How to get rid of rounded shoulders quickly and easily

  • Are your shoulders rounded?
  • Are you developing a dowager's hump?
  • Would you like to feel stronger?
  • Would you like to appear younger?

If you've answered YES to any of the above then I can highly recommend this simple but very effective posture exercise. Surfing YouTube one day, I came across an excellent video by posture expert Dr Natalie Cordova. I tried it out and almost immediately I noticed a difference.

I've never had good posture. I'm quite tall and I find that if I don't exercise to build core strength my back seems unable to support itself. I often slouch and when I do my shoulders come forward and my back becomes rounded. This collapsed, rounded posture is still there when I stand up.

Like most people I can sit and stand straight when I put my mind to it but as soon as my wind wanders on to something else my muscles relax and before I realise what's happening I'm slouching over my desk or stooping like someone twice my age.

I know how to build core strength in my abdomen and lower back but I hadn't realised how easy it is to work the muscles that keep the shoulders back and the chest open; prerequisites for good posture.

Have a look at Natalie's video and see just how easy it is.

Obviously Natalie is wearing her sports kit to demonstrate the posture exercise but I do it no matter what I'm wearing: pyjamas, work clothes, jeans. It really doesn't matter. I do this brilliant posture exercise whenever I feel like it. Like all exercises it only works if you do it regularly so I make sure I do it every day.

It only takes a minute or two and I have found that it works well even without the added weights. I don't have dumb-bells but if they're to hand I'll grab a couple of cans of chickpeas. (A couple of cans of Special Brew would work too!)  And you can do this posture exercise anywhere. I do it when waiting for the kettle to boil, when I go up and down stairs, when I'm dancing round the kitchen to my favourite music ... I do it every day for just a few minutes because I know that it really works!

When I started doing this posture exercise I noticed a difference after just two days. I sat more upright,  I was aware that my back was straighter when I walked and when I looked in the mirror I could see that my shoulders were noticeably less rounded. I felt stronger and my body looked younger. And all with very little effort, no time out of my day and without even breaking a sweat. What's not to like about that?!

There isn't really much else to say except ... Try It ... It Works!

So now you know how to get rid of rounded shoulders. Let me tell you how to get rid of a bloated tum.

How to achieve what you put your mind to

Have you ever decided to take up a hobby, pursuit, exercise regime, diet, behaviour or whatever and after an initial period of enthusiasm lost interest, got bored or repeatedly managed to find excuses not to do it, to the point that you just gave up?

If the answer is YES then read on and discover:
  • why you may be self-sabotaging
  • how to use language to motivate yourself
  • a simple and effective way to get the behaviour you desire 
Listen to your 
internal dialogue
    If you've ever started something only to find that after the initial flurry of enthusiasm, you were running an internal dialogue with yourself as to why it would be better to do something less challenging instead, then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. There can be no end to the excuses we come up with to avoid the discomfort of doing something that we know, in the long run, will do us a whole lot of good.
      It's a very common situation. How many exercise bikes sit unused in the spare room? How many novels lie unfinished? How many 'to do' lists are left undone? (There's often at least one item that moves from one list to the next - repeatedly avoided?) How many diets never make it beyond the first week? Gym memberships unused? Meditation practices begun with great enthusiasm only to peter out after a few weeks?

      Years ago I gave up an evening yoga class that I really enjoyed. Each week as the class came around I had a whole list of reasons why I wasn't going to go: my friend's not going / it's dark outside / it's cold outside / I'm too tired / I can't be bothered (yes at that point I couldn't even be bothered to come up with a good excuse!) / I can easily miss one week (yes I could and I did and I missed 'one' week for so long that I forgot that I had even gone to a yoga class in the first place). Very quickly 'I go to yoga' changed to 'I used to go to yoga' which is now 'I went to yoga years ago but I didn't keep it up'. Do I wish I had kept it up. Hell yes! Of course I do! But I didn't. The part of me that didn't like being told what to do and couldn't cope with the discomfort that came from making the effort to go, won the battle that was going on in my head.

      There's a part of us that self-sabotages

      Often when we want to do something to improve ourselves or our situation there can be a part of us that sabotages that desire for change; the lazy, procrastinating part that prefers to stick with the easy option of keeping things just as they are. The 'can't be bothered', 'I'll do it tomorrow' part that can always think of a reason not to do whatever it is that you planned to do in the name of self-development.

