I’m 46 and a neuroscientist, executive advisor, medical doctor, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan, and author of The Source – open your mind, change your life . I live between London and Hampshire with my husband.
It feels like the world has been turned upside down by coronavirus. My approach to wellness has always been to try and maintain as many beneficial activities as I can, while minimising stress. In my opinion, stress is the biggest threat to our health and wellness. This is now more crucial than ever. The cumulative effect of these good habits over time has been the most effective way of growing and evolving my wellness repertoire. Wellness is what I do and so for me, it takes up quite a large part of my budget. I feel that I have to keep at the cutting edge, and demonstrate the benefits through my actions. These are the things that I recommend.
Magnesium, £21.91 per month
Astonishingly, 70 per cent of the population is deficient in magnesium ; keeping my levels topped up is a great way to think about staying on top of stress. When we are stressed, we leach magnesium out of our system and it’s impossible to eat enough leafy greens and nuts and seeds to keep up, so supplementation is key. Do you ever get that twitchy eyelid? It’s a typical sign of magnesium deficiency. I realised through journaling that I was getting muscle spasms every time I travelled so I doubled the dose for two weeks. Normally I take Bio-Activated magnesium from Natural Dispensary (£22 per month) who have currently paused trading due to coronavirus.
Magnesium is actually best taken through the skin though, so at home I use I apply it last thing at night to aid sleep.
I also use a spritz of this as I love the smell and a study showed that 67 per cent of women agreed that they had a better night’s sleep after just one use. I’m the ambassador for the Aromatherapy Associates Revive range which can help you to re-wire your brain through the power of scent.
Healthy drinks, £179.63 per month
My mornings start with a cup of ceremonial grade match green tea. I love the ritual when I wake up and want to remain in mindfulness mode. Each tin lasts longer than a month even if you have it five times a week, which is what is recommended to receive the unparalleled health benefits. You only need half a teaspoon per cup. Matcha powder has 137 times more antioxidants, especially EGCG, and is equal to 10 cups of regularly brewed green tea in terms of nutritional content. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is thought to reduce inflammation, aid weight loss, and help prevent heart and brain disease. Regular green tea also has antioxidant health benefits but less so.
I add a teaspoon of this to my tea. It’s an MCT oil (medium-chain triglyceride) which supplies the brain directly with fuel. I practice time-restricted eating (my eating window is 12 noon to 8pm) so that is all I have in the morning and I feel more energised for it. The MCT oil keeps you feeling full during your fast. There are long-term benefits of fasting on health and longevity.
Green juices, £60 per month
Nutrition is a huge part of wellness for me so I also have two to four green juices a week (this comes to about £60 per month because I have half a 750ml bottle at a time - from Juice Baby in the UK and Juice Press in NYC or Pressed Juicery in Boston, or I juice my vegetables at home. I also try to get an organic food delivery from Riverford each week (about £100 per month for my part of the family shop) for the double benefit of organic, nutrition-dense food, plus the benefits of skin contact with the farm soil that you have to wash off. Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria in soil has been found to trigger the release of serotonin and improve brain and immune function. Now I’m thinking of starting to grow some vegetables of my own in the garden or you could use a balcony.
Smart supplements and probiotics £89.29 per month
I used to take a ton of supplements but I recently became the chief science officer at Heights , the world’s first smarter supplement which provides all the key nutrients your brain needs. So now I only take the vegan double capsule which contains algae oil, antioxidants and various vitamins. It’s £40 per month but I went for the £360 annual subscription to keep me on track long term. It comes in the post each month so I’m grateful I can still get that. Plus the magnesium as above.
I also take probiotics: Symprove is £52 for a for week pack and Boulardii by Optibac is £7.29 for 16 capsules. Any reputable brand of Saccharomyces Boulardii you can find is fine.
Exercise and destress activities, £224
Self Journal by Best Self , £29.95 once per year
Journaling is a great way to raise insights about your wellness needs – and it’s free. It’s a great practice to start now and track your feelings about what we are all going through, whether it’s working from home, living somewhere other than your usual home, or feeling anxious or isolated. Pre-social distancing I used to travel a lot (mostly to the USA) so mitigating the effects of travel on my wellbeing and finding ways to continue my regime, regardless of where I am, is vital. I kept a journal to track what works and what needs tweaking when I travel.
I like to vary my exercise and it mostly depends on where I am. In London, Boston and NYC I loved to go to SoulCycle (you can get three classes for £50 as a new starter) as I find it such a mental and emotional workout as well as physical. Sadly, they have had to close their doors for now. So I’m doing more yoga at home but you could use a static bike at home and there are lots of classes online .
Mindfulness Meditation classes at Triyoga London, £15 each week
On top of this, if I’m jet-lagged or under a lot of pressure I find a full hour of reflexology at Reflexions (£57) reflexology studio to be the most beneficial tactic. There have studios in Clapham, Bayswater and Chelsea and you can drop in too.
Another great tactic was a flotation tank session at Floatworks (£55). Nowadays self-massage or bathing with essential oils are ways to get similar benefits at home.
These are the things that I have learned over time that really work for me. I think it’s important to listen to your body, your cravings, what drains your energy, or makes you feel bloated and sluggish to work out what is right for you at various stages of your life, and across the seasons. Obviously these need to be adapted if you are isolating, working from home or out of your usual routine. Stay strong and well!
What I do for free
In LA I go hiking in the Hollywood hills, and in Hampshire, I walk in the woods as I love being out in nature whenever possible and there is plenty of evidence that this is better for your wellbeing than exercise alone. I used to do 12 minutes meditation on the tube (six stops)! Now I do this first thing when I wake up to make sure I don’t get distracted and fall out of the routine. It’s particularly important at times like these.
If I could only do one thing
I would sleep for eight hours every night, going to bed and waking at the same time each day. Studies show that variable sleep and wake times decrease peak brain performance.
Dr Tara Swart is author of The Source – Open Your Mind Change Your Life .
Follow Tara on Instagram @drtaraswart
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