Siesta bars new trend in France for stressed workers

cbkSiesta bars are the new trend in France with establishments opening  across the country.

ZZZen, the first to offer stressed workers a midday nap, charges €12 for a 15-minute micro-siesta and €27 for a 45-minute royal siesta.

A French TV programme, Envoyé Spécial, recently reported that a third of French managers had fallen asleep in meetings and that the nation could benefit from a lunchtime siesta. “Well-being and productivity would benefit if all executives followed this example“.

Le Monde then published an article saying that a siesta reduced stress and dimished sensitivity to pain.

Surprisingly perhaps 17% of French HR Managers thought it was OK for employees to sleep at work and welcomed the development. I’d like to run that by HR managers in the UK!

La sieste is a long-standing French tradition and not restricted, as I thought to Spain and Portugal. Workers used to take 2 hours for lunch and go home for a plate of steak and chips washed down by red wine followed by a nap.  Now, as in most developed countries, the lunch break is a mere 22 minutes on average and the journey to work time around 45 minutes so it’s no longer possible to have that midday energy boost.

Doctors and executives are blaming this for the rise of an irritable and unproductive workforce. The founder of ZZZen discovered this for himself when he worked at an American investment bank in London and enjoyed a sandwich at his desk for lunch.

ZZZen‘s clients include shoppers who want to relax and executives who want to boost their performance.

I think it’s a great idea. Vive La France!

A few years ago (2011) I posted about French lunchtime habits being under attack

You have to feel sorry for the French riot police, the CRS. They’ve been told they can no longer have a glass of wine with their lunch when on duty!

The police union aren’t happy about this attack on a Gallic tradition of having a 1/4 litre of red with their meals. The union is suggesting a very French compromise – having their meals and drink out of sight of the public. Other police departments are watching with more than interest as they fear the same rule will be applied to them.

French employment law prohibits alcohol in the workplace with the exception of, wine, beer, apple or pear cider (so now you know the French definition of alcohol) and police regulations forbid drinking altogether but this has always been officially ignored (and you have to admire the French for their willingness to ignore rules and regulations).

The CRS spend most of their time waiting to deal with riots and see the wine as a convivial tradition. Unfortunately last year riot police were seen drinking beer during demonstrations they were supposed to be policing.

Happiness gap widens in Britain

figure_holding_happy_sad_signs_1600_wht_10227On average people in Britain are happier than ever rating their happiness at 7.5 out of 10 according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Personal well-being has improved every year since 2012 suggesting people are feeling more positive about life.

However there is also slight growth in inequality between people who rate their lives highly and those who report low levels (below 4 out of 10).

The survey started in 2011/12 and people are asked to rate their overall satisfaction with life, feeling that the things they do are worthwhile, their happiness, and their level of anxiety.

Experts say that happiness levels often fall during periods of rapid change, for example during the recession which started in 2007/8, and that only now do people feel an improvement in their personal well-being. Areas with higher unemployment e.g. the northeast and Humberside, have shown no change in their low levels of well-being.

The northwest is the region with the largest average improvement in life satisfaction, being worthwhile, and happiness, over the last two years.

The happiest areas

  1. Fermanagh & Omagh, Northern Ireland
  2. Ribble Valley, Lancashire
  3. Eilean Siar, Outer Hebrides
  4. West Somerset
  5. Orkney Islands

Unhappiest areas

  1. Bolsover, Derbyshire
  2. Cannock Chase, Staffordshire
  3. Dundee City
  4. Dover
  5. Liverpool

Future-proofing your health

looking_in_mirror_successful_1600_wht_5648Scientists have found that making behavioural changes now can significantly improve your health in 20 years time.

They reached these conclusions after following thousands of people over a twenty year period to see what impact diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices made.


Gentle and sustained exercise every day is good for your brain and can cut the risk of developing dementia by 40% according to a study that tracked people in a community in Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948.

A 20 year study into female nurses found that those who walked  30 minutes a day scored significantly better on mental-health tests.

However three years down the line the advice for a healthy heart is that it’s not good enough just to exercise – it  has to be intense.

Danish researchers recently reported a study of 10,000 adults in the BMJ which showed that a daily power walk or jog could cut the risk of heart disease by 50% whereas a slow amble made no difference.

The fast walking halved the risk of metabolic syndrome – a collection of factors such as a bulging midriff, high blood pressure, and abnormal blood fat levels – and jogging reduced it by 50%.

