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Mind

Nine ways to spring clean your mind and body

As we wave goodbye to the cold, damp, dark days of winter, here are 9 ways to give your health a seasonal makeover this spring.

By Julie Penfold who is a UK-based freelance journalist specialising in all aspects of health and wellbeing. Julie was a finalist in both the Medical Journalists' Association Awards 2017 and the Guild of Health Writers Writing Awards 2016.

1. Get sleep ready  

The beginning of British Summer Time is a key culprit in sleep disruption. To minimise the impact, Lisa Artis of the Sleep Council (www.sleepcouncil.org.uk) advises moving your bedtime earlier “just by 10 minutes or so” in the days approaching. Further, to aid sleep, avoid food and alcohol near bedtime.

2. Eat with the season

Make the most of nutrient-packed fruit and vegetables that are in season during spring. You’ll be able to enjoy delicious offerings such as spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, radishes, watercress, asparagus and rhubarb.

3. Ease hayfever 

Spring also heralds the start of the allergy season. “Foods rich in flavonoids such as quercetin, vitamin C and beta-carotene can help to block histamine and reduce inflammation,” says Emma Ross, nutritionist at A.Vogel. “These include garlic, onions and blueberries. Carrots are also good for giving your immunity a boost. Regularly eating local honey can also help your immune system to cope with allergens.”

4. Cut out mental clutter

“Journaling can be a great way to get mental clutter out of your head,” says Eve Menezes Cunningham, life coach and author of 365 Ways to Feel Better. Alternatively, if you’re looking to free up more energy, she suggests writing your cluttered thoughts on a piece of paper before ripping it all up and recycling, or writing in pen on toilet paper and literally flushing away the mental mess.

5. Show your gut some love

Seasonal bugs and antibiotic-requiring winter infections may well have left your gut in need of support. Replenish friendly gut bacteria with a good-quality probiotic containing the most widely researched bacteria strains, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, advises Dr Sarah Brewer, author of Eat Well, Stay Well. “Your gut bacteria also appear to play a key role in maintaining a healthy immune system so include live bacteria in your diet with yoghurt and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha.”

6. Focus on fitness

Feel more energised as the weather starts to warm up by heading outdoors to work out. “Harness the fat-burning, fitness-boosting benefits of high-intensity interval training simply by walk/running between lamp posts,” says Julia Buckley, personal trainer (www.juliabuckleyfitness.com).

“Start with short, 20-minute sessions and build up to 30 minutes. You can also increase endurance by going longer or pushing yourself to run faster if weight loss is your goal.”

7. Get fired up for action

If you have health, fitness or wellbeing goals this spring, having a visual reminder of your aim is key, says Eve Menezes Cunningham. Vision boards can be great for motivation, but it’s vital to have them in a prominent place where you’ll be regularly inspired. “Take a photo of your board and use it as a screensaver on your phone,” she advises. “A mood box can be another way to get all your senses on board, including music that will motivate you.”

8. Top up your vitamin D

Vitamin D supports healthy bones and immunity and is made by the action of sun on our skin, so our levels can drop quite significantly during winter. “As we come into spring, many of us are low in vitamin D as it’s quite difficult to get enough from our diet alone,” says Dr Sarah Brewer. She recommends keeping levels topped up with a supplement during the spring months.

9. Get sun savvy 

Sunscreen is not just for summer – it helps protect your skin in spring too. “When choosing a sunscreen, look for a high sun-protection factor (30 SPF or more) to protect against UVB, the UVA circle logo and/or four or five UVA stars to protect against UVA,” advises Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson. “Ensure you apply plenty of sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going out into the sun, and reapply every two hours and after swimming.”

This article first appeared in Be Healthy, the magazine for Benenden members. Click the link for more information on joining Benenden Health.