The Guardian

Content Was Refreshed: 22 Jan 2019 | 02:08:43

Health & wellbeing | The Guardian

Latest Health & wellbeing news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice

Waking later at weekends can have the same effect as jetlag – and lead to weight gain, reduced mental performance and chronic illness. But there is a solution

Do you set an alarm to wake you up on weekdays, then hit the snooze button at weekends because you need more sleep? If so, you could be experiencing social jetlag – a condition associated with weight gain, reduced mental performance and chronic illness.

“Social jetlag promotes practically everything that’s bad in our bodies,” says Till Roenneberg, professor of chronobiology at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, who coined the term. It occurs when we go to bed later and wake up later at the weekend than on weekdays. Like normal jetlag, it is a consequence of being forced to shift our bodies between two time zones: one dictated by work and social obligations, the other by our internal timing system, the circadian clock. It is estimated that two-thirds of us experience at least one hour of social jetlag a week, and a third experience two hours or more – equivalent to flying from London to Tel Aviv and back each week.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 21, 2019, 8:00 am

Check negative self-talk, set manageable goals, take regular exercise – and try your hand at gardening

How we value and perceive ourselves and our abilities is believed to be strongly tied to influences in childhood. A recent longitudinal study following nearly 9,000 participants in the US from birth to age 27 found that family environment (covering parenting, cognitive stimulation and physical home environment) in childhood, and especially in the first six years of life, has a long-term impact on self-esteem. The first step to achieving healthy self-esteem as an adult, suggests the NHS, is to challenge negative beliefs you have about yourself, perhaps by writing down self-critical thoughts and the evidence against them, or by speaking to yourself the way you would of a friend.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 21, 2019, 7:00 am

Haemin Sunim is the Buddhist monk whose hugely successful self-care advice books have made him a celebrity

When a smart café opened in his neighbourhood in New York, where he used to live, Buddhist monk and bestselling author Haemin Sunim went along to sample the delicious-looking cake. Hearing the prices, however, he balked and ordered just tea instead – but that cake stayed in his mind all afternoon. The next day, he was still thinking about it, and the day after that until, finally, he had to go back and treat himself. The verdict? “It was delicious but not extraordinarily delicious,” he writes in his new book, Love for Imperfect Things. “This must be the kind of feeling people have after winning the Nobel prize or becoming president.”

This small, wry slice of everyday life – and let-down – is one of many in Sunim’s latest self-care tome, the follow-up to his first book, the wildly successful Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, published in 2012.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 20, 2019, 3:00 pm

It’s the sensation of a sedentary life cracking wide open

I wouldn’t say it was extremely comforting when, seconds before my first attempt at cold-water swimming at my local pond, as I hovered near the steps, my skin chill against the air, the jovial lifeguard started to tell me about sudden-immersion syndrome. “People can die, because they go into shock,” she explained, eyes focused on something in the distant trees. “But you’ll be fine. Just don’t panic.”

In the summer, I jump into the pond with the enthusiasm of a labrador – ears flying, paws spread skywards. (This was especially the case during last summer’s heatwave, two months of feeling conflicted – the utter joy of that slightly grassy smell of warm forearms, tempered by the fact that the planet is, well, screwed.) Summer swimming is all about the refreshing feel of hair slicked back from the forehead after hours of enduring a sticky, matted mess. Or the tessellating, shimmering patterns of light at the bottom of a hotel pool.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 19, 2019, 9:00 am

It’s halfway between yoga and acrobatics (and exceedingly intimidating)

Even after all this time, yoga (hot or cold) continues to be my mad enthusiasm, my evangelism, the handbrake turn of my middle age. I still can’t do a side crow or even a regular crow. And I spend quite a lot longer planning to go than actually going, as it’s quite a bite out of the day. But I never leave, sweaty and freezing, having failed in some way large or small, feeling anything other than euphoric. Even so, I’ve realised, finally, that if I want to talk about yoga one more time, I have to make a yoga friend to do it with. Nobody else wants to hear it.

Most people at my class are almost naked, dressed like a volleyball team. You get to know other people’s bodies incredibly well, before you’ve even got to the point where you could exchange smiles at the cucumber-water station. They all have tattoos. There’s a woman with a lifesize cafetière covering her entire calf, and in a different context – say we were doing Zumba – I would ask whether it was an act of elaborate, ludic wordplay (calf-etiere) but the solemnity of this business throws me off my social game. Another woman has an Apple “on” sign at the top of her bum, and there are follow-up questions I’d like to ask about that, but the moment has passed. There’s a limit to the number of times you can be in the same room as people without smiling at them before your smile window has closed, and I reached it. Maybe back in November.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 19, 2019, 7:00 am

If traditional yoga is solitary, here communication is key

The obvious difference between AcroYoga and other forms is that it’s with a partner. The purpose of yoga is to develop the union of mind, body and spirit; AcroYoga aims to develop the same union between two people. If traditional yoga is solitary, here communication is key.