Generally the more effort you put into your exercise the better. Some experts say two 60-second workouts a week can reduce the risk of heart disease from middle-age onwards. The participants in one study did all-out 6 second sprints 6 times increasing to 10 times.

They lost 1kg without changing their diet or other activities but more importantly their cardiovascular function was improved after just 8 weeks. It suggests that HIT can have a significant impact on obesity and heart disease.

On the other hand yoga is an excellent way of reducing tension, reduces bmi, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Research at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam shows that regular yoga can be as effective as strenuous forms of exercise when it comes to heart health. For patients with existing heart disease taking medication the benefits were even greater.

So if you can’t do high intensity training (HIT)or have a pre-existing heart condition yoga sounds like the ideal solution.

Eating meat

Eating even small amounts of processed meat like bacon, sausages, or salami, can increase your likelihood of  dying prematurely by 20% according to research at Harvard based on 100,000 people over 28 years.

Unprocessed red meat also carries a health risk. Daily servings of red meat (85g) over the length of the study brought an 18% increased risk of dying from heart disease, a 10% increased risk of dying from cancer and eating 100g a day increased the risk of diabetes by 19%.

Red meat is considered dangerous because steak often contains high amounts of saturated fat and salami and bacon contain high amounts of salt.

The BHF is reviewing its guidance on fat however and suggests you eat a healthy range of fats including the saturated type you find in lean meat and some dairy; along with fats from nuts, avocados, oily fish and seeds.

Replacing red meat with poultry, fish, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy foods could cut your risk of dying prematurely by 20%.

Eating naturally occurring fats rather than that in biscuits, cakes and snacks is the best advice.


Feeling isolated at work or under threat from colleagues is not just upsetting but is a long-term risk to your health and can more than double the risk of serious illness or early death.

A 20-year study at Tel Aviv university tracked more than 800 white-collar workers. Those who were surrounded by bullies and backstabbers were 2.4 more likely to die during the study.

On the other hand feeling supported and welcomed by co-workers seems to protect your health and well-being. Considering how much time we spend at work it’s important that it is a positive experience and somewhere you can get emotional support if you need it.

But it’s not just at work. Living alone in middle age can double your chances of developing Altzheimer’s especially if you are widowed or divorced according to the findings of a 20-year study of 2,000 people published in 2011.

Vitamin supplements

Some supplements may do more harm than good. German research published in Heart in 2012 found that calcium supplements taken to fend off osteoporosis can double the risk of heart attacks.

Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that men with prostate cancer who take more than 7  multi-vitamins a week are 30% more likely to get advanced and fatal forms of the disease.

Defenders of supplements argue that people who take them are more likely to be ill in the first place. But if you have a healthy diet and aren’t vegan why would you need to take supplements anyway?


Being conscientious i.e. doing what you say you will do, and paying attention to detail has significant health benefits according to the results of an 80-year study of American children from the age of eight called the Longevity Project.

Conscientious people live significantly longer. Being conscientious means having a prudent nature, being persistent and well-organised, somewhat obsessive and not generally carefree, say the authors of the study..

“Taking life seriously makes people want to live more meaningful, committed lives.  They also take fewer risks and look after their well-being everyday; they achieved much for their families and nurtured close relationships. They were persistent and successful and dedicated to things and people other than themselves.”


A quarter of us don’t take all our holidays in the UK (an average of 5 weeks). The US isn’t so generous with paid leave but data from the earlier mentioned Framingham study shows that women who don’t often take holidays are eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took two holidays a year.

Our bodies fact to our lifestyles and if that involves being stressed it’s not good for us.


Having sex is particularly important for middle-aged men. Those who have intercourse several times a week significantly reduce their risk of suffering a fatal stroke.

The University of Bristol monitored the cardiac health and sexual activity over over 900 men in Wales from a former mining village. The men were aged 45-59 when first studied in the early 1980s.

20% reported having sex once a month or less, 25% had sex twice a week or more often. The rest of the group were somewhere between these two extremes.

The 25% who enjoyed the most sex suffered the fewest fatal strokes according to the report in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

 Eating & Drinking

Studies in Japan show that stopping eating when you feel 80% full can reduce your calories intake by around 20%. Restricted calorie intake has been linked to longevity.

If you don’t fancy that approach a mediterranean diet helps replacing processed foods with freshly prepared meals rich in olive oil, oily fish and nuts. A low carb diet rich in nuts, grains, oat cereals and barley can reduce the risk of heart disease by 10% over 10 years.

