The vital hit list: Ways to create more balance in your life

By Fiona Ralph

Looking for inspiration when it comes to creating more balance in your life? Fiona Ralph looks at what’s hot right now for looking and feeling fabulous.

Keeping routine wake times can help increase your sleep satisfaction. Photo / Getty
Keeping routine wake times can help increase your sleep satisfaction. Photo / Getty

SLEEPING BEAUTY
Make sleep a priority in your life. That's the number one tip from the University of Otago's WellSleep Sleep Investigation Centre, which also shared the recommendations below for optimum sleep satisfaction:

1. Develop bedtime rituals such as reading or listening to relaxing music prior to sleep.

2. Reduce light, noise and temperature extremes in the bedroom.

3. Try to train your body clock by waking at the same time each day, even at weekends and after late nights.


SENSORY CHECK
Try this for a quick and easy meditation technique when you need a break from the world:

• Close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths and bring your focus to each of your senses in turn.

• First, notice anything you can feel. The wind on your face, your clothes against your skin, any tension in your body.

• Then zone in on the sounds you can hear - whether it is the traffic or birdsong, concentrate on these noises.

• Next, focus on anything you can taste and anything you can smell.

• Finally, open your eyes and notice all you can see - hopefully, with your new-found calm, the world will seem a little clearer.


NATURALLY SWEET
With the spotlight on refined sugar's negative effects, baking fans are being creative to ensure their treats are delicious and nutritious. Enter dates, coconut sugar, honey and the humble piece of fruit as the new power sweeteners.

Australian activewear brand Lorna Jane has released a handy e-book, Move Over Sugar, featuring a collection of blogger-penned recipes to inspire your sweet tooth.

Download it at movenourishbelieve.com


INSPIRE YOURSELF
Feeling excited and inspired by a new hobby or project is the perfect way to energise yourself. Blogging guru Gala Darling is a firm believer in making time for your passions, telling Viva, "It's vital to keep life fresh by trying new things.

There are only so many hours in the day, so remove anything from your life which is non-essential or not fun. You could be a whole new person in a year's time!"


SAFE SCREENING
Facing a screen all day at work, then being glued to a phone in your own time is not exactly a recipe for relaxation. Try scheduling screen-free days or evenings to encourage old-fashioned connection and communication, and take back some of the time that iPhones, tablets and computers have nabbed.


THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Sunshine and fresh air are guaranteed energy boosters, and summer's brighter nights provide the perfect opportunity to tree-laze, beach-stroll or hill-hike. If time is limited, power up outdoors by eating lunch outside or walking instead of driving to the shops.

Getting active and outdoors can increase feelings of vitality. Photo / Darren Baker
Getting active and outdoors can increase feelings of vitality. Photo / Darren Baker

LET'S GET PHYSICAL
"Core strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness." These are the key elements to a healthy body and your exercise routine should reflect these components, says Helen Dudley, physiotherapist and pilates instructor at Grey Lynn's Body Reform.

She finds that many people are more motivated to get fit when working towards a goal. "If you are starting out an exercise programme without a goal in mind then it's easy for life to take over and for you to give up."

Whether your goal is to go for a walk three times a week or to train for a mini-triathlon, set that goal, break it down and start exercising today.


STATE OF MIND
A healthy mind is just as important as an active body for wellbeing. Clinical psychologist Meagan Spence answers a few quick questions for us on staying mentally healthy.

What is the importance of mental health?
It's easy to take positive wellbeing for granted, but if the going gets tough, the world can seem a very harsh place. It's essential to take regular chunks of time to refuel and take care of ourselves.

Any top tips for maintaining optimum mental health?
Strive for balance in everything. Extreme behaviours, intense emotions and inflexible beliefs can lead us to feel trapped. Exploring alternatives generates choice and helps us to feel more in control.

Be kind to yourself. Take time to reflect on any progression toward your goals, no matter how small.

Staying in touch with people you care about, and who care about you, is also a tried and true way to feel valued.

How can we practise mindfulness in daily life?
Mindfulness aims to counter the rush of everyday life by focusing our attention on the present moment in a non-judgmental way.

Start small by truly savouring the taste of food that you would normally wolf down, paying attention to your breathing for a few minutes before getting out of bed, or sitting very still and shifting your attention from one sound to another and back again.

Read more of Meagan's tips, here.


WHAT'S TRENDING ?
Inject fun into your fitness routine by trying one of the latest crazes:

1. Xtend Barre
This fusion of ballet and pilates boasts celebrity fans Miranda Kerr and Madonna, and even non-dancers can reap benefits. Studio Three, in Newmarket, is the first to offer it in Auckland. studiothree.co.nz

2. Piloxing
Another fusion trend, piloxing combines pilates and boxing to help tone and sculpt muscle. Although classes haven't hit our shores yet, you can get ahead of the game with a DVD from piloxing.com

3. Hot Yoga Challenge
Think hot yoga is hard? Try doing it 30 times in 40 days. That's the idea behind the 40-day challenge at hotyogaauckland.co.nz. Easier to start than finish, say recent graduates.

- VIVA

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