7 Mindful holiday crafts to try

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Feeling festive yet? Here are some activities to help you get in the spirit

7 Mindful holiday crafts to try

Twinkly lights, calming carols and feel-good films – the holiday season is often a beacon of light during the depths of winter. It can also bring stress and worry however, which makes it especially important to find ways of switching off and revelling in the joy of it all.

Crafting can be a beautiful way to do this. Encouraging a sense of mindfulness as you become engrossed in what you’re doing, crafting can help us relax and connect with both ourselves and others.

Whether you cosy up under a blanket to knit alone, invite your friends over to make a festive wreath or get the kids involved in some potato stamping, we’ve got some crafting ideas for everyone.


1. Origami stars

Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding, and it can be a therapeutic experience. Making origami stars is perfect for this time of year, you can turn them into tree decorations or make a garland.

All you need is paper (why not use pages from an old magazine?) scissors, needle and thread. Mental health charity Mind has a brilliant template which includes instructions to make your origami stars.

2. Holiday activities jar

This is a great way to motivate yourself to enjoy festive activities you love. Get yourself an empty jar, some paper and a pen. Cut or tear the paper into small strips and on each one write a holiday activity you want to do. Here are some ideas to get you started: make hot chocolate, watch a Christmas film, wrap presents, bake cookies, go for a winter walk, decorate the tree, have some mulled wine (or some alcohol-free festive drinks) with friends.

Fold each strip of paper and pop it in the jar. You can then decorate the jar with some ribbon or a sticker and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day. Now you have a jar filled with fun activities to brighten up your December.

3. Knitted stocking

Knitting your own stocking for Santa (or making one as a gift) is a fun idea for the knitters among us. Settling in each evening to knit a few more rows and having a deadline of Christmas eve can motivate you to take this time for yourself. Make it special by lighting a festive candle, enjoying a warm mince pie and listening to Christmas tunes.

Here is a selection of free stocking knitting patterns to try.

4. Potato stamp wrapping paper

If you’re keen to get little ones involved in crafting, this could be a fun one to try. Make your own decorated wrapping paper using potato stamps. All you need is plain wrapping paper (we recommend craft paper), some potatoes, a knife/cookie cutters and paint.

You can use the knife, or cookie cutters if you have them, to make shapes in the potatoes (try a star, Christmas tree of reindeer), dip them in paint and then stamp the paper. Below is a short video tutorial to get you started.

5. DIY snow-globes

A fun craft to do and one that will inspire mindful moments all season. Make your own

Discover the art of forgiveness and how it can benefit your wellbeing

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It may seem natural to not want to let someone off the hook for what they have done, but be warned – these bitter feelings can hurt you too

Discover the art of forgiveness and how it can benefit your wellbeing

You may have heard stories about people forgiving others for the most heinous of crimes, things that seem unimaginable to you – betrayal, lies, scandals, and even felonies. You may have wondered how on earth could they do that? Many of us hold grudges from the past, or feel that to let go and forgive may send the message that we condone wrongful behaviour. So, why is it that some people find it easy to forgive, and others seem to struggle?

When comedian Chris McGlade heard from police that his father had been murdered, he forgave his killer in an instant. To help me understand why, Chris told me of his upbringing with a father who had an irreverent sense of humour, and didn’t take life too seriously.

“He was the most outrageous man, with the most outrageous sense of humour, but a massive heart. There was never any malice in him, and he always forgave, and that left an indelible mark on my life.”

Chris says that at the moment the police told him the news, an “irreverence came over me”. At this darkest of moments, he made a joke. When the police looked surprised, his wife said: “Oh, it’s just his way.’’

He reflected: “It was my way, but more importantly it was my family’s way, it was my dad’s way.’’ Chris felt the presence of his father in that moment. He says: “I could see him in my mind’s eye saying ‘Go on, that’s what you do. You laugh, you don’t get angry – protect yourself with a laugh,’ and at that moment, I felt this love. It wasn’t something I had to think about, it was just instinctive.’’

Chris is now touring with a comedy show, Forgiveness, about life growing up with his dad, and his decision to forgive his father’s killer. His story is an extremely unusual case.

Most of us go through life, carrying resentments and grievances from various experiences. It may seem natural to not want to let someone off the hook for what they have done to us, but the problem is that these feelings hurt us, too.

