There’s no magic bullet when it comes to happiness. Or is there? A raft of new treatments from exercise to injectables now promise to boost mood. But do they? Grazia investigates...
There are Instagram feeds that preach it, schools that teach it, studies that research it and beauty treatments that promise it... but how easy is it to find happiness? A study conducted by Mintel reveals close to 100 percent of us say mental health is now as important as physical health. And it’s this newfound holistic attitude that’s driving a boom in wellness brands across the globe. At the Global Wellness Summit in Palm Beach, Florida, mindfulness therapies were cited as the top trend expected to grow exponentially over the next decade, with predictions that meditation bars like LA’s Unplug could soon be as common a destination for mood-lifting as a trip to the gym. In a bid to crack the calming code, we tried, cried and ate our way through eight happiness therapies. But did our moods improve?
On Trial: Exploration Workouts with personal trainer and influencer Sophie Everard
Tester Rose Beer, health and beauty director
What's the drill? ‘Sophie alternated between a day of sport, such as wild swimming, climbing or boxing, and a day of strength training. Most of the sessions were outdoors as Sophie believes happiness comes from making exercise an adventure and connecting with nature. Research also shows that the colour green (like trees, grass and other plants) makes exercise feel easier, too. From circuit training in Fulham to swimming front and back crawl in the Hampstead Heath ponds, I also took up spinning and went climbing – my body was challenged and my mind felt fully engaged.’
Feel-good factor ‘Changing up my workouts and coming out of my comfort zone was a real revelation. It allowed me to completely switch off from work and drama with friends. My brain was solely concentrating on my body for the first time and that definitely had a positive effect. Overall, I had more resilience; I was noticeably calmer and less anxious. I felt stronger and braver too – every session left me feeling epic!’
How to book: Sessions cost £70 an hour, £350 for five, or £650 for 10. Sophie also leads retreats, with surfing, horse riding and trail running; madtoliveblog.com.
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On Trial: Cryotherapy at 111CRYO, Harvey Nichols
Tester Sam Freedman, associate beauty editor
What's the drill? ‘Cryotherapy is a three-minute treatment in an ice-cold (-85 ̊) glass chamber. I’m told the benefits are endless, from tightening pores to relieving muscles and boosting mood, as the rush of circulation produces feel-good endorphins. As I embarked on the first of five sessions, I was asked to change into shorts and a crop top, socks, snow slippers, gloves, a headband (to cover my ears) and a surgical mouth mask, before my body temperature was taken. The chill is bracing when you first enter, but to distract me, I was guided through exercises like jumping jacks to music. Immediately after exiting, my body temperature was taken again and it was below 17 ' – the desired number.
Feel-good factor There’s no denying that being that cold in little clothing isn’t the most pleasant, but three minutes flies by when you’re squatting to the beat of Drake. After the third session, especially the morning ones, I felt chirpier, had more energy and my muscles no longer felt niggly. Plus, my complexion was clearer. I sprang out of bed without any head fuzz – which for a night owl was a revelation. The more sessions I had, the more I wanted to go back!
How to book £96 per session; 111CRYO.com.
On Trial: A Mood-Enhancing Diet with Hala El-Shafie nutritionist and presenter of Channel 4's 'How To Lose Weight Well'
Tester Annabelle Jones, health and beauty journalist
What's the drill? ‘As I’ve been struggling with poor sleep and low mood levels, Hala explained that I needed to boost immunity by eating more micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from fruits and vegetables, aiming for as many bright colours on my plate as possible. Salmon is key as it’s high in omega-3, which reduces feelings of depression. It’s also rich in vitamin B12 – when low, this prohibits the production of serotonin, which regulates feelings of depression. Sugar and alcohol were off-limits as they are mood-drainers, but I could indulge in dark chocolate, which produces an amino acid that increases dopamine, and bananas, which improve sleep and reduce anxiety. I snacked on omega- rich nuts and was told to flavour my food with chilli, which sends signals to the brain to release endorphins.’
Feel-good factor ‘After a week, I felt lighter, brighter and like a fog had lifted. I no longer woke in the night, which made me less cranky.’
How to book Hala offers workshops and retreats through nutrition-rocks.co.uk.
On Trial: Spiritual Healing with Padma Shankar Coram and Grace Belgravia
Tester: Marian Paterson, acting picture editor
What's the drill? ‘After a consultation, Padma began with a body scan, which involved me lying on the bed with an eye mask and blanket over me. Starting at my feet, she moved her healing hands above my body. When she got to my stomach, I burst out crying – it turns out I was holding onto a lot of negative emotion in my tummy. She asked me to think about the sadness and how long it had been with me. Then she taught me a breathing exercise to exhale the negative experiences from my body and replace them with positive thoughts through gratitude, visualisation and affirmations.’
