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How to improve your mood and beat the winter blues

How to Improve your mood and beat the winter blues

The dark winter months can be depressing. Sunlight is genuinely linked with our moods, and working a nine to five job means you might find that you go days at a time not seeing sunlight. This can hit us pretty hard.

So, here are five things to consider to help you keep your spirits up through the winter.

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1. Boost your Vitamin D

“Most people don’t know vitamin D is in fact a hormone, which has a profound effect on how we feel and our mood.” Geeta Sidhu-Robb Nosh Detox Founder

Vitamin D has been associated with mood changes. Low levels of vitamin D leading to low moods and depression. Many individuals living in northern climates become vitamin D deficient in the dark winter months. Consider taking a supplement to boost your vitamin levels.

2. Don’t Give In To Sugar Cravings

Sugars from things like sweets quickly release serotonin which gives a momentary feeling of happiness. However, this is fleeting and the ensuing sugar crash makes everything worse. Avoid sugary snacks, Instead, nurture yourself with healthy foods packed with antioxidants found in dark leafy greens and colourful fruits and vegetables.

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3. Stay Active

It can be hard to find the get up and go drive in the cold winter months. But exercise is really good, not just for your physical health but your mental well being. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins which genuinely make you happier. So, you will find yourself with a much more positive outlook on the world with regular exercise in your weekly routine. Exercising on a regular basis can also help ease stress and promote relaxation, which can be particularly helpful for those who struggle to fall asleep.

WINTER BANNER

4. Increase Serotonin

When sunlight enters our eyes, it activates the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, our feel-good hormones. If your mood is low, try taking a 5-HPT supplement – a chemical made from the amino acid tryptophan, which the body then coverts into serotonin. Some studies go as far as suggesting 5-HTP may also work as antidepressants, and has little to no side effects. You can’t get 5-HTP from food, so supplementation is necessary.

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Selection of food that is good for the health and skin, rustic wood background

5. Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are the healthy fats found in cold water fish, raw nuts and seeds, and superfoods such as flax and hemp (you’ll also find that a lot of these foods are high in vitamin D). Omega-3’s are the building blocks for the nerves and brain and are crucial for the proper growth, development and function of brain tissue. Taking an omega-3 supplement has been proven to significantly improve mood and lower the likelihood of depression.

6. Set Your Internal Clock

It’s crucial to create a sleep routine that has you seeing sunlight as much as possible. On top of this, getting too much sleep or too little can ruin your mood for the day as you will feel tired and fatigued. Try to go to sleep before 11pm, avoid caffeine for at least six hours before bed and avoid bright lights and screens late in the evening.

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11 Best Dog Walker Parks in London

11 Best Dog Walker Parks in London

Dog Walkers in London

Having a dog in the city often seems like it would be unfair. Dogs need exercise. They need to run around manically, throw themselves about, roll in puddles and otherwise behave mischievously.

However, London has a plethora of gorgeous and sizeable parks that are perfect for a doggy day trip.

And of course if you really want, there is a huge amount of space just outside of London, the Chiltern Hills for example, which certainly deserve a thorough explore.

For all you London based dog owners (or any Londoners who like a good walk), we have compiled a short list of some of our favourite parks in London, and they really aren’t that hard to get to.

Grab your HBB, pack your essentials and get going.

#1 Hyde Park – Central London

London’s most famous – and perhaps busiest – park, but dogs are welcomed here with open paws. Hyde Park is one of the Royal Parks and forms a huge rectangular green lung in the middle of central London. It is home to numerous famous landmarks which draw in millions of tourists each year, including the Serpentine Lake, Speakers’ Corner and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.

Nearest station? Queensway, Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch (Central Line) and Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line)

Find out more and plan your visit here.

#2 Victoria Park – East

Vicky Park, as it’s known to eastenders, is a social hotspot for outgoing canines and their owners alike. It’s split into two parts: The western half is landscaped with a fantastic organic lakeside café, boating lake and picnic areas in the summer, while the eastern half is more suitable for dogs and has larger expanses to run on.

Be advised to carry a doggie bag though as there’s an open-ended children’s adventure playground (dogs are not allowed) and plenty of green area given over to sport. The Kenton is an excellent local dog-friendly Norwegian pub to pause in.

Nearest station? Hackney Wick or Cambridge Heath, (Overground)

More info on Victoria Park

#3 Richmond Park – West

As the biggest enclosed space in London, there’s no shortage of spots for your dog to explore here in this National Nature Reserve.

This is London’s largest Site of Special Scientific Interest, so dog owners will need to be aware of the precious wildlife here. There are some restrictions in certain areas, and owners are advised to avoid the park during the deer rutting (September to October) and birthing (May to July) seasons to help prevent any potential problems.

Nearest station? Richmond (National Rail and District Line)

Is there a car park? Yes, there are several.