In her book, Forgiveness Made Easy, life coach Barbara J Hunt explains how the word ‘resentment’ comes from the Latin, ‘sentire’ to feel. ‘Re-sent’ literally means, ‘to feel again’. When we hold on to feelings of resentment, we are stuck in a ‘pain loop’, feeling all of the old emotions, again and again, like a wound that never heals. One study published in the journal Aging and Mental Health found that unforgiveness can cause depressive symptoms later in life.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, has a wealth of physical and emotional health benefits, including reducing levels of anxiety, depression, and stress, lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and improving sleep. First and foremost, forgiveness is for you.

One major stumbling block Barbara J Hunt explains in her book is our ego. In order to protect ourselves, we keep our emotions of hurt hidden under the shell of our ego. Feeling resentment allows us to focus on what the other person did wrong, rather than fully feeling our own pain and grief.

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6 top questions on gut-health answered by an expert nutritionist

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It’s time to tackle taboos, as we put your most pressing gut health questions to the experts to get some much-needed answers

6 top questions on gut-health answered by an expert nutritionist

It happens to all of us. Sometimes, you wake up and something just doesn’t feel right. Sometimes, it can catch you off guard, you could be enjoying your morning coffee and oop – you need to move, quickly. Sh*t happens. So why are we so ashamed of talking about it?

It’s no secret that our gut health needs to be looked after, but how much can we really know when the majority of us aren’t comfortable asking those all-important questions? Well, we’ve asked them for you. Linda Albinsson, head nutritionist at London’s Advanced Nutrition Clinic, answers some of the most commonly searched questions related to our guts and bowel habits. It’s time to talk sh*t.

1. Is gut health really so important?

It’s really the root of everything. Your gut bacteria impacts your metabolism, oestrogen, your mental health, bone health and longevity! And time and time again, I see gut issues on those with eczema and skin issues, inflammatory conditions, and pain conditions such as joint pain, headaches, etc. Though we don’t always see gut symptoms in these clients, so stool testing can be useful here – it’s possible to have chaos in the gut, but be almost completely asymptomatic.

2. How do you know if you have bad gut health?

Watch out for wind and changes in bowel movement.

If you’re unsure, have a look at the Bristol Stool Chart – this breaks poop into seven types, with three and four considered ‘normal’ (fairly smooth, sausage-shaped). Some people can find it a little difficult to work out where they are on the chart, especially if your stool varies from day to day. Really, you want your poop to be consistent and very similar in shape.

Many of us have a sluggish gut, which means we’re likely not fully eliminating. If you’re only going to the toilet once a day, for example, and it’s not ‘100% complete’, you’ll quickly get a jam. And if, when going to the toilet, your elimination feels more like the work of gravity than muscular movement, it’s possible that you’re not properly eliminating.

Constipation is also a common cause of wind and bloating, and, believe it or not, fatigue! The sweetcorn test can be a useful home assessment to investigate the speed of your gut transit.

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The sweetcorn test involves avoiding corn for a number of days to ensure the gut is clear of kernels. Then, introduce some corn into a meal. Note the time of eating, and wait for the magic to happen. How soon you see corn in your poop can indicate the functioning of your bowel – in an ideal world, you’d expect to note the corn between 24 and 36 hours after eating, as a rough guide. If you spot it in less than 12 hours, you may have diarrhoea, and longer than 36 could be a sign of constipation.

3. Are the

What is PMDD (and how can I find help)?

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Period pains are one of the common symptoms that affect an estimated 90% of women. While PMS can leave us feeling awful physically, many haven’t heard of PMDD - a severe form of PMS that can lead to anxiety, clinical depression and a higher risk of suicidal ideation

What is PMDD (and how can I find help)?

Most of us have heard of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), the name given to the signs and symptoms people that ovulate experience in the days or even weeks leading up to their period. It’s estimated that anywhere from three in four menstruating people to 90% of women experience some form of PMS.

Mood swings, food cravings, tender breasts, painful cramps, fatigue, irritability and depression can all be typical symptoms of PMS. But have you heard of PMDD? And could you be experiencing it without even realising it?

We answer your biggest PMDD questions, and share everything you need to know about premenstrual dysphoric disorder, signs to look out for, and how you can find help.