      Think of that part as a belligerent child who doesn't like being told what to do. If you tell someone to do something they don't want to do they are quite likely to exercise their desire for autonomy, dig their heals in and refuse, often with all the grim determination of a three year old or, worse still, a teenager! Children tend to live in the moment and so they are often unable to see the point of doing something just to reap the benefits in the future. That part of you that doesn't like being told what to do is behaving like a child, sabotaging your efforts because he/she doesn't like being told what to do and resisting simply because he/she can!

      The inflexible demands we make of ourselves can provoke a response that is equally inflexible. Recently, before an exam, I realised that I would do anything other than the studying that I SHOULD be doing. My house has never been so tidy! I could have earned an honorary degree in pottering such was the amount of time that I wasted. I kept telling myself that 'I HAD to study', 'I MUST study', 'I NEED to study' and of course the stubborn part of me that doesn't like being told what to do became quite determined that that was the last thing she was going to do. So each day 'must study' would go on my 'to do' list and each day 'must study' would be left undone.

      The truth is there is no law that says that I must study. The demand I was making was simply untrue. I didn't HAVE to study. I didn't NEED to study. True, if I didn't study I would undoubtedly fail my exam and I would be disappointed but the world wouldn't end because of that. So each time I told myself that I 'HAD' to study there was another part saying 'Really? I don't think so!' And before I knew it I would be off dusting the light bulbs again!

      Try changing your self-talk

      I realised that if I wanted to pass my exam I would need to take a new approach. There's a famous quote by W. L. Bateman that puts this very succinctly.

      'If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always got.'
      And so I became curious. What would happen if I changed my attitude? Changed my self-talk? Changed the demand to a preference? So I did just that and something shifted. The whole quality of the inner dialogue changed. 

      When I began to tell myself that 'I would like to study', I want to study', 'I would prefer to study', 'I choose to study' a very strange thing happened. I studied. Studying became something that I wanted to do and in time I even began to enjoy it. It felt satisfying to be doing something productive. I no longer felt guilty, the way I had each time I had put off studying and it all felt very good.

      I began to think about how this applied to other times in my life. When I began the yoga class it was because I WANTED to go to yoga and so in the beginning it was no effort to go. It was my choice. I wasn't telling myself that I had to go so there was nothing for my belligerent part to argue about. But after a while I began telling myself that I HAD to go to yoga, I MUST go to yoga and so that part of me began to put up resistance and the internal battle began. I would come up with all sorts of reasons not go to yoga and then feel guilty and lazy and confused as to why I was sabotaging myself.

      Often when we want to make a change we create a demand. this can be most obvious when it comes to diet and exercise. If you ever tell yourself anything along the lines of: 'I MUST lose weight', 'I NEED to stop eating chocolate', 'I HAVE to work out to lose my pot-belly'. You are making a strong demand on yourself and so you're kind of scuppered before you even begin. Try changing those demands to preferences and see how much easier they are to accept: 'I choose to lose weight', 'I prefer not to eat chocolate', 'I would like to work out to lose my pot belly'.

      Change your focus

      Those statements are definitely more acceptable but you can even go a stage further. Rather than focusing on what you don't want try focusing on what you do want. This will give your unconscious mind a goal to move towards. We tend to get what we think about so it's better to think about what you DO want rather than what you don't. And using a phrase that applies in both the present and the future helps too.

      'I choose to be slim and healthy', 'I prefer to eat healthy and nutritious food', 'I like to work out so that I have a flat stomach'.

      Don't take my word for it though. Try it yourself and see what happens. Pick something that you have been struggling with and see if changing your self-talk helps you achieve what you want to achieve.

      Let me know how you get on - I would love to hear your comments. 

      How to bake wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free cake

      For a moist and tasty vegan-friendly, wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free (cake free!) cake try this recipe courtesy of Doves Farm.

      125g/5oz sugar
      6tbs sunflower oil
      1tbs vanilla extract
      Half a ripe banana
      150g/6oz Gluten Free Self-Raising Flour from Doves Farm
      4tbs water
      1tsp oil for greasing
      2tbs jam or fruit spread
      1tsp icing sugar

      Oven 190c/Fan 170c/Gas 5

      1. Lightly oil an 18cm/7" round cake tin or line with greaseproof paper.

      2. Beat together the sugar, sunflower oil and vanilla extract.

      3. Mash the banana and add to mixture.

      4. Add the flour and water and mix well.

      5. Dollop mixture in to prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with a wet knife.

      6. Bake in a preheated oven for 35 minutes.

      7. Remove from tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

      8. Slice horizontally through the centre with a bread knife.

      9. Spread one half with jam or fruit spread (if you want to keep the sugar content down - St.
      Dalfour ones are delicious) and place the other half on top.

