11 steps to a happier, healthier you

Whilst diet and what you eat is a vital part of staying healthy, there are other simple and perhaps surprising ideas you can try to stay fit and well in 2015.

Give us a smile!

In one experiment, two groups of people were asked to watch cartoons. One group was asked to frown and the other to hold a pencil between their teeth, simulating a smile. The smiling group found the cartoons significantly funnier than the group made to frown.The lesson is that smiling doesn’t just show that you’re happy, it actually makes you happier, too!

Be grateful

Research shows that grateful people tend to be happy people. So, once a day, bring to mind ten things for which you are grateful.

Phone a friend

Studies show that people with strong social networks live significantly longer than those who don’t, so why not call a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while?

Learn something new

Studies show that lifelong learning helps to keep our grey matter healthy as we grow older. Whether it’s learning how to use a computer with the grandchildren or joining Zumba classes at the local church hall, it’s never too late to learn a new skill.

Hide the remote control

“Get up from your chair to turn the television on or change the channel,” suggests Dr Trisha Macnair, the Yours doctor. “Not only will this burn a few extra calories, but it works the muscles of the lower back and upper legs, maintaining core strength and balance.”

Take a brisk walk

Walk, swim, dance, vacuum or dig briskly for ten minutes. The latest research shows that just ten minutes of moderate exercise can bring about beneficial changes in your body. Build up to 20-30 minutes per day if you can.

Think tall

“Improve your posture,” says Yours exercise expert Julie Robinson. “Straighten up, pull your tummy in, keep those shoulders back and down, and suddenly you’ll find that you look like you’ve lost half a stone!”

Floss your teeth

Bacteria associated with unhealthy gums have been shown to increase our risk of a range of serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke, advises Dr Sarah Brewer, author of Live Longer, Look Younger (£11.99, Connections). She says: “Daily flossing can add six years to your life.”

Go outside

Spending some time in daylight each day helps to regulate your body clock, making you feel energised during the day and promoting a good night’s sleep.

Get your blood pressure checked

High blood pressure increases your risk of strokes and heart disease, but Age UK estimates that five million of us have raised blood pressure without knowing it. Although you can’t tell if your blood pressure is high, your GP can check it in just a couple of minutes.

Help someone else

“Altruism is good for your own health,” says Dr Trisha. “Putting others before yourself causes physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness, followed by a feeling of calm. It improves self-esteem and brings a sense of belonging to a social network.”

  • There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.