I can never emphasise enough the importance of making our wellness rituals a non-negotiable part of our daily lives. It is so easy for self-care to slip to the end of our to-do lists, but it is absolutely vital that we make it a priority if we want to stay happy and healthy.
I’ve talked before about my own non-negotiable wellness practices. Obviously, Face Yoga is one of these. Another is walking, so I was thrilled to meet with Julia Bradbury recently on Instagram live to discuss our shared love of walking.
You’ll probably recognise Julia as the presenter of many wonderful walking shows, including the recent Cornwall and Devon Walks on ITV. She’s passionate about inspiring people to get outdoors, spend time in nature, and her shows also share plenty of health and wellness tips.
We talked about walking, Yoga, sustainable fitness wear, life as a working mum, and more. I also showed Julia some easy Face Yoga moves to strengthen and tone the lower face. You can catch up with our full conversation on my YouTube channel.
Both Julia and I agree on the massive benefits of making Walking and Yoga/Face Yoga a part of our daily routines. Today, I want to share some of those benefits and encourage you to make these two forms of exercises a non-negotiable part of your own day.
The Benefits of Walking
I’ve always loved walking (apart from when I was a kid and apparently I used to moan a lot on my Dad’s long walks!!), but it wasn’t until last year’s first lockdown that it became a daily habit for me. When we were only able to leave our houses once a day, it quickly became clear how essential time in nature is for our physical and mental wellbeing.
I’ve vowed to make walking every day a lifetime habit because of the benefits I saw for my own mood and mental health, especially during such a stressful time.
As Julia points out, humans evolved to spend most of our time outdoors. It is only fairly recently that we’ve started to live such busy urban lives. And we simply aren’t designed to live this way all the time.
We’re meant to spend time in nature and to have that deep connection to the world. Julia works closely with a psychotherapist called Jonathan Hoban, who believes everyone should be prescribed 20 minutes of walking every day to boost their mental health.
There’s plenty of evidence from scientific studies that walking in green spaces changes how our brains think. We’re wired to notice fractals – the patterns that occur in nature – and these have a calming effect on our minds. Recent evidence suggests that walking even increases the blood flow to our brains.
One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that more of us now recognise how spending time walking in nature can help us feel healthier, give us more clarity, and revive us.
How to Make Walking a Daily Habit
Since that first lockdown, I’ve committed to making walking a daily habit. Ideally, that looks like a long walk in nature. But on busy days, it might just be a ten-minute wander around the block.
The point is not to make it a chore, but to give yourself the flexibility to incorporate walking in whatever way works with your schedule.
Of course, if you work for someone else, you might be wondering how you can go for a walk on working days.
It’s a question Julia is asked a lot. When she talks about the necessity of walking every day, someone will inevitably reply “oh right, I’ll tell the boss then”. Her response? “Yes – Do!”
More and more workplaces are waking up to the benefits of giving their employees time to exercise and get outdoors. As well as helping us feel happier and healthier, walking gives us a break from our screens. This reduces burnout and helps us be more productive.
If you are still working from home, one of the benefits is the added flexibility to take time during the day to go for a walk or do an online yoga class. But even if you are back in the office, it is important that we all start having conversations about the value of walking outdoors with our bosses and colleagues. It’s good for employee wellbeing and for the company’s bottom line.
If your company really won’t budge, perhaps try taking walking, talking meetings instead of sitting in a stuffy meeting room. It might take a little creativity to change office culture, but once others begin to see the benefits, they’ll hopefully become more open to the idea.
If you have some days when taking a walk really isn’t practical, there are other ways you can connect with nature.
Something I love to do is take off my socks and shoes and walk barefoot in my garden. Even just a few minutes of contact with the earth can be incredibly grounding. It is a way to connect with nature instantaneously.
You can also bring nature to you. Bring plants into your home and office to brighten your environment and boost your mood.
Yoga and Face Yoga
Walking is a fantastic form of exercise to relax and calm our minds. Another form of exercise I believe everyone should do daily is Yoga and Face Yoga.
Julia agrees. She started practising yoga around 10 years ago but got into it more seriously when she was expecting her twins. She finds it hugely beneficial for her mental health as well as her physical fitness.
Yoga is very meditative and is well-known for combining physical poses with breathwork and mindfulness. Even on my busiest days, I’ll at least spend a few minutes in Child’s Pose. Yoga can be restful and restorative as well as active and energising.
Of course, most forms of Yoga stop at the neck, which is why I am so passionate about encouraging people to embrace face yoga too. We tend to forget we have muscles in our faces as well. Many people are surprised when they first use my techniques and realise just how much of a workout Face Yoga can give those muscles.
As well as strengthening and toning the facial muscles, Face Yoga boosts the blood circulation to our face and skin. This increased blood flow brings extra oxygen and nutrients to our muscles and skin cells, making our skin healthier and brighter.
Face Yoga also works with our energy, called Prana in Yoga. We use techniques that unblock stagnant energy and get it flowing freely again, boosting the health and appearance of our skin.
Plus, we use massage techniques to soothe and release tension from our faces. This is an area where we hold so much emotion, so relaxing these muscles can do wonders for our mood too.
When Northwestern University in America studied the effects of face yoga, they found that women who practised for 30 minutes every day for 20 weeks looked on average 3 years younger.
I never encourage anyone to fight so hard that they want to get rid of lines and signs of ageing altogether. Lines aren’t a bad thing! They tell the story of our lives. My aim is to help people love their faces as they are and to teach techniques that keep our skin healthy and our muscles strong.
How to Make Face Yoga a Daily Habit
Just like with walking, I believe in little and often for Face Yoga. Making a commitment to do at least a minute a day is a small thing, but it helps you get into the routine of making self-care a priority.
There are many Face Yoga techniques that you can do at any time of day. But it is often easiest to make it part of your morning or evening skincare routine since that is a time when you are already focusing on your face.
Excitingly, I also have a new tool to help you make Face Yoga a regular part of your daily routine. My new book, the Face Yoga Journal, comes out very soon. It contains 52 weeks’ worth of Face Yoga techniques, wellness hacks, and motivational quotes to accompany you on your journey.
Plus, the book has plenty of space for you to make your own notes, record your progress, and hold yourself accountable. You can find it on Amazon here.