Drinking in moderation can help you long term. A study of almost 2,000 men and women published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research showed that men and women who drink moderately tend to live longer than heavy drinkers or teetotallers.

Experts from the university of Texas found three drinks a day did no harm. Low-level alcohol consumption protects against coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in developed countries. So the experts think the benefits outweigh any risks.

Drinking tea also helps. Four or five cups a day helps to protect your heart. A survey of 13,000 people found that those drinking tea (with or without milk) had a better cardiovascular profile than coffee drinkers or those who drank neither.

Tea has a positive effect on blood pressure and has anti-oxidants that have survival benefits.

Diet Drinks are a definite no-no. Drinking artificially sweetened drinks including water is definitely not good for you. The American College of Cardiology suggest that people drinking two or more of these drinks a day are 30% more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem than people who never drink them.

Prime sources: Times Body + Soul June 2012 “How to be healthy in 20 years time”; Times Body & Soul January 2015 “The midlife healthy heart guide: the rules for men and women”; plus various posts from this site.


Are you a well-being narcissist?

  1. tomato_nutrition_label_1600_wht_13082Does yoga make you feel righteous even if you’re not sure why?
  2. Do you judge people when you see a white loaf or a multi-pack of crisps in someone’s shopping basket?
  3. Were you ever influenced to buy a meal or drink because the words “super grain”, “superfood” or “superdetox” appeared on the label?
  4. Do you believe blueberries have near magical properties?
  5. Do you think home-made cupcakes are OK whereas shop-bought biscuits with the same ingredients are not?
  6. When you find out your neighbour runs to work do you assume he must be a great employee?
  7. Have you or anyone in your family got really boring about gadgets that track sleep/steps/standing/heart rate?
  8. Do you agree with Arianna Huffington that “mindfulness is a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one”?
  9. Do you secretly imagine that you would manage better than most on the breadline because you would use it as an opportunity to walk more/eat more porridge?
  10. Do you acknowledge that a seriously overweight party leader would be unelectable?


Source: Times article 22 January 2015 – “Are you a better person because you think your body is a temple”

Cossetted kids who can’t cope………….fault of overprotective parents!

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Parents who deny their children independence are creating a generation incapable of dealing with failure, a leading neuroscientist has warned. A trend over the past two decades towards ‘wrapping children in cotton wool’ is leaving them struggling to cope with setbacks in their teenage years and adult life.

1E9387FA00000578-0-image-m-24_1420070614741Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, an expert in cognitive neuroscience at University College London, said it was important for children to embrace a degree of risk and learn from mistakes. But she warned youngsters nowadays were ‘not allowed to be independent’ as they were when she was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. Professor Blakemore, an expert in the teenage brain, said risk-taking was an ‘important developmental behaviour’ for teenagers as they began to negotiate independence. ‘Adolescents, after puberty, need to become independent of their parents and their families and they need to go out and affiliate with their peer group and they need to explore…

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A real Christmas Tree can make a difference

christmas_tree_pc_1600_wht_4260Having a real Christmas Tree can be good for our mental health.

Environmental Psychologist Birgitta Gatersleben, from the University of Surrey, says being near a real tree helps people to cope better with stress or mental fatigue.

She has studied the benefits of natural environments on well-being and tested how exposure to plants and trees can hasten recovery from stress and mental tiredness.

In her most recent paper she says “Perhaps evergreen Christmas decorations also have a positive effect on our health and well-being without us being aware of it. Perhaps surrounding ourselves with such signs of life subconsciously improves our moods and reduces stress”.

She believes that the smell is the key as it evokes nature and its associations with health.

There is nothing new in this belief as people have decorated their homes with evergreens such as holly, ivy, and laurel for centuries. When we put up our tree, or hang mistletoe for kisses, we are drawing from folk traditions handed down from the early Druids, Romans and Christians?

The Christmas tree might be the best known form of greenery, but is a relatively recent addition to the decorative tradition, possibly introduced into Britain in the 1840s by Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert from German tradition.

In any event the ancients thought of evergreens as the symbol of life since it was always green, even  in the depths of winter.

Research has also shown that working within sight of greenery, trees and parks, makes you feel better at work and nature walks in groups has been recognised as a good way to treat depression by the NHS

So it does seem that being close to nature is good for your well-being and especially your mental health. And going back to Gatersleben’s point about smells, aromatherapists believe pine essential oils have a number of health benefits

Vitamin Supplements and what many have suspected for years………….