      10. Sieve a light dusting of icing sugar over the top.

      11. Enjoy!

      My lovely friend Jan very kindly made this for me (my diet's wheat and dairy free) and I think even she was surprised at how good it tasted. It's a fairly solid cake but it doesn't have the dry, crumbly texture of a lot of gluten free baking. It was very moist and very moreish!

      I would post a photo but the cake wasn't around long enough for me to get my camera out. Or maybe I was just too busy enjoying it to think of much else.

      Do you have a favourite 'free from' recipe - or a good tip for anyone with a restricted diet? All contributions gratefully received! 

      How to get rid of a cold with store cupboard remedies

      Want to know how to treat the common cold with natural remedies made from store cupboard ingredients?

      Here's how to -
      • make a remedy for sore throats that really works
      • clear a blocked nose quickly and easily
      • reduce cold symptoms with store cupboard staples
      I don't know about you but for me one of the first signs of a cold is a sore throat. That faint but distinctive sensation as I swallow lets me know that all is not well and it's time to take action. I know that if I react quickly enough with my tried and tested sore throat cure it'll be gone within a day; if not sooner.

      One of the best sore throat remedies I know of couldn't be simpler.

      It only uses two ingredients that are always available -  
      salt and water

      My belief, when it comes to acute conditions such as sore throats and colds, is that it's better to help the body fight the symptoms with something natural than suppressing them with medication so I tend to raid the kitchen store cupboard for a natural remedy whenever I can.

      As soon as you feel a sore throat coming on dissolve about half a teaspoonful of salt in, perhaps, a third of a cup of water; I usually boil the kettle. (Sorry I'm a bit vague about quantities because it doesn't seem to make much difference). Wait till the solution has cooled to body temperature. You can check it by dipping a finger in. If it feels too hot it probably is so wait a bit longer.

      Then all you do is gargle. Best to do this over the bathroom sink rather than the kitchen sink - for obvious reasons! Just hold the solution in the back of your throat, gargle and spit. This is one of the most effective gargles for sore throats that you can get. You can make it any time and use as often as you think you need to. Just be sure that you don't swallow any of the solution.

      Gargling with salt water should not only cure a sore throat but stop a cold developing any further. Whenever I've used this technique it has worked, pretty much straight away, but it is important to do it as soon as you feel the symptom coming on. The quicker you act, the better.

      Clear a blocked nose

      Well, the same salt solution can be used to relieve nasal congestion. This is slightly trickier. You need to lean over the sink and, whilst holding one nostril closed with a finger (although if your really bunged up that may not be necessary) tip your head slightly to one side and inhale the solution.

      I admit it's really not pleasant but then neither are the symptoms of a cold. But this is so effective at unblocking noses that I can even get my, less than biddable, children to do it because they know just how much better they'll feel afterward.

      The solution should ease the congestion or reduce the dripping if it's a runny nose that's the problem. Just make sure that you spit out whatever runs in to your mouth.

      Boost your immune system 

      After using the salt solution to treat your sore throat or blocked nose be sure and drink plenty of water. And I recommend a high does of Vitamin C. You may not have this in your kitchen cupboard but it is great to have on stand-by. You should find Vitamin C in doses of up to 1000 mg. This is a therapeutic dose that will help boost your immune system and so help your body to fight the cold symptoms. Zinc is good too and often comes combined with Vitamin C.

       Brew up a natural remedy to fight infection

      Well, this natural cold remedy is even less pleasant than snorting salt water but - it works! So why not try it and see for yourself? It's easiest to use a caffetiere but you could just strain it afterward.

      Use whatever you have to hand of the following: garlic, ginger, lemon, chili, honey (Manuka if you have it). Once again there aren't any measurements but I would go easy on the chili, especially if you suffer from any digestive problems, in which case you may want to leave it out. I definitely wouldn't use it if you have an ulcer. Also please note that I wouldn't recommend this natural cold remedy for anyone that's of a delicate disposition or who has problems with blood pressure.

      Just chop up the ingredients, pour on boiling water and leave to stand whilst you summon up the courage to drink it. You don't need to take big gulps just sips will do. Garlic is antibiotic and antibacterial and it's excellent at loosening mucous (better out than in!), lemon is high in antioxidants such as Vitamin C which boost immunity and ginger and chili are included because they are so warming for the body and an increase in body temperature can be all that's needed to kill off the bacteria that's present.

      Children develop a fever for this reason. It's the body's way of fighting off infection. We tend to lose that ability in adulthood but having a hot bath or drinking this very warming concoction can promote a safe increase in body temperature and have the same effect.

      Do you have any tried and tested natural remedies to reduce cold symptoms? 
      I'd love to hear them. Feel free to post a comment!