About 20% of people arrive at our classes with a friend or partner, but most come alone and are paired up based on things like size, body proportions and whether they get on. If it becomes a regular practice, having a consistent partner is really helpful.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 19, 2019, 7:00 am

Before we point the finger at others, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at our own behaviour

You’ll recall, I assume, the ancient riddle about the father and son rushed to casualty after a car crash, where the surgeon, taking one look at the boy, declares, “I can’t operate on him, he’s my son!” As a way of making a point about sexism, this doesn’t really work any more: the twist or “solution” to the riddle (how is this possible?) is meant to be that the surgeon is his mother – but as many a smart aleck has noted, why not his other father?

Still, there are echoes of that puzzle in a new study from researchers at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, involving scenarios in which people were asked to guess the sex of someone described as a surgeon. The upshot: when participants heard about some third party, “Person X”, jumping to the conclusion that a surgeon must be male, they judged them to be a sexist bigot. But when presented with a similar question themselves, they did exactly the same.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 18, 2019, 3:00 pm

I reject the suggestion that the capital’s action plan contains nothing new

Two weeks ago, the mayor of London and I spent a morning cycling with the leader of Enfield council looking at their excellent new protected cycleways and secure bike parking hub at Edmonton Green station. Together we unveiled Transport for London’s new cycling action plan, which aims to make London the world’s best big city for cycling and to double the number of cycle journeys in five years.

The launch follows the publication of this year’s TfL business plan, in which Sadiq Khan demonstrated his continuing commitment to cycling by not only protecting the record level of funding for cycling, but increasing it from an average of £169m to £214m a year. This commitment is despite central government’s complete withdrawal of the £700m annual operating grant, which has left TfL in a tough financial position, compounded by the delay and increased cost of Crossrail.

Continue reading...
Posted: December 31, 2018, 12:25 pm

With no new infrastructure or funding, questions remain on how to genuinely democratise cycling in a big city

London has a new official plan for cycling. It’s full of bold statements of intent and has some interesting ideas. That’s the good news. Here’s the drawback: within the 59 glossy pages I could detect no new plans for cycling infrastructure.

This all might seem a bit niche, not to say London-centric. But there is a wider lesson here: if cities are to truly move ahead in making cycling everyday and for everyone, good intentions aren’t enough. It involves political boldness, and taking risks.

Continue reading...
Posted: December 17, 2018, 9:51 am

The bicycles are given to children in the Turkish border city of Kilis if they also maintain strong grades and promise to ride for an hour a day

Standing on the street in the centre of Kilis, a small Turkish city on the border with Syria, a constant stream of noisy motorcycles, scooters and cars zoom past. It’s certainly not the most bicycle-friendly city, but local leaders are determined to change that with a new network of cycle lanes, and by giving away thousands of bikes to local children.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war seven years ago, millions of Syrians have sought shelter in Turkey. While there are refugee camps lining the border, most refugees opt to live in cities such as Kilis.

Continue reading...
Posted: December 11, 2018, 11:00 am

A new group supported by the Canary Wharf Group property company and lorry, coach and taxi drivers is attacking one of the city’s most popular routes

Even on a wet, cold November night, London’s flagship cycle superhighway along the Embankment is thronged. Across the whole 24 hours, it is used by 10,329 cyclists, an average of seven a minute. But at this time of day, it is one every three seconds. In the rush hour, the bike track – which takes up one lane of this four-lane road – carries more traffic than the other three lanes put together.

It’s an extraordinary success, and it looks like a permanent fixture. But it might not be. Behind the scenes, a powerful property company, Canary Wharf Group, is working with a political lobbying firm and major road organisations on a campaign to get it ripped out.

Continue reading...
Posted: November 30, 2018, 7:00 am

‘Planetary health diet’ would prevent millions of deaths a year and avoid climate change

The first science-based diet that tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe has been devised. It requires huge cuts in red meat-eating in western countries and radical changes across the world.

The “planetary health diet” was created by an international commission seeking to draw up guidelines that provide nutritious food to the world’s fast-growing population. At the same time, the diet addresses the major role of farming – especially livestock – in driving climate change, the destruction of wildlife and the pollution of rivers and oceans.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 16, 2019, 11:30 pm

Scientists called study’s findings upsetting and said toxic air must be cut

Air pollution is as bad for pregnant women as smoking in raising the risk of miscarriage, according to a scientific study. They said the finding was upsetting and that toxic air must be cut to protect the health of the next generation.

Air pollution is already known to harm foetuses by increasing the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Recent research has also found pollution particles in placentas.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 11, 2019, 7:00 pm

Move follows concerns about ‘hidden health disaster’ of sleeplessness among young

Schoolchildren across Britain may be offered sleep lessons to help tackle the problem of insomnia among young people.

