Sensory Sparks

As we start 2019, we’re looking at ways that we can all live life better.

We’re doing this by thinking about the ways that we interact with the world through our senses – how what we see, hear, smell, taste and how we feel can help us to live a better life. Each week we’ll be sharing things that you can do to have better sensory experiences – from eating certain foods to spending more time with nature.

Read on to find out how you can improve your life using your senses…

Spark one: Sign up to Action for Happiness’ 10 Keys to Happier Living

Different things will lead to feeling happy for different people but Action for Happiness has identified 10 keys that will help everyone to find happiness – giving, relating, exercising, awareness, trying out, direction, resilience, emotions, acceptance, and meaning.

They have come up with 51 practical things that you can do that will help you on the path to happiness. The actions don’t have to be big or time consuming – small things can cause big positive changes. Head to the Action for Happiness website to find out more and learn how you could feel happier.

Spark two: Expand your horizons by planning a trip overseas

How better to see, hear, smell, taste and feel new things than visiting somewhere new?

Not sure where to start? Virgin Holidays has collated recommendations from millions of social media posts to give you all the holiday inspiration you need in one place.

Take a look at the sights you could see and the food you could taste in some of Virgin Holidays’ most popular destinations on the Virgin Holidays website now.

Spark three: Eat with your eyes

Take a new approach to your food and eat foods of only one colour for one whole day. Think of it as an opportunitity to use ingredients in a new way and consider your food differently.

If you’re in need of some inspiration, head over to The Splendid Table and have a listen to Amanda Thieroff’s audio story about her week on the ROY G BIV diet, where she spent a week eating foods the colour of the rainbow – one colour a day.

Spark four: Rave your way into the day

You might not think of raving as a daytime activity and certainly not a morning activity – unless you’re still going from the night before! But Morning Gloryville has been running conscious clubbing events since 2013, kick-starting the day with inspirational, energising music and mesmerising visual entertainment.

You can expect massages, organic coffee and smoothie bars, yoga, and some personal motivation to get you going for the day. Head over to the Morning Gloryville website to find out more.

Spark five: Give your eyes a work out

Stereograms were all the rage in the 90s but did you know that training your eyes to see the 3D illusions could be good for your vision?

If you fancy getting nostalgic – and also giving your eyes a work out – you can create your own stereogram online. Or take a look at one that we’ve commissioned for our Live Life Better series below…

Sight stereogram by Heather Buchanan for Virgin.com

Spark six: Listen and learn from an elderly person

There’s a lot to be said for spending time with someone from an older generation, or even just having a chat on the phone. Take some time to speak to one of your older relatives or a neighbour and listen to their experiences of life.

If you don’t have any elderly people in your life, you can volunteer as a befriender through Age UK.

Spark seven: Try something new with Virgin Experience Days

Interested in wine tasting, beer tasting, or maybe even chilli tasting? Perhaps you want to see London from a new angle or capture your experiences in photographs? Fancy making your own perfume or learning a new dance style? Or do you just want to feel the thrill of doing something you’ve never done before?

Virgin Experience Days have got your back. With experiences covering all the senses, you’re sure to come away with a new outlook and a great story to tell. Plus they’re offering Virgin.com readers an exclusive 15 per cent off all purchases before the end of February with the code LiveBetter15.

(Code not valid against special offers or excluded products which are already at the best price possible.)

Virgin Experience Days image

Spark eight: Eat to fuel your body and mind with gut enhancing foods

Your initial instinct when you’re told to eat foods that enhance bacteria might be to assume it would make you ill. In fact many have an essential role to play in keeping you healthy.

Trillions of microbes live in your body, with your gut hosting the most dense microbe population. The microbes in your gut help with digestion, immune function and weight regulation. It makes sense then that your diet affects the bacteria in your gut – but how can you make sure you’re having the right combination of foods to give the good bacteria a boost?

Advice from the BBC says that we should eat a wide range of plant-based foods, more fibre and avoid highly processed foods. But what about foods like yoghurt, cheese, fermented foods and raw milk that are supposedly good for a healthy gut? Head to the BBC website to find out.

Spark nine: Hit the floor and give us 20 reps to improve your smell

It’ll come as no surprise to most that humans’ sense of smell is a million times less sensitive than a dog’s. But that doesn’t mean we can’t improve it. In fact, even exercise can heighten our sense of smell, according to Professor Tim Jacob from the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University.

Vigorous exercise increases adrenalin, which constricts blood vessels in the nose, which in turn increases nasal airflow. “Increased airflow will improve smell,” Professor Jacob explains. “However, the nasal volume returns to normal after exercise.”

If you want to get exercising to experience enhanced smell, check out Virgin Active.

Virgin Active image

Spark ten: Learn to play an instrument

Piano, guitar, or even the recorder – the benefits of learning to play an instrument are numerous. Not only will it help you to become a better listener and reduce your stress, learning a new instrument can also improve your posture, help you manage your time and exercise your mind.

Find out more about the benefits of playing an instrument and try the free sample lessons on ArtistWorks.

Spark eleven: Get out of the city and into the countryside. Now inhale.

Living in a big city? It’s time to get out. Get into nature, into the countryside and get some feel fresh air in those lungs.

Take some deep breaths, smell the smells and see the sights of the countryside.

Need some countryside inspiration? Head to Virgin Trains to take a look at their destinations in the Lake District and North Wales.

Spark twelve: Fast track into relaxation with a gong sound bath

Never heard of a sound bath? Stop running the taps and listen.

“Sound Therapy has been used for thousands of years in many different cultures all with the same intention; to move us from a place of imbalance to balance,” Puranshant Kaur, a yoga teacher and sound bath practitioner in Ireland explains. “Pythagoras is one of the earliest to be recorded looking into the healing properties of sound. He taught that you could heal using sound and harmonic frequencies and was the first person to prescribe 'music medicine’.”

Now you know the potential healing properties of sound, look up your nearest sound bath – if you’re in Manchester take a look at this Meet Up group.

Spark thirteen: Hug a pet to bliss out on 'cuddle chemicals'

If you already have a cuddly pet, you probably know that hugging it makes you feel better. But did you know that science has proven that having a pet is good for your health?

According to researchers at the Claremonth Graduate University in California, cuddling a pet causes the ‘cuddle chemical’ oxytocin to be released, giving a calming and soothing effect for both you and your pet. In turn this leads to the development of a strong bond between pet and owner and can have similar health benefits to human relationships. So what are you waiting for? Go and hug that pet of yours!

Spark fourteen: Find your enough to feel good with Virgin Active

Exercising isn’t about going crazy and doing so much that you can’t walk for a week. Virgin Active is encouraging you to do enough to live the life you want to live.

Sign up to Virgin Active in the UK during January and you won’t pay a joining fee – plus you’ll get January and February for free. Terms and conditions apply.

Spark fifteen: Properly chew your food to release the flavour

Want to have the best tasting meal? The secret could be in the chewing.

American health food expert Horace Fletcher was famous for his views on chewing, advocating for food to be chewed at least 100 times per minute. He claimed that by excessively chewing food it would mix properly with saliva and he would be able to draw more strength from less food.

He put his theory to the test aged 58 by going up against athletes from Yale University in tests of strength and endurance – and outperforming them in every test. Find out more about the benefits of chewing your food thoroughly.

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