- Revealed! The amazing benefits of treating yourself
- The life-extending power of a good book
- How hot cocoa improves your health
The other night it was pouring with rain.
It had been pouring all day.
And the day before.
All with the wind constantly rattling our garden fence, like the chains of an anguished prisoner.
It had gone on long enough.
I felt a little under the weather, a bit down in the dumps and… just tired, really.
Do you get like this?
Anyway, what I did was this…
I ran a hot bath and then sat in it for 45 minutes, reading a book – a fantastic science fiction novel set in Nigeria, about a man who can read minds thanks to an alien dome that’s appeared from nowhere.
Yes, so the pages got a little wrinkled…
As did my toes, being so long in the water.
But I felt a lot of my stress melt away – and I suddenly wondered, “Why don’t I do this more often in the winter?”
After I got out of the bath, I made a hot cocoa and took it straight to bed.
Normally, Lara’s first to head upstairs, so she looked a little surprised as I clumped past in my dressing gown.
But it felt so good, finishing another few chapters of the novel while snuggled up, supping the cocoa, listening to the rain patter on the window.
It made me think…
Sometimes in life it’s the simple things that really have an impact.
The little rituals… the treats… the bits when you’re nice to yourself.
And really, this was one of my big aims when I first started writing this newsletter…
Why the ‘good life’ doesn’t have to be tough
In The Good Life Letter, I wanted to find practical ways we can all become healthier and happier without putting ourselves through brutal diets and punishing regimes.
I sought out natural ways we can live longer, have more fulfilling lives, and stay away from the GP’s surgery as much as possible.
I didn’t want to pass on endlessly depressing health news…
Nor did I want to make readers feel they had to constantly watch their weight, behave like saints, eat like rabbits, go on extreme diets or feel guilty all the time for not doing enough exercise.
Because you don’t always have to.
Amidst all the pills, potions, therapies and devices, we forget that there are many simple, natural ways to keep young and active.
Sure, there are the obvious ones like keeping fit and eating more fruit and vegetables.
But a good book, a bath, a cup of hot chocolate and an early bed can be wonderfully effective too.
Not only does it relax you, improving your mood and sense of wellbeing, there are long term health benefits from treating yourself like this.
Let’s take, for example, the act of losing yourself in fiction…
The life-extending power of a good book
A survey published in the Social Science and Medicine Journal has shown that there is a “survival advantage” for those who read books for 30 minutes a day.
In the study, readers experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over 12 years compared to non-book readers.
The study makes it clear that it’s BOOKS that have this effect. Other materials like journals, blog posts, magazines and newspapers don’t count.
The jury’s out on precisely why imaginative writing works so well, but there are two factors:
- Cognitive engagement – reading a book takes you deep into another world, getting you to know characters and experience new ideas, activating your brain, increasing concentration levels, challenging your ideas and helping you think critically. This helps develop new neural networks in your brain that have a knock-on effect on your health and vitality, keeping you ‘young’.
- Social skills – reading helps you empathise with others, increasing your emotional intelligence. This is something that gives you an evolutionary advantage.
Most of the people in the study were reading fiction and the scientists admit they’re not sure if the effect works on non-fiction and audio books.
So if you’re not a regular reader, it might be worth picking up the habit. It doesn’t have to be a complicated doorstep of a novel – just find something you enjoy.
30 minutes isn’t a lot out of your day, either!
Or let’s take the humble cup of cocoa that I drank the other night…
How hot cocoa improves your health
In a recently published study, it was suggested that drinking flavanol-rich cocoa regularly over six months can improve blood flow and muscle function in people with peripheral artery disease (known as PAD).
The flavanols have also been linked to improved symptoms in people with type-2 diabetes, as well as better blood flow to the brain and improved heart health.
Not bad for something that tastes so delicious!
And even my hot bath was a form of therapy…
As I mentioned back in 2019, soaking in a hot bath for an hour each day burns the same energy you’d burn during a brisk 30-mile walk. It can also reduce muscle pain and lower your risk of death from cardiovascular disease and dementia.
In the short term, a warm bath can help you get better sleep at night, which has major health benefits over the long term.
The scientific consensus seems to be a drop in your body temperature is a major trigger for the production of melatonin, also known as ‘the sleeping hormone’.
The warm bath raises your body temperature while you are soaking in it. But when you get out of the bath the speedy cooling sets off the production of melatonin, preparing you for sleep.
On that subject…
If you have problems getting good quality sleep and you are looking for an effective, drug free solution, then check out the email from me on Sunday. I’m going to show you a natural sedative that helps put you into a relaxed, peaceful, sleepy state at bedtime.
Coupled with a bath, hot cocoa and a good book, it could be the perfect health elixir!