So guys, I'm feeling optimistic that 2021 is our year. I know you're probably thinking... well it hasn't started great. And I feel you, but I truly believe there is light at the end of the tunnel now. I'm hopeful with the days getting longer, summer drawing closer, a vaccine rollout programme gaining pace: we are a few months away from sangria on a Spanish beach (PS - I'm sure you can tell I'm a glass half full kind of girl, but stick with me). To kickstart some new year positivity, I wanted to share some of the SmileTime team's 10 top self care-tips which keep us inspired to stay positive, keep strong and smiling.
1. Spend 20 minutes clearing clutter
A great tip from our friends at Good Housekeeping: getting rid of that stack of mail, the pile of shoes by the door, and the overflow from your closet may improve your sense of well-being. Studies have linked cluttered environments with stress and lower self-control (say, around food), which can put a damper on your physical health.
LAB TRICK: Try snapping a photo of a messy area of your home, then devote 20 minutes to picking up. When the timer rings, pause for at least 10 minutes (or the rest of the day if you like!). Replacing open-ended cleaning sessions with a timed window makes the chore less overwhelming, says Rachel Hoffman, author of Cleaning Sucks. And comparing the “before” and “after” photos will give you a sense of accomplishment.
2. End your shower with an invigorating cold blast
Anyone watched the Wim Hof method on Goop Lab's Netflix documentary? This featured Gwyneth Paltrow's and her goop team's wellness investigations into psychedelics, energy work and other challenging wellness topics. If you haven't seen it - add it to the binge list.
When we first heard about Wim Hof, we were, in a word, impressed: He’s accomplished some extraordinary things in healing through cold techniques and athleticism. Though we did wonder - can this really translate to the rest of us mere mortals?
For decades, Hof has been practicing self-developed techniques he calls the Wim Hof Method, which he says can make the human body more resilient in the face of physical and psychological stress.
The Wim Hof Method consists of three basic parts. (A note: These should not be performed without the okay from your doctor and proper training. If you’re interested in learning, refer to the Wim Hof Method website or the Wim Hof Method app.)
1. Third eye meditation, which is an unguided visualization exercise aimed at total relaxation.
2. Cold exposure by a variety of techniques, from chilly showers to ice baths to long hikes in the snow.
3. Specialized breathing techniques. There are two types: The first alternates between short periods of hyperventilating followed by periods of breath retention, in which you hold your breath as long as you can following an exhale. The second consists of a cycle of one deep inhalation, one full exhalation, and ten seconds of breath retention in which you squeeze all your muscles.
Teaching his method, he’s amassed a following and even converted potential debunkers to true-blue believers. Anecdotally, people have used the Wim Hof Method to optimize athletic performance, improve immunity, mitigate symptoms of chronic disease, and buffer themselves against mental health triggers.
So, for us novices, after you’ve scrubbed with warm water, switch to cold for 30 seconds. You’ll get a big burst of energy as your body tries to conserve heat and kicks your circulation into gear. Bonus: One study found that icy temps help release endorphins, which could have an antidepressant effect.
3. Revolutionise your beauty routine
Yes, it really is time to pamper yourself. Between juggling waking up, working, cooking, homework for the kids and just trying to get through, a self-care routine might seem like a fantasy - but trust us - it's about training yourself to make the time. 2021 is the time to start to upgrade from just focusing on your skin & makeup - it's time to start focusing on your smile as well.
Our routine includes a hot shower before bedtime with our favourite wind-down playlist by Manuel Granada or some chilled jazz by Chet Baker, followed by a herbal tea, a face mask and then we use either the SmileTime Charcoal Teeth Whitening Powder to keep our teeth super clean and bright before bedtime on a nightly basis, or every few months we use the SmileTime Teeth Whitening Kit to really brighten our smile.
4. Breathe like a yogi
Set the Zoom calendar to 'In a Meeting' for 20 minutes at lunch. This is 'you' time you legit need.
