Archive for the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ Category


Do you want to be happy?

Follow these 6 simple steps

Everyone wants to feel happy. The problem is, too often, that we let our busy lives get in the way.

Most of us are suffering from information overload: the amount of material we need to read just for work, our smart phones beeping every time someone has a random thought and feels the need to share, Facebook, keeping our LinkedIn profile up to date…where does it end?

Well, there are six simple steps you can practise every day that will clear your head and improve your wellbeing

1. Do a good deed every day.

This doesn’t have to be a big thing. It’s about looking for the difference you can make in someone’s life that day – something that only you could have done. It’s the random act of kindness (and you don’t have to donate a kidney). An example: You see someone getting on your bus who only has a $20 note to pay for her fare, the bus driver doesn’t have change and the passenger is obviously distressed. You have the change; pay for her fare. Be aware of the opportunity to help. Look around you; if you’re the only person who’s noticed, then it’s you that the universe expects to help. When you notice that opportunity, don’t miss it; it may be the only chance you have all day.

2. Love everyone.

You don’t have to like everyone all the time but love them for who they are – even if they annoy you. Never wish anyone ill. (For more on universal love, check out this inspiring article from UTNE Reader about love in Vietnam.)

3. Be creative.

Arrange flowers, paint, build the best swimming pool in your neighbourhood, help your child with a project, take up pottery or knitting or sewing or singing. Not only will you feel more fulfilled, but also, you give your brain a holiday from the daily grind of work and family responsibilities.

4. Look for one ‘magic moment’ every day.

Notice the sunrise or the sunset, notice the clouds, notice the musician busking at the station, the smile of a stranger. See how beautiful the world is and appreciate that you’re in it.

5. Have a goal.

We all need something to aim for – a degree, a home, to complete an artwork, to improve our relationships. Work towards something, then you always know where you’re headed and feel a sense of purpose.

6. Love your job.

“Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

– Harvey MacKay. Do your work with joy.

Try to be mindful of these six ‘rules’ and practise for a week. You’ll notice that you’re calmer and less anxious, and feel more of a sense of purpose – and happy.




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Energy at Work

Winter is upon us – less sunlight and fewer opportunities to get outside before or after work. It’s at this time of year we can find our energy levels dropping, especially as we make our way through the working day.

But, there are ways to increase our natural energy levels. Increased energy while we work helps us not only get through more, but also helps us focus more effectively on what’s in front of us. Check out this list of tips and techniques to get a boost to your energy levels going, fast.

Increase your intake of magnesium

Magnesium is the best nutrient for reducing stress levels. It can be found in unprocessed, natural foods. Food sources include beans and other legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, whole-grains and green leafy vegetables. Cook lightly to reduce the amount of magnesium lost.

Reduce your caffeine consumption

While caffeine can give you a short-term boost of energy, it also stimulates the production of stress hormones. These hormones contribute to anxiety, irritability, muscle tension, reduced immunity and sleep problems. Alternatives include thins like decaf coffee or herbal tea.

Get good sleep

For the vast majority of people, eight hours of sleep is the right amount for positive health and energy. When we sleep our cells produce and release proteins essential for growth and tissue repair. When we don’t get enough we suffer poor concentration and mood swings, not to mention a weakening of our immune function. More sleep = fewer colds.

Increase the iron in your diet

Iron is crucial to production of energy from glucose. This energy is the primary fuel for both the brain and the body. Foods that are naturally rich in iron include red meat (lean), chicken, fish, eggs, wholegrain breads and cereals, beans, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables.

B vitamins = energy

The B-group of vitamins plays an important role in providing the fuel for the body via carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Optimal foods for B-group vitamins include chicken and poultry, whole cereals, len red meat, salmon, eggs, milk and green vegetables. Some people also benefit from taking a B-complex multivitamin.

Complex carbohydrates

Refined sugars – or simple carbohydrates – provide calories but lack vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Complex carbohydrates help keep blood-sugar and energy levels stable. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include grain breads and pasta, oats and muesli, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and root vegetables such as beetroot, pumpkin and sweet potato.

Diet and sleep are very important contributors to our levels of energy. Our next article will focus on the behavioural opportunities we have to gain and maintain higher levels of energy at work.

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Take care of your back, you’ve only got one!

take-car-of-your-backIf you suffer from back pain, you are not alone! In fact, back pain affects 80% of Australians at some time, and is the most common cause of absenteeism at work1.Instead of suffering in silence, it’s possible to take action to prevent or alleviate back pain and its symptoms, so that your body remains fully functional, and you can enjoy life, rather than being hobbled by a “pain in the back”.

There are many causes of back pain, ranging from the easily preventable and treatable, to problems that may require consultation with a doctor or a specific back care expert, such as a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath.

For back problems that result from work or recreational injuries, or diseases such as scoliosis, arthritis, osteoporosis or sciatica or referred back pain from an injury elsewhere, such as the knee, foot or hip, you should seek medical advice. Back pain can also occur as a result of changes to the body, such as carrying extra weight during pregnancy, or decreased flexibility with age.

However, there are some back problems that are much easier to solve yourself, by making some simple lifestyle changes:

• Take regular exercise to keep your spine and its supporting tissues in good shape. Weak muscles and ligaments are unprepared for sudden or heavy loads, and are therefore easily injured.
• Perform specific strength training exercises every day to create a tight ‘girdle’ of muscle around your abdominal core. This can reduce existing back pain and help to prevent future injury. For advice on how to start a daily program, see ‘Your Essential Back Exercises’
• Reduce your stress levels. One of the side effects of stress is increased muscle tension, which can lead to fatigue, stiffness and localised pain. Constantly tight muscles can create postural imbalances that may cause misalignment of the spine. Learn some relaxation techniques to reduce stress levels and subsequent muscle tension. Try massage, heat or cold applications and gentle exercise, or ask your back care specialist for advice.
• Be careful when lifting and carrying heavy loads. To begin, squat down, hold the object as close to your body as practical, and lift by using your legs, keeping your back straight. Think of your back as a forklift, not a crane! ) If the load is too heavy to manage comfortably on your own, ask someone to help you, or use equipment (such as a trolley).
• Maintain a healthy body weight: being overweight or obese puts extra strain on your back.
• Be aware of your posture. Consider your bearing, particularly in seated positions, such as when driving or sitting at a desk for long periods of time. Don’t slump, instead, keep your back upright and use support where necessary (such as a lumbar support cushion or footstool).
• Take regular breaks. When driving, standing or sitting for long periods of time, take a break at least every hour to change the position of your joints and loosen your muscles. Include a short walk and a few stretches as part of your break.
• Change your mattress – surfaces that are too soft or too hard can aggravate a sore back. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.2

In addition, the Australian Osteopathic Association have some extra tips to keep your back in top shape:

• For back pain, see your back specialist sooner rather than later
• Watch children’s posture: don’t let them carry a heavy school bag on just one shoulder
• During pregnancy, treatment by a back care professional can help your body to adjust to changes as the baby grows
• Do your best to make your workplace more ergonomically friendly.  1 For more information on posture and ergonomics at work, read ‘How to sit at a computer’ on the Ergonomics Australia website.


1.    Back Pain, Australian Osteopathic Association,,  visited 4 May 2006
2.    Back Pain, Better Health Channel, Victorian Government, OpenDocument, visited 4 May 2006

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Written by vielife May 8 2006.

All articles credited to vielife are written by a team of trained, qualified journalists and checked and approved by vielife’s in-house chief medical officer, Dr Peter Mills. These articles are reviewed by our panel of specially selected health professionals to reflect our view of current best practice.
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