Feel-good factor ‘I was shocked but also amazed at how direct and impactful my session was. I felt like she’d tapped into my energy not just mentally but physically too, with an odd but reassuring sense of warmness over areas like my stomach. The night following my treatment, I had a deep and peaceful sleep – one of the best I’ve ever had. Equipped with some of the techniques she taught me, I left feeling more able to cope with stress and sadness. I now take the time to breathe and visualise positive outcomes. As a result, I feel more confident and happy in myself, especially since practising gratitude.’
How to book Padma offers a variety of healing techniques as well as hosting workshops. A 90-minute appointment costs from £270. Visit gracebelgravia.com.
On Trial: LED Light Treatment, The Light Salon, Harvey Nichols
Tester Chanelle Ho, beauty assistant
What's the drill? ‘Known for naturally boosting collagen, correcting flaws and healing blemishes, each LED facial light treatment begins with deep pore cleansing before going under the light. There are two coloured lights to choose from, each with a slightly different benefit – blue kills bacteria and wards off blemishes, while yellow acts to boost glow and plump skin. During the 15-minute treatment, the therapist performs a relaxing facial massage. The light (I went for yellow) felt warm and cocooning on my skin, as if I had my eyes closed facing direct sunlight. It didn’t burn or feel uncomfortable at all. I had three facial light treatments over a week.’
Feel-good factor ‘I had been feeling down about my skin breakouts, yet after just one treatment, my skin looked tighter, clearer and brighter. Maybe it was something to do with the serotonin-boosting effects of the LED, but I walked into the office with a newfound confidence and sense of relaxation. I felt calmer in myself and had a clearer attitude, which was really rewarding.’
How to book Skin Health & Rejuvenation ExpressLED, £35 for 15 mins; thelight-salon.com.
On Trial: Mindfulness with Terrence The Teacher at Harrods' Wellness Clinic
Tester Lisa Howard, production director
What's the drill? ‘Over three one-hour sessions, Terrence guided me through seven breathing exercises. I sat with my hands on my knees, eyes closed, against a backdrop of gentle music, a calming orange glow and soothing aroma. The key is to breathe through the belly, like we do as babies, and bring your attention to your breath without judgement.’
Feel-good factor ‘Terrence taught me “mindful living” techniques, such as appreciating a particular colour, or putting my attention into the physical sensations of daily tasks when I felt a sudden sorrow or stress. I did this during my commute, at work and at home, too. The more I practised, the better I felt – remembering to keep it up was the tricky part. I definitely felt a feel-good factor at the end of a session, but a week after the last one I’d veered off track slightly – regular appointments would be beneficial.’
How to book A one-hour Introduction To Mindfulness (from 1 Sept) costs £300, Harrods. Call 020 7225 5678; email email@example.com.
On Trial: Five Element Acupuncture with Ross J Barr
Tester Melissa Henry, editorial assistant & digital sub editor
What's the drill? ‘Ross began by asking questions about my emotional state. I’d just been to a festival, so I was still feeling the effects of drinking and dancing all night, as well as the stress of everyday city life. As I lay down, he inserted the needles one by one, starting at my feet, and asked me to identify areas that were painful. Quickly, he recognised that I have a hot liver, and I was astounded he knew I was waking up between 1 and 3am while I slept, as this is the time when the liver detoxes. I also felt pain in my back and shoulders.’
Feel-good factor ‘While the needles were uncomfortable, the experience brought me more in tune with my emotions. I felt at peace with myself and the tension in my neck and shoulders had virtually gone. I felt happier after just one session, but attending more would offer even more benefits.’
How to book 45 mins costs £80. Visit rossbarr.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. App: rossbarr.gappt.com.
On Trial: Botox with Dr Michael J. Prager
Tester Laura Antonia Jordan, fashion news & features editor
What's the drill? ‘Research has shown that Botox on frown lines can curb depression. I think mine make me appear scowly and bitchy, which has affected my self-esteem. Michael explained that the motion of frowning creates a negative emotion, so when that muscle is relaxed, and you can no longer frown, it can actually make you feel happier. Michael asked me to frown then, as I relaxed, he injected my lines. It was quick and less painful than expected.’
Feel-good factor ‘My frown lines have gone but I still have movement in my forehead, so it’s not obvious. Several people mentioned how radiant I look. I do feel happier – it sounds crazy, but not being able to scrunch up my face so much works! Botox is something I never thought I needed, but I will definitely book in again when the effects fade.’
How to book From £595. Visit drmichaelprager.com.