 40 minutes a day to really, truly relax, no matter what that looks like for you, will have a profound effect on your wellbeing. Forty minutes is a bloody long time in this time of fast-everything; beforehand I considered watching EastEnders while painting my nails and answering WhatsApp messages the ultimate form of self care and I really didn’t think I could find the time. But the benefits of meditation are backed up, and Michael had an answer for any problem (excuse) you could think of. Told to practise 20 minutes before breakfast, then another 20 minutes in the afternoon/before dinner, every day, I reasoned that I’m not nor have I ever been a morning person and must sleep for as long as possible before my rush to work, as I’m always tired and need as much as I can get. But did you know that meditation provides a deeper type of rest than sleep? I set my alarm clock to 20 minutes earlier and piped down so I could learn some more.
“The lessons themselves are in groups (private tuition is available), over the course of four days; I went Friday night after work, Saturday and Sunday mornings, then Monday post-work, for two hours each time. After initial form filling and a ceremony which, by Michael’s own admission, is a bit weird but over very quickly if you’re not into such things, it was time to learn our mantras and learn to meditate. Mantras are chosen carefully for you as an individual, and are never to be shared with anyone else; Michael is the only other person who knows mine.
“The actual practice is simple; to meditate, you must sit down, eyes closed with the intention to think your mantra. That’s it. There’s no good or bad meditation; no ‘it’s not working today’ meditation. You’re trying, so you are. (How refreshing - if only everything worked that way.) You start with repeating the mantra to yourself in your mind, with no particular rhythm, and that’s it - your mind will then inevitably wander, and the thoughts that rise up are all part of it. This was a revelation; many of us believed the idea of meditating is to stop thinking, but Michael explained that this is how the stress is bubbling up and leaving you, ideally so that it’s dealt with for the day. It made a lot of sense - I had some of the most random thoughts about things that has happened years ago crop up out of the blue, but everything that came up was a worry or concern of some sort. Once you realise you’re thinking of something that isn’t the mantra, you gently come back to it. And repeat. Sometimes, you will reach a place in your mind where it empties, if only for a second; although it’s not the goal, it’s definitely my favourite part when it does happen. More importantly, it’s not about calming you down when stressed - it’s about releasing the stress and resting so intensely that when you come out of your 20 minutes, you are buzzing with energy. Meditation doesn’t soothe you off to sleep; it wakes you up.
“I’ll admit, this is a work in progress for me. I learned right before I was due to stay in hospital for a couple of days, and it meant the lead-up to a very stressful event was far calmer than it would have been otherwise; but once I’d returned home after a rather unpleasant few days, I struggled to get back into my previously almost-perfect meditation routine. It’s a habit, part of your day that you need to tick off as you would brushing your teeth or eating breakfast and dinner - and not keeping that habit up has notable effects. When I practice regularly, my focus is better, I have more energy, I can make decisions more easily and I have a general sense of calm. Out of practice, I am back to high anxiety and a flustered mind. Michael (and his wife Jillian, who co-founded the London Meditation Centre) have oodles of case studies and previous students with success stories, and inspired by them and given that I’ve already seen immediate benefits, I want to be one of them. Realising that if I couldn’t find 40 minutes to spend on my own health each day then I’m probably not looking after myself very well, I’m now prioritising my mental health and am much more aware of using precious time in a way that’s good for me (including at least 30 minutes of meditation a day). If that’s not a life-changing health hack I’m not sure what is.”
Victoria Woodhall, Editor
A bite splint
“The day I got my bite splint, I felt like the angels had descended from heaven and rocked me to sleep on a fluffy cloud. I had been grinding my teeth at night for years, my daytime stresses taking themselves out on my jaw. During one particularly awful time at work, which resulted in me resigning, I would sometimes have to push my lower jaw backwards during the day because it was so rigid my teeth would no longer close properly. People I’m sure could see the tension in my slightly misaligned face.”
“My dentist warned me I was wearing my enamel away and that my already weak teeth would be weakened further by my persistent grinding – I’d be in line for even more fillings and it might even loosen my teeth. I’d saved up a couple of hundred quid to replace the lino on my bathroom floor, but decided to put it towards a bite splint instead – a hard, plastic custom made mouth guard that would clip onto my lower molars and stop me grinding.”