Find out more and plan your visit here.

#4 Regents Park – Central

Designed by John Nash, Regent’s Park covers 395 acres and is perhaps the most picturesque of central London’s parks with glorious flower beds and the famous Queen Mary’s rose garden with over 1000 varieties. There are plenty of places to let your pooch run free (especially on Primrose Hill) but dogs should be kept on leads in the formal gardens and sports areas.

Nearest station: Regent’s Park (Bakerloo line), Great Portland Street (Hammersmith & City, Circle & Metropolitan lines), Baker Street (Hammersmith & City, Circle, Jubilee, Metropolitan & Bakerloo lines), St John’s Wood (Jubilee line)

Plan your dog walk at Regents Park here

#5 Peckam Rye Park – South

This Victorian Park has recently been restored to its former Victorian glory with lottery money. At 113 acres, it is south east London’s biggest green zone and it has loads to offer: woodlands, a lake, formal garden and the Café on the Rye.

The arboretum is a canine-free zone but the lovely Japanese garden isn’t, and there are plenty of other trails to take: Southwark council even provides a handy trail map.

Nearest station? Denmark Hill Station (Overground)

Plan your dog walk in Peckham Rye Park here.

#6 Hampstead Heath – North

As far as views of London go, they don’t get much better than when perched atop Parliament Hill, the summit of hilly Hampstead Heath. Sometimes known as ‘kite hill’ due to its popularity among kite flyers. Spanning a huge 320 hectares (790 acres), this wildlife-rich parkland is among the biggest in London and features woodlands, vast heaths and swimming ponds, including one dedicated to dogs that enjoy a dip in the water. As you’d expect from an ancient heathland, there’s plenty of history, too – there are at least 55 historical features, monuments and archaeological sites to explore.

Nearest station? Golders Green, Hampstead or Kentish Town (Northern Line) and Hampstead Heath or Gospel Oak (London Overground).

Is there a car park? Yes, several.

Find out more and plan your visit here

#7 Battersea Park – Central

This Thames-side gem spans 200 acres with lakes, woodland areas, designated nature spots and open space. The park, which opened in 1858 on reclaimed Thames marshland, has a colourful history – including that of The Brown Dog affair. A statue of the same name was placed in the park in memory of dogs used in research experiments at the turn of the last century and was the subject of huge political controversy. The terrier figurine sits on a plinth in the park’s woodland, beside the Old English Garden.

Nearest station? Battersea Park (National Rail)

Is there car park? Yes

Find out more and plan your visit here.

#8 Lee Valley Park – East

This enormous 10,000 acre, 46 mile long linear park along the leafy banks of the River Lee runs from the East India Dock Basin on the River Thames in east London and up through Essex and Hertfordshire to Ware.

The park’s towpath through London takes in Walthamstow Marsh Nature Reserve, one of the few remaining pieces of the capital’s once widespread river valley grasslands. There’s also Coppermill Fields, Leyton Marsh and Tottenham Marshes, as well as plenty of reservoirs, as the park makes its way out of London. Once the park hits Waltham Cross, it opens up to the vast expanse of open spaces and lakes of the River Lee Country Park, which even has a free 500 metre dog agility course located just north of Cheshunt Railway station.

Nearest Station? There are many, it depends on where in the park you want to go.

Find out more and plan your visit here.

#9 Wimbledon Common – South West

Who wouldn’t want to romp around on Wimbledon Common, the largest expanse of heathland in London? Encompassing Putney Lower Common and Putney Heath, the conversation area covers 1,140 acres and supports a variety of wildlife, areas of mature woodland, ponds and bogland. You’ll cross paths with horse riders here as well as school children on nature trails and foragers in the autumn. If you start out from Putney, there’s a lovely walk to Wimbledon windmill with dog-friendly tea rooms to reward the foot-sore.

Nearest station? Wimbledon Park or Southfield Station (District Line)

Plan your dog walk on Wimbledon Common here

#10 Thames Path – South West

A well-trodden path by well-heeled dog owners who live locally but little known about outside the postcode. The walk offers the most pleasant, leafy views of the river, and is lined with fabulous trees which have grown huge due to the abundance of water. If you’re feeling energetic you can walk all the way from Hammersmith to Twickenham, – there are plenty of riverside pubs to stop at, several of which allow dogs on the lead.

Nearest Station? It depends where you want to start.

More info on dog walking on the Thames Path from Barnes

#11 Highgate Wood – North

A short walk from Hampstead Heath will bring you to this 70 acre ancient woodland. It’s a haven for wildlife and accessible scenic walks and, come spring, you’ll find a beautiful carpet of bluebells there. Evidence of its history dates back to prehistoric times. There are good facilities here, including a cafe, on the edges of the woodland’s central field.

Nearest train station: Highgate (Northern Line).

