Target reading time: 3 mins 19 secs
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Target Reading Time: 3 Mins 19 Secs

Fight festive fatigue with these pro-brain tips from our in-house brainiacs

December is one of my favourite seasons, all that jovial helloing, singing for no discernable reason, gift-giving et al. But, it can be a taxing one - there always seems to be more things to do, more people to see (people you wouldn’t normally spend time with), and places to go. Even though I’m buoyed by the movement towards a more conscious and mindful Christmas - every little helps. So, I pulled some of our Heights experts together to share some tips for a happy, healthy, #brainfirst season.

1. Even if your schedule is haphazard during December, Sleep Evangelist Sophie Bostock suggests sticking to the same wake time, at least five days a week to keep your body clock ticking along with your circadian rhythm.

(Tough night? A cheeky 10-minute nap can do wonders for your mood and memory.)

2. When spending time with family or loved-ones during times when things may get a bit fraught, take philosopher Alain de Botton’s advice, and treat them like a friend instead.

(In friendships), “we are patient, encouraging, tolerant, funny and – most of all – kind. We expect a little less and therefore, by extension, forgive an infinite amount more.”

3. December is, traditionally, a time for face time. Yet, the average UK adult checks their phone every 12 minutes So, to commit to more IRL connection, ease out of your phone habits with this advice from WeTransfer’s Damian Bradfield:
  • - Get the phone out of your bedroom
  • - Sever connections to social media in the evenings

4. Feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Try Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s scheduling technique to free up more time for yourself. It might sound counterintuitive, but it totes works.

Make a detailed daily schedule that accounts for every minute. ‘Wake up: 6.30, Get ready: 6.45–7.05, Breakfast: 7.05–7.25,’ all the way through until bedtime. All the niggly bits, travel time, showers, everything.

Finishing each day with a satisfyingly ticked off to-do list means you are able to schedule and enjoy time to yourself, guilt free.

5. Finding time for yourself can be tricky in December, but this sneaky little mindfulness hack from meditation expert Natalia Bojanic can be completed in less than 5 minutes. Even if you’re on the bus.
  • - Breathe IN and silently say to yourself: I
  • - Breathe OUT and silently say to yourself: AM
  • - Breathe IN and silently say to yourself: HERE
  • - Breathe OUT and silently say to yourself: NOW
  • - Repeat for four rounds.
6. If your regular work-outs have taken a back seat, don’t worry. Movement specialist, Shane O’Mara suggests some simple ways to build some movement into your day to benefit your physical and mental health, no weights required.
  • - Get off your train or bus a stop or two early to add up to 3,000 steps to your day
  • - Schedule “stand up and move” reminders in your calendar
  • - Before a tough meeting, work Christmas do, or creatively challenging piece of work - take a twenty-minute stroll to generate twice as many ideas

7. Boozy evenings, and a seemingly endless supply of mince pies can take their toll on digestive health during the festive period. And, due to the gut-brain axis, that in turn can impact your brain.

To combat any imbalances to your normal diet, gut health doctor, Megan Rossi suggests the rule of variety to ensure a healthy microbiome.

“Good gut health is all about inclusivity and moderation. Aim for at least 30 different plant-based foods a week (including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds). I promise it’s easier to hit your 30 than you think!”

8. High stress levels, like those associated with living in a fast-paced city, or the festive season can be nutritionally costly. According to Dietitian Sophie Medlin, constantly high levels of stress use up our vitamin stores more quickly than usual. So, during hectic times, it’s a good idea to use a high quality supplement to top up any areas that you may have fallen short to prevent symptoms like lethargy, low mood, and brain fog.

Think fast (your 10 second snippet of science to impress your next meeting/party guests/Uber driver): "I'm not hungover, I'm simply having a 10-minute nap to improve my memory and mood."

Zero Waste Cauliflower Soup

"This zero waste Cauliflower soup uses all the bits you might throw away with fried cauliflower leaves giving a lovely crunch. Perfect for making a big batch and freezing for a rainy day."

-Melissa

Why is it good for my brain?

Choline is a tricky nutrient to get hold of (lots of us are deficient), but cauliflower has it in spades. It's key for brain development and a healthy nervous system - and as an added bonus, helps prevent cholesterol from making a camp in your liver. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ginger is punchin', nutrition-wise - and (among other things), can help with power and accuracy of attention, and speed and quality of memory. Beans are kind of the glue that hold this recipe together, they help to keep you feeling full, and give your brain a boost of B vitamins, which help cells produce energy and make the neurotransmitters that pass signals between nerves.

See Full Recipe
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Elevation Station

Dr Daniel Amen explains how brain scanning can help psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental disorders. He also shows the visual impact on the organ itself of drug use, Alzheimer’s, depression, and stroke - and how we can repair and rebuild it. (Ted Talk)
Into the Magic Shop by James R Doty. I had the pleasure of recording a podcast with him for something special we're making for you... It's a personal story of rags to riches to rags again, with neuroscience, hurricanes, redemption and it's one of the Dalai Lama's favourite books so... Trust me. (amazon)
All Hail Kale. The brilliant Tim Samuels (a member of the heights tribe - Hi Tim! 👋) wades through the woo woo to the science in modern day miracle wellness in this brilliant BBC podcast series. (BBC Sounds)
Mark Peart, (who you might recognise from that SAS show in the summer), is a firefighter, adventurer, runner and mental health advocate.

Final Thoughts

Intention can be a powerful thing. I decided to leave a note to myself next to my bed, to remind me to set my day off right.

Consequently, I've woken up every day this week and created an intention to keep to each day, and I've found it's come in very handy, almost like I'm "in character".
They've ranged from "be compassionate", "be bold" to "be kind to myself".

Today's is "be inspiring". So on that note, I'd love to inspire you to try and create an intention for yourself at least one day this week and see how that permeates those around you. In fact, there's no time like the present, please hit reply and let me know what intention you're going to put out into the world today? I'd love to support you, it's a great way to reach your heights!

Dan x