“Unlike teeth whitening trays, it was surprisingly comfortable to wear and from the very first night I felt as though someone had turned up the clarity on my dreams. I slept deeply and ‘properly’ and for someone with a history of insomnia this really was the Holy Grail.”
“When I mentioned this to my dentist Dr David Cook at the London Holistic Dental Centre he explained that teeth grinding stops us getting into the deeper levels of sleep. You are effectively waking yourself up repeatedly without realising. I was less tired, I had fewer headaches and fewer dental interventions, which were costing me more than the £700 that the splint eventually came to (that was several years ago, now I’d be paying more than £1000).”
“Now I can’t bear to be without it, I take it in hand luggage when I travel and guard it with my life. My bathroom floor still hasn’t been replaced – but thanks to my bite splint, neither have any of my teeth. I reckon that despite the eye watering cost, I’ve saved on dental bills and saved my sanity.”
Sarah McGinnis, Art Editor
Fitbit Charge 2, £119.95
“When I was asked to write about a health habit that’s changed me, I really struck a blank. I tend to get a bit obsessed with a new fitness class or health powder for a while, and then I eat my weight in pizza and such for another couple of weeks until I decide I'm getting back on the health wagon again for the rest of the month.”
“The one thing I can say I've become fixated with and stuck to without realising it is my step tracker, the FitBit Charge. I never thought I'd notice a difference to my health when I got it last year. A smart fitness tracker, it registers your activity and sleep levels, and along with how many steps you complete each day, it records how many km you've walked, your heart rate for how much strenuous activity like HIIT you've completed, plus how many flights of stairs you have climbed. Everything is recorded on the app so you can earn badges every time you hit a new record.”
“What really got me hooked is that many of my friends and family now have one, and every week you can set up a race, 'the work week hustle', where you compete for the highest number of steps from Monday-Friday. The competitive side of everyone really comes out and I've found myself setting my alarm earlier, getting off the tube unnecessarily early and walking the rest of the way, I'll walk to the furthest place I can for lunch even if it's raining, and instead of chilling on the sofa after dinner, I'm heading back out of the door to do a few laps around the block just because someone pushed me back to third place - it's become a step obsessed world! Yet without really noticing, my fitness levels have considerably improved and being more active is helping me to keep those pizza pounds off the waistline. I hope they're not all reading this because I've just divulged all my secrets in time for next week's hustle…”
Ayesha Muttucumaru, Senior Features Writer
“When it comes to fitness, enjoyment makes for a key part of keeping me motivated. Prioritising my health doesn’t come easily to me (as I’m sure it doesn’t for many people) however, a few events in the past couple of years have helped me see my physical and mental wellbeing in a new light - and Psycle has played a key part in helping me change my mindset.
“The only studio that I actually commute to, (I must really like it right) its workouts help instil an element of confidence in me that makes them more than just your average spinning class. Designed to improve stamina, coordination (as anyone’s who’s tried to cycle and tricep dip at the same time will attest to), strength and speed, I find myself walking out feeling two times taller afterwards due also to their instructors’ ability to inspire rather than intimidate. Master Trainer Kaya Cansfield’s classes in particular serve as a boost for both body and mind - she always has a new motivating mantra written on the glass walls behind her to help remove fitness fears and create the kind of space where you feel supported and safe. Plus, her playlists never fail to provide ample iTunes inspo.
“Hugely popular, Psycle will be expanding their two-studio portfolio with a third in Shoreditch in June - news that the 6000 riders who book into their classes every week in Mortimer Street and Canary Wharf will be delighted to hear. 4500 sq ft with a 44-bike capacity, the brand will also be launching a set of new concept classes to cover a wider range of fitness disciplines. Options will include 50-minute Barre classes using weighted balls and resistance bands to build strength, balance and flexibility and 50-minute HIIT classes using a mixture of TRX, kettlebells, dumbbells and bodyweight exercises. New yoga classes will also be available to build on stability and postural alignment. Centred around a signature yoga sequence called The Fix, there will be four variations of the method targeted to hips, chest, legs and core. 65, 75 and 90 minute classes will be available. I’ll see you there!”