The lessons became available to teachers at the end of last year and were devised by the PSHE Association and the department for sleep medicine at Evelina London children’s hospital.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 7, 2019, 2:45 pm

Girls in Narok County will be made to reveal identities of babies’ fathers and tell police about female genital mutilation

Plans to subject schoolgirls in Kenya to mandatory tests for female genital mutilation and pregnancy are a violation of victims’ privacy, campaigners have warned.

All girls returning to school this week in Narok, Kenya, will be examined at local health facilities as part of a countywide crackdown.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 4, 2019, 10:00 am

Good Place actor apologises to fans for airbrushing and says old photos make her feel ‘gross’

Jameela Jamil has said looking back at airbrushed photos of herself makes her feel “gross”. The Good Place actor apologised to fans who would have seen the images and felt under pressure to be as thin as Jamil appeared.

She told Red magazine: “When I first started out in this industry, I didn’t know I was allowed to say no to airbrushing. I was given a whiter face, a little English nose and perfect skinny thighs. It makes me feel gross. I’m sorry to anyone who ever saw pictures of me like that and wanted to be thin like me.”

Continue reading...
Posted: January 3, 2019, 10:58 pm

There are many diets you can follow if you want to live more healthily, but it’s hard to know which has the best long-term effects? Luckily, a team of experts has done the research

Losing weight is a common new year’s resolution. Even when dressed up as a pledge to eat more healthily, it can be tinged with self-loathing. Those pigs in blankets, mince pies and Baileys. Why, oh why? But at least anyone who wants to improve their diet has a fantastic resource to help them. With perfect timing, a US panel of experts in diet, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and food psychology has scrutinised and ranked 40 diets. Its listings, which are produced annually, show which diets are best for short- and long-term weight loss, which are easiest to follow, which you are most likely to stick with – and which are unsafe because they don’t supply enough nutrients.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 5, 2018, 4:18 pm

A new study suggests canine-lovers could be 23% less likely to die from heart disease – or it could just be that healthier people prefer dogs

Dogs really are our best friends, according to a Swedish study that says canine ownership could reduce heart disease. A study of 3.4 million people between the ages of 40 and 80 found that having a dog was associated with a 23% reduction in death from heart disease and a 20% lower risk of dying from any cause over the 12 years of the study. Previous studies have suggested dogs relieve social isolation and depression – both linked to an increased risk of heart disease and early death.

Continue reading...
Posted: December 4, 2017, 7:00 am
More than a quarter of new fathers in a new study showed significant levels of depression – what are the causes, and what can they do about it?

Men don’t go through pregnancy or childbirth. Their hormone levels don’t nosedive. They don’t get sore nipples. What exactly have they got to be depressed about? Quite a lot, according to research from Sweden showing that, over the past 10 years, a significant number of men have struggled with the transition to fatherhood.

This latest research tries to quantify just how many men get postnatal depression. Previous studies have found between 4% and 10% of men, while, in this smallish sample of 447 Swedish fathers who volunteered (and may therefore not represent your average dad), a surprising 28% of men had symptoms that scored above mild levels of depression. Overall, 4% had moderate depression. Fewer than one in five fathers who were depressed sought help, even though a third of those had thought about harming themselves. While women in the UK are often asked a series of questions that screen for postnatal depression (which affects up to 13% of women), the mental health of fathers is rarely assessed.

Continue reading...
Posted: November 13, 2017, 8:00 am
If you have sensitive skin, doctors recommend moisturisers without fragrance or allergic ingredients, but terms such as ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘dermatologist-recommended’ are often just marketing tools

What do you look for in a body moisturiser? Is it the smell, how smooth it leaves your skin feeling, or how much it costs? If you are attracted by terms such as “dermatologist recommended” or “hypoallergenic”, you may be disappointed. A study of the top 100 best-selling whole body moisturisers found that not only did prices vary by 9,400% but that 95% of the products claiming to be dermatologist-recommended had at least one ingredient that could cause an allergy. Of the hypoallergenic moisturisers, 83% contained a substance on the allergen list of the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG). The most common potential allergy-causing ingredients were fragrance mix and paraben mix (a preservative).

Continue reading...
Posted: October 30, 2017, 7:00 am

A new report suggests that young people are aware of their parents’ drinking – and it may well have an impact on their relationship with alcohol. So should you keep booze out of the family home?

When you’re drinking wine at home, don’t look as if you’re enjoying it – at least not if you have kids. How much you drink, how often you say: ‘Ah, that’s nice,’ while imbibing and whether you use alcohol as a reward or coping mechanism can all encourage adolescents to drink, according to a report last week from the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

In case you think it’s OK for teenagers to drink, the Department of Health advises children have an alcohol-free life until the age of 15 and only one drink a week until they are 18. In 2009, Prof Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer at the time, warned that “exposing children to drink-fuelled events” was one of the root causes of the UK’s drinking problem.

