14 ways to improve your health

Set realistic resolutions and you’ll see effective results.

By Donna Fleming

Is your New Year’s resolution to be healthier? That’s a great start and to motivate you into action, we have some excellent ideas that will make a difference to your wellbeing in 2014.

1) **Wear sunglasses more often**

A good pair of shades can help to protect against cataracts, macular degeneration, sunburn of the eye (photokeratitis) and skin cancer of the eyelids. They also stop you squinting, which can cause wrinkles around your eyes. Look for glasses with UVA/UVB blocking lenses.

2) **learn a language**

Learning something new makes your brain create new pathways, which help keep it active. Research shows that people who get pleasure from achieving goals, such as learning a language or musical instrument, are less stressed, sleep better and have more efficient immune systems.

3) **Have plants **in your house

Plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, as well as purify the air in your home, removing harmful pollutants. They can also humidify the air, reducing allergies and sinusitis. People tend to be less stressed in environments containing plants.

4) **Eat chillies**

Chillies contain a substance called capsaicin, which helps to stimulate blood flow, reducing the risk of clots. They also contain antioxidants that can prevent cell damage.

5) **Stand instead of sit**

Standing uses more energy, improves posture and strengthens muscles. People who spend a lot of time sitting tend to have fat around their heart and also high levels of unhealthy cholesterol and blood sugar. They’re 64% more likely to die from heart disease.

6) **Use smaller plates**

The bigger your dinner plates, the more food you are likely to consume. Using smaller plates helps you keep portions under control and maintain a healthy weight.

7) **Eat tuna**

It’s a good source of omega 3 fatty acids which are important for heart and brain health, plus it has proteins that help to firm skin, making you look younger. But don’t overdo it – tuna can contain mercury.

8) **Sniff orange scent**

Sweet orange essential oils have been shown to decrease anxiety levels, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic in the US. Sniffing a citrus scent every now and then can also assist people with digestion problems and nausea.

9) **Start the day **with water

Having a glass of water first thing in the morning helps remove toxins from the liver so it is better able to metabolise food. It’s important to stay hydrated (headaches are one result of being dehydrated) and drinking water helps with weight loss as it makes you feel full.

1**0) **Buy experiences, not things

Research suggests that we feel happier when we spend our money on doing things, rather than buying items. Going to the theatre or a concert, taking a trip, eating out or enjoying an activity such as ten-pin bowling makes us feel more satisfied than forking out cash for clothes, jewellery or gadgets.

1**1) **Do the plank

Drop down to the ground several times a day and do the plank – stretch your body flat while supporting your weight on your forearms and toes. It’s great for building strength in your back and abs.

1**2) Eat an apple every day**

The old saying is right! Apples contain important antioxidants, are a good source of fibre, and have a substance in their peel called ursolic acid that stops muscles breaking down in the body. We tend to lose muscle as we age, and the more you have, the more calories your body automatically burns.

1**3) **Get your scalp checked

Melanomas and other skin cancers can go undetected if hidden by hair. Get your doctor or dermatologist to have a thorough look and ask your hairdresser to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Melanomas are almost twice as lethal on the scalp or neck than on any other part of the body.

1**4) **Look at your favourite photos

British researchers reveal that browsing through photographs boosts people’s moods more than eating chocolate, listening to music or having alcohol.

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