Don't let the summer feel-good factor slip away – it really can help us live longer and more happily
Take a siesta
When you’re on holiday, it’s permissible to have a little snooze by the pool or in your room to escape the heat of the afternoon sun.
A nap after lunch can reduce stress, help cardiovascular functions, and improve alertness and memory, according to a report from the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians (SEMERGEN).
Shut your eyes for a maximum of 30 minutes in a comfortable armchair – not in bed – to avoid entering deep sleep. Set an alarm just in case.
Turn off the TV
On holiday you’re too busy eating, drinking, chatting and having fun to bother with the TV.
Watching too much is bad for your brain, increasing your risk of cognitive impairment by 20%, warns Dr Mike Dow, psychotherapist and author of The Brain Fog Fix: Reclaim Your Focus, Memory And Joy In Just 3 Weeks (￡12.99, Hay House).
Decide what you really want to watch and discipline yourself to switch the TV off afterwards.
Moisturise every day
Whether it’s slapping on the sunscreen or applying after-sun, we’re far more likely to moisturise our bodies in summer – but dry skin is a year-round issue.
Scientists have found that our sense of smell taps directly into the brain’s memory centre – meaning a fragrance that became associated with your holiday will instantly transport you back there when you smell it at home.
So continue applying your holiday after-sun or moisturiser for smoother skin and to retain happy memories.
Eat real food
Our European neighbours, France, Italy and Spain, tend to eat good- quality food and fresh, local, seasonal produce, which leaves them more satisfied and less likely to snack.
Eat cheese, yogurt, bread, etc, in moderation, rather than low-fat/diet versions.
Include the cornerstones of the traditional Mediterranean diet, too – olive oil, nuts, fish, lean meat, vegetables and fresh fruit – rather than relying on packets and ready-meals.
Cook with spices
Whether you love Indian curries or Mexican fajitas, eating spicy foods could boost your health.
According to studies, turmeric (a spice found in many curries) could help slow Alzheimer’s, which may explain the low incidence of the disease among the ageing population in India.
Meanwhile, chilli peppers can speed up your metabolism and make you eat more slowly, giving the brain more time to register fullness.
Stock up the store cupboard and get into the habit of using spices to add flavour instead of salt and pepper.
Our annual vacation is a chance to switch off from work and the daily bombardment of texts, emails and social media.
Get into the habit of turning off your phone after work or at least not reading your emails. Daniel J Levitin, neuroscientist and author of The Organized Mind (￡6.99, Dutton Book) recommends checking emails two or three times a day, rather than as they come in.
Just spotting an email mid-task is enough to reduce your IQ by 10 points as your mind wanders from the job.
Ditch the car
Chances are you walked, hopped on the bus or hired a bike on your summer break.
So, get out of the habit of using the car for short journeys at home. Research shows the benefits of walking for just 20 minutes a day are equal to not smoking – reducing heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes risk, as well as several cancers.
Be more active in general: Standing for three hours a day is as good for you as running 10 marathons a year, claims Dr Mike Loosemore, Lead Consultant in Exercise Medicine at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health.
Even those who ‘never have time’ to read are likely to pick up a book on holiday, according to a recent survey by Booktrust, the UK’s largest reading charity.
It found those who read books regularly are, on average, happier and more satisfied with life.
Join a library to reserve the latest bestsellers for free. Write a list of 10 books that you’re keen to read so you’ve always got another one lined up.
Try new fruit and veg
Holidays are the perfect time to eat new exotic food.
Think seasonal and colourful, says Vicky Pennington, registered dietitian and Boots nutritionist.
You’ll get maximum nutrients and antioxidants without paying for produce that’s flown across the globe.
Dine at the table
You could be breakfasting from the hotel buffet or dining al fresco at a waterfront restaurant, but either way, you’ll have sat at a table to enjoy the local cuisine.
‘This means you have an awareness of how much you consume and aren’t eating under stress,’ explains Christianne Wolff, author of The Body Rescue Plan.
In fact, a recent study found that children who eat at the table with their families at mealtimes are up to 40% less likely to be overweight.
Make mealtimes a family affair – a time to spend time together. Take your time, pause between mouthfuls and savour the flavours and textures of the food.
Have more family time
Playing ball in the pool, cricket on the beach or football in the park, holidays are about having fun with family and friends.
Having a supportive extended family network can boost a person’s health more than exercise, losing weight or quitting smoking and alcohol, say psychologists in the journal PLOS Medicine.
Put good intentions into practice: Arrange activities with the kids; make an effort to get in touch with family and friends and plan ahead to identify key times in the year when you know you can meet up by putting birthdays, holidays and festive occasions in your calendar.
We have more sex in August than any other month (closely followed by July and June), according to a recent poll by Lovehoney.co.uk.
That’s probably because we’re more relaxed on holiday and enjoy more romantic opportunities.
Regular sex not only enhances your relationship but boosts your health, immunity and mood!
Shake up your usual routine. Just remember, spontaneity sometimes requires a bit of effort.
Eat more fish
From battered cod on Brighton pier to grilled sardines on a Portuguese beach, nothing says summer like a fab fish dish – and for good health, we should be eating at least two portions of a wide variety of fish every week.
Choose wild-caught over farm-raised fish, as this normally contains a higher concentration of omega-3s and the lowest content of toxins.
Visit goodfishguide.org for more info and how to choose fish from sustainable sources.