Is there a car park? Yes.

Find out more and plan your visit here.

What’s your favourite walk in or around London? And your favourite HBB to take with you?

We’d love to know in the comments section below.

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Haunting Halloween Recipes

Our Haunting Halloween Recipes

Halloween is an opportunity to have a little fun, from ridiculous costumes to outrageous parties.

Of course if you’re having a party, you need some suitably spooky food. We have collected and tested a few of our favourites for you.

Starting with a couple of simple appetisers. Tasty finger foods that are sure to impress.

Pumpkin puffs

  • Plain flour, for dusting the baking parchment
  • 1 standard pack of puff pastry
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 80g unsalted butter cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 190 grams finely grated Gruyere cheese
  • 130 grams of finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Generously flour two pieces of parchment paper; on each, roll out an unfolded pastry sheet to form a 15-by-13-inch rectangle, about 1/16 inch thick. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the paprika into the melted butter.

2. Remove pastry from the refrigerator, and brush off excess flour. Spread a rectangle of pastry with mustard; sprinkle with both cheeses. Season with pepper. Lay a second pastry rectangle on top.

3. Place a sheet of parchment on top of the stacked pastry; using a rolling pin, roll until smooth and pastry layers are sealed together. Remove parchment, and brush top of pastry with butter mixture. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

4. With a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter, cut into 18 to 24 shapes. Immediately place the shapes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a sharp paring knife, score each shape four or five times to make pumpkin ridges. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer puffs to a wire rack; let cool slightly before serving.

Fingers and Toes

  • Red or green food colouring, (optional, for finger nails)
  • 24 blanched almonds, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups warm water, plus 3 litres, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • Vegetable oil
  • 640g – 750g plain flour, plus some for the work surface
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Fried rosemary (optional, for toes)

Directions

1. Place a small amount of food colouring, if using, in a shallow bowl, and, using a paintbrush, colour the rounded side of each split almond; set aside to dry.

2. Pour 2 cups water into a bowl. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle in the yeast, and let stand until yeast begins to bubble (about 5 minutes). Stir in 120 grams of flour. Add in the salt and then another 400g of flour. Continue beating until dough pulls away from bowl, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rest of the flour. Beat 1 minute more. If dough is sticky, add a little more flour until the texture is right. Transfer to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, 1 minute.

3. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

4. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Bring 3 litres of water water to a boil in a large saucepan; reduce to a simmer. Add baking soda. Lightly coat two baking sheets with cooking spray. Divide dough into quarters. Work with one quarter at a time, and cover remaining dough with plastic wrap. Divide first quarter into 12 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each piece back and forth with your palm forming a long finger shape, about 3 to 4 inches. Pinch dough in two places to form knuckles. Or, to make toes, roll each piece so that it is slightly shorter and fatter, about 2 inches. Pinch in 1 place to form the knuckle. When 12 fingers or toes are formed, transfer to simmering water. Poach for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fingers to the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, blanching each set of 12 fingers or toes before making more.

5. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzel fingers and toes with the egg wash. Using a sharp knife, lightly score each knuckle about three times. Sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary, if using. Position almond nails, pushing them into dough to attach. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

For spooky coloured food you don’t have to get too creative. This gratin is delicious and there is always something a little ghoulish about black beans and sausages…

Kale and Butternut Squash Gratin

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled
  • 1/2 bunch kale (200g to 250g) stems and tough ribs removed, leaves torn into large pieces.
  • Unsalted butter, for baking dish
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 60g finely grated Parmesan
  • Fresh sage leaves
  • 90ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice squash just above bulb. Slice squash neck crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds. Cut squash bulb in half lengthwise. Remove seeds with a spoon; discard. Slice each half crosswise into 1/4-inch half-moons.

2. Set a steamer basket in a large pot filled with 1 inch water; bring to a boil. Add kale, cover, and steam until bright green and wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. Squeeze dry.

3. Butter a shallow baking dish (approx 13 by 9 in). Arrange half of sliced squash in dish, shingling pieces to overlap. Season with salt and pepper. Top with kale, season with more salt and pepper, and sprinkle with two thirds of the Parmesan and 2 tablespoons sage. Place remaining squash on top, overlapping pieces slightly; season with more salt and pepper. Pour cream over squash and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sage.

4. Cover tightly with parchment-lined foil and bake until squash is tender, about 40 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs and remaining Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, until golden, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let cool slightly before serving.

Black Bean and Sausage

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 450g of smoked sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 medium carrots, diced small
  • 2 shallots, diced small
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 470ml chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
  • 50g plain yogurt, for serving

Directions

1. In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium-high. Add sausage and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add carrots and shallots to skillet and cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add black beans and stock and bring mixture to a boil. Add sausage, reduce heat to a rapid simmer, and cook until carrots are tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Serve with more parsley and a dollop of yogurt.

