Feeling blue? We were too. For those of us still in lockdown in the UK, it’s really starting to feel like ground-hog day. For those of you lucky enough to have left the confines of lockdown (we salute you), yet darker and shorter days can still depress moods. In short, 2020 has been a hard year for all of us, and it’s more important than ever to kickstart and train a positive mindset. So the million dollar question we wake up with each morning: how can we feel positive, strong, confident and healthy again? Here are a few of the SmileTime Team’s top 7 self-care activities we are actively practising to boost our mental and physical wellbeing. (FYI - 2021, you better be kind to us (or else)).
1. Find Food Inspiration
We get it – Domino’s & Nando’s delivery is easy (and yes, really tasty). But it’s doing nothing for your mood (long-term).
Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression. A Harvard Health study compared “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to a typical “Western” diet and have shown that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet. Scientists account for this difference because these traditional diets tend to be high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood, and to contain only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy. They are also void of processed and refined foods and sugars, which are staples of the “Western” dietary pattern. In addition, many of these unprocessed foods are fermented, and therefore act as natural probiotics.
So guys, it’s time to get into the habit of enjoying making yourself a healthy breakfast, lunch & dinner. Head on over to British Food Writer @deliciouslyella or one of our fave fitness & lifestyle influencers Joe Wicks @thebodycoach where their instagram pages are packed with deliciously healthy food recipes!
2. Create a self-care 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.
In the words of Beyonce, “We have to care about our bodies and what we put in them. Women particularly have to take the time to focus on our mental health—take time for self, for the spiritual, without feeling guilty or selfish. The world will see you the way you see you, and treat you the way you treat yourself," Beyoncé told Elle in 2016.
Our routine includes a hot shower before bedtime with our favourite wind-down playlist by Manuel Granada, 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.
3. Go outside for a walk, every day
The days are getting colder and darker (just 3 weeks till shortest day of the year though!) 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.
4. 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 last lockdown) and the response has been: ‘actually I’m feeling quite low.”
Yes, we may not be able to see our family and friends as much as we previously did – but they are still always there and they equally need you as you need them, and now more than ever! 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 the pandemic ends. This gives both yourself and other people something together to look forward to in the future!
5. Get creative with a new hobby
Always remember that mental health is as active as physical health – you have to work at it in order for it to get better. Take the first step and start by creating a mood board - you can fill your mood board with motivational pictures and memories which are tailored around your personality and goals.
Why bother, you may ask?
Sometimes when we're feeling down, it can be difficult to remember what motivates us. In these strange times, it can feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. When you create a mood board you have to think about what actually makes you happy, and this in turn focuses your positivity. It gives us something to hope for and look forward to. Making mood boards effectively trains your brain into thinking about things that make you happier.
So, go ahead, get creative & start going through photos of your favourite holiday spots, your fave restaurants & the family and friends you want to see ASAP. Collate it all in an album or as the background on your phone – put it somewhere where it will be a constant reminder of everything you love in one place! Keep your favourite one somewhere where you can always see it and store the others in an album and look back at all of them every time you feel you need that kick of inspiration that you yourself created!
6. 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 Emily In Paris right now) - and make time to smile.
7. Start Christmas shopping!
Retail therapy might have moved online...but it's definitely still therapeutic. We recommend browsing the upcoming Black Friday sales and saving the key dates to your calendar to buy for yourself and loved ones!
If you're looking for some inspiration to make your loved ones smile on Christmas Day, you can browse SmileTime's Christmas Gift Sets which include Christmas gift bags! No wrapping needed (a bonus for us...as we love the convenience of avoiding the wrapping paper!)
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 & Leanne Lawrence. 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. Leanne Lawrence, Co-Author for @smiletimeteeth, fashion and natural hair care influencer, former content writer at Aritzia.