Studies suggest that 20 minutes of yoga breathing can lift your mood and even improve your memory. Get your room-mate or family involved! Try this alternate-nostril technique: Make an L with your right thumb and first finger; take a deep breath; press the right side of your nose with your thumb to block your right nostril; exhale; inhale through your left nostril; block your left nostril and release the right; exhale; inhale. Switch sides; repeat.
5. Switch to sustainable alternatives
This is more of a longer term self-care plan. I'm not sure about you, but when I do get back to the sun, beach & working the year round tan - I'd like to see fewer plastic bottles floating near my feet. There's no time to start getting more eco-friendly than the present.
Scary (but fun) fact: your first plastic toothbrush is still decomposing. It may take about 1000 years before it finally decomposes, either in the marine environment or in a landfill.
How can you make an impact here? Switch to bamboo. If you're looking for some natural and sustainable alternatives, bamboo toothbrushes are a great shout. You can check them out here SmileTime Bamboo Toothbrush pack.
6. Start a brisk walking routine daily
The days are finally getting brighter. We get that it can be tough to brace the wild outdoors. However, staying indoors all the time can really aggravate fatigue and feelings of demotivation.
Dr Ciara Mc Enteggart, Psychologist and Co-Founder of Perspectives Ireland suggests “going outside for at least 30 minutes per day and to take notice of your surroundings – how the ground feels underneath your feet, the smells, how the air feels on your face, notice how your feel in this moment and try to own all of this experience.”
We love this idea of owning and feeling present in the moment. To get the best out of your walk, leave the phones at home, grab a friend, and get some fresh air.
7. Speak to loved ones regularly
It’s really easy to think that everyone’s fine because you haven’t heard from them. We often have this assumption that if there was a problem, those close to us will just tell us. The reality is, pretty much everyone is suffering in silence right now. None of us want to be a burden and as a result, we’re just not talking to our loved ones (or asking the right questions) as often as we should be. This is the key question: are you okay? Yes, I know (thank god) you’re not ill. But how are you feeling and do you want to talk.
We can’t emphasise more how many conversations like this we have recently started with our friends and family (in a way we didn’t do in the last lockdowns) and the response has been: ‘actually I’m feeling quite low.”
Make it a priority to have weekly catch ups with your friends and talk about all of the plans you want to do together after things get better. This gives both yourself and other people something together to look forward to in the future!
8. Plant something
Plant something. Literally anything. It could be the seed from your morning avocado you ate this morning - but it's time to get some green fingers. This could be some watercress on your shelf in your flat, or if you're lucky a bit of space in the garden to grow some tomatoes.
9. Get your sweat on
Exercise isn’t just for losing weight; it’s also a powerful mental health tool proven to help depression and anxiety. Some IGTV classes we've been loving - Joe Wicks, The Body Coach morning workouts; Psycle spinning classes; Barry's bootcamp.
10. Make time to smile
Research shows that how we feel about our smile can be central to how we feel about our self confidence. It's easy to feel low when we didn't feel 100% about our smile before, perhaps due to a crooked tooth or a bit of staining, and now we are confronted 24/7 with our face on Zoom and FaceTime calls.
We're here to remind you that actually smiling has real health benefits and making time to do something fun that makes you laugh and gives you joy is fundamental to your mood.
When you smile, your brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides to help fight off stress. Then other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins come into play too. The endorphins act as a mild pain reliever, whereas the serotonin is an antidepressant. One study even suggests that smiling can help us recover faster from stress and reduce our heart rate. In fact, it might even be worth your while to fake a smile and see where it gets you. There’s been some evidence that forcing a smile can still bring you a boost in your mood and happiness level.
If you're interested in seeing what the best products tailored to your smile are, you can take our Find Your Smile Test to find out!
So guys, grab a glass of wine (or a cup of tea), and throw on an episode of your favourite comedy (we're loving Bridgerton right now) - and make time to smile.
Please note this article is based on the opinion and experience of the writers and does not assert or defend factual claims. Authored by Natalie Quail. Natalie is the CEO & Co-Founder of SmileTime and writes monthly blog content to share her personal experiences of both in-chair (dental) teeth whitening and at-home teeth whitening products, and to provide tips to get the best results from the SmileTime range.