How Brad Pitt can boost your health

Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt

Whether it's skipping a spinning class to slob out on the sofa or having a good gossip when you should be working, we all have our naughty moments. But now there's no need to feel guilty - hooray! - because new research* reveals that rebellion can work wonders for our wellbeing, making us feel happier, younger and less stressed.

"Doing what is perceived as 'the right thing' all the time is impossible," says Liz Tucker, stress counsellor and founder of the health and wellbeing .

"Putting pressure on yourself to behave in a certain way can lead to anxiety, and feelings of disappointment and failure when you don't live up to your high standards." So cut yourself some slack and be a bad girl.

DAYDREAMING... helps solve problems
Find yourself dreaming of Brad Pitt mid-meeting? You could be boosting your brain power at the same time. A recent study published in the Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences found that when your mind wanders, areas in your brain associated with complex problem-solving buzz with activity. Through brain scans, researchers found that when we daydream, the brain's 'executive network' - the part associated with complex problem-solving - becomes extremely active.

Do it well: "When you daydream, your mind may actually be addressing important questions in your life, such as your career or relationship issues," explains psychologist Dr Kalina Christoff. Put it into practice. When you're working on a complex problem but drawing a mental blank, switch to a simpler task like watching Coronation Street or reading a trashy novel. Letting your mind wander could help you find a solution. Just make sure you do it when you're doing routine tasks like the washing-up or hoovering - not when you're at work or driving!

GOSSIP...soothes anxiety
You know how you feel so much better after a good chat with the girls? Well, it's all down to hormones. Recent studies by the University of Michigan revealed that gossiping increases our levels of progesterone, the hormone that reduces anxiety and stress, and promotes good sleep.

Do it well: The kind of gossip that benefits your health (instead of getting you into fights) is the type that focuses on emotional bonding and exchanging intimate details about your life. OK, so you don't need to share the colour of your knickers with everyone, but the study found that women who asked each other chatty questions about themselves - rather than serious questions on more 'intellectual' subjects - bonded better and had increased levels of progesterone.


LAZINESS... makes you live longer
Step into your slippers, because more sleep, less work and less extreme exercise are key to a longer life, according to public health scientist Professor Peter Axt. "Sleeping eight or nine hours every night, taking naps, avoiding long work hours and extreme exercise all help limit stress," he explains. "In turn that stops your adrenal glands becoming overworked and depleting your immune system."

Do it well: "Waste half your free time," suggests Professor Axt. "People who take a midday nap instead of playing squash have a better chance of living into old age." To become more 'strategically lazy' at work, Peter Taylor, author of new book The Lazy Project Manager, suggests taking time every morning to reflect on what's important to get done that day. "Each morning, identify three tasks that will most benefit you - whether you're a stay-at-home mum or a company executive - then work on completing them as a matter of priority."

SKIPPING HOUSEWORK... reduces allergies
Research suggests cleaning isn't the saintly duty it's cracked up to be. A study of 14,000 children by Bath and Brunel Universities found that women who used a lot of chemical cleaning products like bleach and air freshener during pregnancy or after giving birth increased their child's risk of asthma and allergies. And exposing kids to such chemicals early in life increased their chances of developing asthma by the age of seven by 41 per cent.

Do it well: When you do have a scrubbing session, use fewer chemicals. We love Method cleaning products, which are chemical-free and eco-friendly . If you suffer from night or morning allergies, try leaving the bed covers thrown back. Experts at Allergy US say this can help dry out any moisture your body has generated overnight. That's good news because the dust mites that cause allergies love moist bed sheets. Eek!

SWEARING... eases pain
Gordon Ramsay may be on to something. According to new research by Keele University's School Of Psychology, the reason you feel so much better after a good swear is that an emotional response triggers the reduction of physical pain in the body.

Do it well: Researchers also discovered that swearing reduced the perception of pain more strongly in women, who swore less, than in men, who swore more. So rather than using bad language at the drop of a hat, wait until you need a full-scale blowout, then see how much better you feel afterwards.

SLEEPING IN... makes you slim
Result! Enjoying a lazy lie-in may actually help you lose weight. "Sleep is essential for balancing key hormones such as insulin, cortisol, leptin and ghrelin, which are responsible for keeping your appetite, fat and metabolism in check," explains Professor Nadir Farid, an expert on hormones. In fact, a study conducted by Ohio's Case Western Reserve University, which followed 70,000 women for 16 years, found that those who slept five or fewer hours a night were 30 per cent more likely to put on at least 2t, compared to those who got enough sleep.

Do it well: Most experts agree that going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time each morning is healthiest. Nutritionist Charlotte Watts of Positivelyslim.com says: "The time when you want to sleep more will be dictated by your unique internal body clock. If you need an extra hour's sleep in the morning and you can fit it in, take it!"

**44 per cent of us admit to slobbing around in our pyjamas all day **

An extra hour in bed could help you live longer and lose weight
An extra hour in bed could help you live longer and lose weight

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