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Taking vitamin supplements to prevent Alzheimer’s and keep the brain sharp is a waste of money, Oxford scientists have concluded.B vitamins fail to slow mental decline and do not prevent dementia, a comprehensive analysis of evidence has found. Middle-aged people are better off taking a walk or eating more fruit and vegetables, experts say.


People taking supplements scored no better on tests of memory, speed or decision-making than those taking placebos, according to an overview of data on 22,000 people in 11 different trials.

“Our study draws a line under the debate. B vitamins don’t reduce cognitive decline as we age. Taking folic acid and vitamin B-12 is sadly not going to prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr Robert Clarke of the clinical trials service unit at Oxford University.

The millions of people who spend £10 a time on packs of vitamins are doing their health no good, Dr Clarke added.“Taking…

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Life satisfaction in the EU

figure_standing_on_blank_note_text_10947Not only are we some of the loneliest people in the EU with very few of us having friends to turn to in a crisis but we only came out 11th of the 28 EU countries in terms of life satisfaction in the same ONS survey.

We came behind Germany, Spain and the Nordic countries with only 71% of us reporting high levels of satisfaction with life.

Perhaps predictably the Danes came out with the highest levels of life satisfaction and Bulgarians came out with the lowest.

This survey is part of a series to measure well-being in the populationScandinavian countries usually do well in surveys of this kind.

With regard to health only 6 out of 10 Brits ranked their health as  good or very good, despite having one of the longest “healthy life year” ratings in Europe at 64.5 years. The Irish feel the healthiest and the Lithuanians the least healthy.

Malta has the highest life expectancy in the EU at 72.4 years for women and Slovakia the lowest at 53.1 years.



National Happiness improves just a little

happy_face_smile_button_1600_wht_9149Despite, or because of, major events like the Olympics and the Royal Jubilee celebrations, the number of Brits reporting high levels of life satisfaction rose from 75.9% to 77% last year. Those reporting high levels of anxiety fell from 21.8% to 20.9%.

This is according to the official study of national well-being published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Life satisfaction fell in other European countries like France, Ireland and Sweden but they are still happier than the UK.  We’re about a third of the way down the table below France but above Spain.

Jobs and personal relationships are the main things which affect how people feel about their well-being. Big events might lift people’s spirits but it doesn’t last.

See earlier posts on happiness and well-being: Top 10 happiest countries, Happiness is a journey, Men happier than women, Children less happy, Does it depend on what you want?

Children less happy nowadays

comedy_masks_happy_sad_500_wht_759The Children’s Society say that their research shows that 14 and 15 year olds are the most miserable feeling down about school and anxious about their appearance.

But most of all they feel frustrated by their lack of freedom and autonomy as parents tried to protect them from drugs, the internet and other aspects of modern life.

The Society thinks parents are too quick to dismiss it as teenage moodiness rather than trying to find out if their child is being bullied or has other problems.

14% of 14- and 15-year olds were found to have “low well-being” compared to 5% of 8-year olds.

This is a follow-up to the Society’s 2009 “Good Childhood” report which found that 1.5 million children were deeply unhappy. Rowan Atkinson, then the Archbishop of Canterbury, blamed parents saying that too many were “selfishly pursuing their own happiness”.

The new report found that children who embraced simple solutions and pleasures were the happiest. Those who talked to their parents about problems, had good friendships and got plenty of fresh air, played sport or read books felt better than those who didn’t. See “Ways to be happy?” and “Are you happy

The single most important factor was having good relationships with parents and siblings.

A psychotherapist who helped with the study of 42,000 children ( so she’s coming at this with a particular view I would suggest) said young teenagers were paying the price for their parents’ anxieties as parents feel more protective. Young people need to feel more independent and be allowed to make mistakes.

The CEO of the Society said ” we should be paying particular attention to improving the happiness of teenagers … (we should work) to solve family conflicts or being bullied.”

As someone who once was a teenager and has had teenage children I can sympathise to some extent. But who says teenagers, or anyone else for that matter, have a right to be happy? It’s hard to separate their natural moodiness as hormones kick in, their sense of rebellion as they pull away from their parents’ influence, from other issues like bullying? They don’t always help themselves.

Children are more narcissistic now than previous generations, they think it’s “all about them” and they rely on being digital to make (and lose) “friends“. Reality shows have distorted their expectations. And parents and teachers have played their part  by treating their kids like little princesses and “over-parenting”.

But I don’t believe modern teenagers are any more unhappy than previous generations.