Continue reading...
Posted: October 23, 2017, 6:00 am

Your parents saying those things doesn’t make them true, says Annalisa Barbieri. As you get older, you will start to see yourself differently

I’m 14 years old. Whenever I see pictures of girls in short dresses and tight tops, all I can think about is how I would never be “pretty enough” to dress like that, how I will never be thin enough. My parents are the ones who discourage me. They tell me how they regret having me, because I’m fat and have made their lives miserable. My mother shows me pictures of actresses and tells me that I should look like them. I don’t know what to do. The only thing I can think about is whether I will ever be accepted as this fat, ugly girl. It’s difficult to cope at school with the negativity around me. I look in the mirror at the acne, blemishes, scars. I often cry in my bedroom for hours. Nothing has helped. Everything just makes it worse.

I think everything makes it worse because, at the core of your life, the very people who should be making you feel good about yourself are doing the opposite. It is wrong of your parents to say those things: that is not good parenting, and just because your parents are saying it, doesn’t make it the truth. I’m sorry they are like this, but they must be very unhappy with themselves.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 18, 2019, 3:00 pm

After the father figure in my life stopped talking to me, my boyfriend left me and I fell in love with my best friend, I realised I needed to change – but how?

Last year was very hard for me in terms of relationships. My father figure stopped talking to me, my boyfriend of several years broke up with me unexpectedly, and I became very attached to – and maybe even fell in love with – my best friend, who was in a relationship. I had no plan to pursue him in any way other than the friendship we had, but because we could talk about anything, I let him know how I felt. Now he doesn’t talk to me either. I need to get past this, and never develop these unhealthy attachments again. Until I do, I will feel a lot of sadness.

• When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 18, 2019, 12:00 pm

I love giving him pleasure, but he is reluctant to do the same for me and shrugs it off any time I mention it

I have been with my partner now for three months. He is 28 and I am 21. He is caring, affectionate and very respectful of women, which is important to me because my ex-boyfriend used to call me a slut. However, he only seems to care about penetrative sex, whereas my orgasms are more intense from clitoral stimulation. I have mentioned this to him lots of times, but he always shrugs it off. I love performing oral on him but he seems reluctant to do the same for me. I have always felt that sex should be devoid of any kind of obligation, and want to give my partner as much pleasure as I can without feeling as if I should get something in return, but I find it really difficult to do this when my desires don’t seem to figure very much in his idea of what sex is.

You may be assuming too much. This may not be unwillingness on his part, but simply naivety and a lack of technique. Like many young men, your partner probably doesn’t really have a full understanding of exactly how to pleasure you clitorally, and you are going to have to teach him. You will have to be very specific, and let him know you expect quid pro quo. Your notion that during lovemaking you should not “expect anything in return” is problematic for two reasons. First, he will never learn to be a better lover unless you teach him. Second, he will continue to be a selfish lover unless you let him know what you want. And these deficits will only lead you to be more and more resentful. Have the courage to sweetly ask for what you need, and reward him when he gets it right. Far from instigating the “contractual obligation” you fear, this is actually a way to preserve your sexual connection – and your entire relationship.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 21, 2019, 8:00 am

Mariella Frostrup tells a man caught up in festive family tensions to ditch the present-giving charade

The dilemma My father complained to my wife that the Christmas presents I bought for him and his partner weren’t good enough. He is 66. I bought them some artisan chocolate, which he described as “broken chocolate” because it came wrapped in a clear plastic bag (it was from a small local business that hand-wraps items), and a handmade candle that was called “crappy” by his partner. Given that they’re both wealthy, retired, own three houses and enjoy numerous holidays each year, should I feel bad that I don’t push the boat out in buying expensive gifts for them? Should I have bought the grumpy old git an iPad or a drone? Their presents to us were the usual haul of thoughtless jumpers and biscuits, and wrong-size clothes for the grandchildren they never see, all bought in the same supermarket. Thanks. Sorry. I’m still angry! I bet you get loads of letters like this at this time of year.

Mariella replies Yes, there have been a couple! I hear you, honestly I do. But, as we both know, this whole Christmas thing is way out of control. Your father is clearly an optimist, expecting more than a token on what’s become a seasonal retail opportunity. By early January it feels as if the whole nation is waking up to the mother of all hangovers – bank accounts depleted and surrounded by piles of discarded junk. Or is that just me? The only people who can afford to be rubbing their hands with glee are the sellers, who are so busy comparing how much people squandered last season to this season that I’m not sure even they gain much pleasure out of the experience.

Continue reading...
Posted: January 20, 2019, 6:00 am
Content Was Refreshed: 22 Jan 2019 | 02:08:44