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Get the feel good factor this summer

Spring is all about new beginnings and starting over. It's the perfect opportunity to take control of your own happiness by introducing activities into your life that make you feel better about yourself. To celebrate the new season we've listed eight ways for you to pull yourself out of your winter slump. If you make these a regular part of your life, by the time next autumn rolls around, no amount of bad weather will be able to put the freeze on your good mood.

1. Find an exercise routine that you love
The benefits of exercise go far beyond simply keeping fit and healthy. The endorphins released when you work out give you a natural high and the long-term psychological benefits of doing the best thing that you possibly can for your body are immense.

However, there's no point in slogging through an exercise routine that you hate. Try to find something that appeals to you a dance class, swimming, yoga, running or weights it doesn't really matter as long as you get your heart rate up and do it regularly.

2. Keep calm and breathe
Deep breathing releases toxins and invigorates the mind and body, but our hurried modern lifestyles mean that you often forget to breathe properly. You may spend your days hunched over a computer, slouching in your car in traffic, or just rushing around taking quick shallow breaths because you're always in a state of slight panic. The best way to fill your body with life-giving oxygen which fights disease and energises the body and mind is to take deep diaphragmatic breaths into your belly. Try to remember to adjust your breathing throughout the day especially when you're feeling stressed or panicked and you will notice a world of difference.

3. Avoid the short-term fix of caffeine
There are a lot of good reasons to avoid stimulants. Although you may feel like your body needs your morning cup of coffee, that need is in fact a sign of addiction. Unless you keep feeding that addiction, you'll end up anxious, jittery, tired and tense. But if you keep drinking that coffee, it increases the stress hormones and insulin levels in your body, it harms your essential gut flora and it makes it difficult to rely on your body's natural energy reserves.

We're not suggesting you ban the beans entirely, but be aware that this daily treat is actually doing far more harm than good especially if you've tipped over the one or two cups a day mark.

4. Get enough sleep
If you are cramming more hours into your day by sleeping less, you aren't doing yourself any favours. Being short on sleep can make you emotional and irritable, and slow your reflexes and your thinking. In the long term, people who don't sleep enough are at greater risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, headaches and depression. The bottom line is that you need to prioritise sleep schedule your eight hours of shut-eye just like you plan for everything else that you do.

5. Eat the right foods
Whenever women talk about foods that cheer them up, chocolate is top of the list. That's all well and good for a treat, but the foods that really give you energy and boost your mood are usually far simpler. Try a piece of fruit and some cottage cheese or almonds, a bowl of berries and Greek yoghurt or a salad crammed full of nuts, feta and cucumber.

If you know that you have bad food habits like too much sugar or junk food make a resolution to save your indulgence for Sundays only. Your greatest weapon against poor nutrition is planning ahead, so fill your fridge and pantry with heart-healthy, sugar-free, low-carb snacks and don't be at the mercy of the office vending machine.

6. Make time to meditate
If your first response to this point was, Who has time to meditate? then that's saying something right there. For some people, meditation is about getting in touch with a deeper spirituality, for others it's simply about taking the time to try to clear their heads and slow down. Either way, it is hugely beneficial for your state of mind and your stress levels.

You don't need to do a transcendental meditation course to get started - just look up a practice on the internet, or light a candle, take a few deep breaths and try to clear your mind or focus on a mantra that's relevant to you.

7. Fill your life with positive people
Everyone has friends and family members who are a drain on their emotional resources, and others who radiate positive energy. Try to spend more time with the people who add value with positive contributions like moral support or good (wanted) advice.

A good rule of thumb is that if you come away from an encounter with a friend feeling positive and happy, then those are the friendships you should nurture. And quietly distance yourself from the ones that leave you feeling sad or depleted.

8. Spring-clean your home and your mind
It's not called spring-cleaning for nothing. When there's new life and warm weather, it just gets so much easier to get to all the little tasks you've been putting off all winter. And cleaning out your physical space has massive benefits for your head space as well.

At the same time, you could go through a mental spring-clean. That fight you had with a close friend? Make amends and move on. That promotion you didn't get at work? Let go of the resentment and plan how to get ahead the next time. That thing your partner said and you aren't sure what he meant? Discuss it when you are both relaxed and in a good mood. Let go of any negative obsessive thoughts, and try to look to the future with positivity.

Another way to de-clutter your brain is to identify problem areas in your life and set yourself goals for dealing with them. That way, when you start to worry about a problem, you will have a deadline for dealing with it.

Keep at it!
While keeping happy can seem like a lot of hard work, most of these steps become second nature if you just make them a regular part of your routine. Get through the summer breathing deeply, meditating, exercising and eating right, and you will greet every season with a spring in your step.

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