Of course you will need something to drink. This one’s for the kids. But if you want a ghastly cocktail try one of these Spooky Halloween Cocktails

Blood Moon Punch

  • 1 litre of orange juice
  • 1 litre water
  • 2 litres grape juice
  • 1 ¼ litres ginger beer
  • 750ml sparkling water
  • 250ml fresh lime juice
  • Candy bats (optional)

Directions

1. For the ice moon, freeze a mixture of orange juice and water in a small bowl, around 8 in diameter. In a large punch bowl, gently stir together grape juice, ginger beer, sparkling water, and fresh lime juice. To release the moon, dip the bottom of the frozen bowl in hot water until the ice starts to melt at the edges. Remove the bowl from the water and turn it onto a plate. Place the moon in the punch, flat-side up, and if desired, arrange candy bats on top.

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8 interesting, alternative yoga options to try out

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Eight Alternative Yoga Classes to try out

Yoga – the word holds connotations of deep breathing, stillness, meditation and the silent surrounds of India’s mountain tops or colourful Mandalas. Well, this isn’t for everyone. Some people need something a little more fast-paced or intense.

So we asked ourselves, just how strange do yoga practices get?

We did a little digging and found 8 alternative yoga options that you might like to try if traditional yoga isn’t doing it for you.

  1. Rocket Yoga

Trending amongst yoga aficionados, it’s a cross between ashtanga and vinyasa, and is often thought of as the original ‘power yoga’. Developed by Larry Schultz in 1980s San Francisco, the style is meant to be more intense than traditional yoga, with faster more fluid movements and transitions.

Teachers insist that you will quickly catch on and be running through the sequences at full speed in no time at all. APart of the appeal we think is that you don’t have to master each pose before moving onto the next. It breaks a few of the traditional rules making yoga more accessible to everyone.

 

  1. Hot Pod Yoga

This takes place in what is essentially an inflatable tent (patented by Hot Pod Yoga), the space is dark, cosy, and heated to a warming 37°C. The class is an hour long and combines vinyasa flow and pilates core exercises.

Stretching and strengthening at the same time. Based in Brixton, Notting Hill and London Fields, the portable studios are also fully equipped to pop up at any requested location, be that at your birthday or at work.

Credit: Hot Pod Yoga 

  1. Barre

We’ve mentioned Barre class before, as Nancy is a big fan. These classes involve techniques from dance, yoga and fitness. The specific sequences will encourage muscles to stretch and strengthen, leaving you calm and relaxed.

Be prepared to entangle yourself in long and twisting positions.

  1. Boxing Yoga

Boxing turned to yoga, or yoga turned into boxing. Whichever way round it is the aim is to give yoga a more athletic spin.

For boxers, it is a chance to practice breathing techniques and work on balance, flexibility and stretches. For yogis, it is a chance to learn a few boxing techniques and stances.

Total Boxer now train a variety of sporting clubs.

  1. Laughter Yoga

Studies show that the actual act of laughing can make you happy. We know that sounds obvious and silly but bear with us here.

Laughter yoga is designed to be a laugh, it is designed to make you smile, to be good fun. But it still works your core muscles and combines some of the meditative ideologies from traditional yoga. The School of Laughter Yoga has regular meet-ups near the Southbank.

  1. AcroYoga

Acroyoga combines partner acrobatics with yoga techniques. It is much more than a flashy form of yoga though. It’s main purpose is to help build real human connection and trust in others.

The positions require a base, a flyer, and perhaps most importantly the spotter. It s more about technique than strength, meaning you don’t need to be a professional gymnast to do these moves.

You can trial the classes with Jaqui Wan at Gogo Yoga near Columbia Road, British School of Shiatsu in Finsbury Park and The Place near Euston.

  1. Antigravity Yoga

Antigravity yoga is exactly what it sounds like. Learn to fly at your yoga class. Dangle from silk ropes hanging from the ceiling, whilst moving through a variety of positions and holds that are sure to work your core to the limits.

It may sound daunting to swing from the ceiling doing yoga, but as with anything, the more you do the better you’ll become, and the more you’ll begin to enjoy the sense of freedom that comes from defying gravity.

  1. Stand-Up Paddle Yoga

Yoga is about balance, what better way to advance your balancing skills than by decreasing the stability of the surface you are on.

In the summer months you can try this out in Paddington Basin. The surf board that becomes your new floating yoga mat? Participants can feel free to wear their usual yoga clothing, however wetsuits are available on request, and people who are not entirely comfortable on water can also wear buoyancy aids. Private lessons are available however, in London this one is a seasonal yoga class. No one wants to be taking a tumble in the Thames during winter.

 

Tell us what you think of these… Have we missed any alternative yogas that you love? Let us know in the comment section below!