What is PMDD?

PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) is a very severe form of PMS, thought to affect around one in 20 women. Sometimes referred to as ‘severe PMS’, PMDD causes a number of different emotional and physical symptoms monthly in the weeks running up to your period. Occurring during the luteal phase (between when you ovulate and your period stats), some people have symptoms for a few days, while others will have them every day during the run-up to their period.

While most people who ovulate will experience some form of PMS during their lifetime, those with PMDD experience symptoms that have a much greater impact. PMDD can make it harder to work, socialise, and even maintain healthy relationships. For some, PMDD can lead to suicidal thoughts. One global study released in 2022 revealed that as many as 34% of those with PMDD have attempted suicide.

On average, it takes 12 years and seeking support from more than six healthcare professionals before most patients are able to gain a diagnosis of PMDD. An overwhelming 98% feel that symptoms of PMDD put a significant strain on their romantic relationships, 97% say they affect their family relationships, and over half (56.7%) have lost a partner due to PMDD.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder can develop at any time during your reproductive years, though on average, symptoms begin around age 26. Symptoms often interfere with your ability to do day-to-day things and can occur during some or most of your cycles (though some months may be worse than others).

How do I know if I’ve got PMDD? Signs and symptoms

People with PMDD can experience different symptoms. These can include emotional and physical symptoms:

Emotional symptoms

  • mood swings
  • feeling upset, tearful, tense, angry, irritable or on-edge
  • lack of energy
  • decreased interest in activities you normally enjoy doing
  • increased feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, hopelessness, or being out of control
  • trouble concentrating
  • suicidal thoughts or feelings

Physic

What to eat when it’s ‘one of those days’

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When you’re having an ‘off’ day, finding the energy to eat well can be a challenge – but fuelling ourselves properly is one of the best ways to get back to our best selves. Here, expert columnist Claudine Thornhill shares essential tips to keep you nourished, even when it’s been a long day…

What to eat when it’s ‘one of those days’

Off days are inevitable, and they tend to negatively affect our eating habits. Even the most diligent of meal preppers, balanced eaters, and foodie types can be caught out by having an ‘off day’.

As a nutritional therapist and health coach, I work with women who are spinning multiple plates, due to busy careers, sometimes alongside thriving businesses or side hustles, busy family lives, caring responsibilities, and commitments at home. And that’s on top of trying to maintain social relationships, and cultivate hobbies and interests. I see many people struggle with catering to their own needs, even those as basic as eating well.

On those days when you’re feeling uninspired, unmotivated, have low mood or low energy, are stressed, overwhelmed, or simply off, just coming up with nourishing meal ideas can feel like a mammoth task, never mind conjuring up the energy and patience to stand in the kitchen and actually prepare the meal. It’s tempting to reach for the quick and easy fixes – the crisps, chocolate bars, pastries, and biscuits to fill that hunger gap, and it makes sense. The fat and sugar content of these foods provide a quick dose of energy, albeit short-lived. It’s equally tempting to reach for the array of options that come in a few clicks on a food delivery app. The evidence shows that people are less able to make healthy choices when they are stressed, tired, and hungry, and although there are some great balanced options you can order online, it’s more likely that the high fat, sugar, and starchy carb options will stand out.

So, what should we do when we really can’t be arsed, but still want to nourish our bodies? Here are some proven tips that work.

Stock up

Firstly, don’t get caught out by an empty kitchen. We’ve all been there, standing in front of the open fridge door, searching for inspiration, but it’s unlikely to come if the fridge is empty. Set yourself up for success by having quick and easy staples to hand. These might include couscous, rice noodles, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree, spice pastes, tinned beans, frozen vegetables, fresh soups, and flatbreads including pitta bread – these are also great freezer options. Have a tasty curry ready in 15 minutes by combining your frozen mixed vegetables, tinned chickpeas, curry paste, tomato puree, and a little water. Your curry can be served alongside flatbread or couscous. Similarly, throw frozen mixed vegetables in a pan, and combine with rice noodles that have been soaked in boiling water, add soy sauce or tamari, peanut butter, and whatever spices you have to hand, and you’ll have a tasty noodle dish in a similar time.

Lean on the good days

Harness the energy of when you’re firing on all cylinders to prepare for those off days. Leveraging the times when you&#

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