May In A Nutshell

Top tips to quit smoking

May 31 was the World Health Organization’s annual World No Tobacco Day. Here are some effective methods to quit smoking, brought to you by The Star:

  1. Set a quit date

Choose a meaningful date to kick start this mission. For example, on New Year’s Day, your birthday, or it could even be on World No Tobacco Day! Such dates will keep you motivated in realising your goal.

  1. Keep your close ones informed

Share your goals with your family, friends and colleagues. They are a good source of positive support. Also, you will act as a role model to those with similar intentions. Pairing up with a “quit buddy” will make this task easier as both of you can support each other.

  1. Remove tobacco products from your home and environment

The absence of such products will reduce your temptation to smoke. Some of the ways include making your home smoke-free and avoiding smoking areas.

  1. Seek professional help

The process of smoking cessation can be accelerated with medical and psychological help. As you will experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms for the first few weeks, nicotine gum and patches can offer some relief. See your doctor to discuss the accurate dosage and potential side effects. Furthermore, cognitive-behavioural therapies helps to alleviate your addiction psychologically by altering your thought process and change your behaviour.

Smoking cessation is a tough journey. Do not let a relapse knock your confidence. Instead, use this as a reflective process to identify your mistakes and work on them to prevent similar occurrences in the future.


Getting sunlight and sleeping well

A study has found that people who receive a high exposure of sunlight during the day will sleep better at night and tend to feel less stressed.

A team of scientists conducted a research by recruiting nearly 110 government employees across the US. The subjects wore a light-measuring device for a week during summer to measure the amount of sunlight exposure in their workstations. 81 of them repeated this experiment during winter.

The results showed that workers who were exposed to a great amount of sunlight in the morning (from 8am to noon) fell asleep quicker at night, experienced fewer sleep disturbances and reported less depression. Likewise, those who are on constant exposure of sunlight (8am to 5pm) reported a lower level of sleep disturbance and depression.

The study concluded that an optimum exposure to sunlight during the day and less at night is vital for a good sleep because it helps to calibrate the body’s circadian rhythm. As a lack of good quality sleep is associated with many health problems, office workers are encouraged to obtain as much sunlight as possible during the day. Some methods include getting lunch under the sun and positioning the work desks at a direction where the sun rises.


Nurses to stage 'protest activity' over pay cap


Scrapping of the 1% pay-rise cap and filling up 40,000 empty vacancies in order to reduce the workload of nurses. These two are the main reasons that lead the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to plan a “summer of protest activity” across the UK, according to a report by the BBC.

A consultative ballot was carried out by the RCN for its members. About 52,000 of the 270,000 members who were eligible to vote took part in this ballot. 78% were prepared to go on strike while 91% would support industrial action short of a strike. Nevertheless, another ballot has to be carried out before any industrial action takes place. RCN had never taken an industrial action in 100 years. Therefore, this ballot signifies a “significant” step.

Between 2010 and 2016, the number of employed nurses rose by only 2% to just over 300,000 who work full time. Due to a shortage of nurses in healthcare settings, many overwork and this can put patients’ safety at risk. A survey conducted by RCN found the vacancy rate was highest in the mental health department in England with more than 14% positions empty. Fortunately, figures from Northern Ireland and Scotland showed a general lower vacancy rate at 4% each. No data is available for Wales.

The current situation could potentially get worse when the UK leaves the European Union as the NHS is currently relying heavily on the supply of nurses from Europe.


Instagram ranked worst for mental health

A survey was carried out by the Royal Society for Public Health to determine the impact, both positive and negative, of social media on young people (aged 14 to 24 years old). Around 1500 were asked to rank social media apps on issues such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying, body image and “fear of missing out”. The social platforms involved were Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube.

YouTube and Twitter had the most positive impact on young people whilst Instagram had the worst. The positive impacts were self-expression, self-identity and community building. However, sleep deterioration, cyber bullying and “fear or missing out” were identified as the greatest negative impact.

As individuals tend to view things more removed from their immediate lives in YouTube and Twitter, such as celebrity figures and interesting video clips, these platforms resulted in more positive impact on the users. Apps that tend to involve close ones, which are Snapchat and Instagram, are more directly related to the users’ lives and hence, the development of insecurities and the “fear of missing out”.

Nevertheless, it should not be concluded that YouTube is the safest platform as it also contains negative contents that can be easily viewed.

The Royal Society for Public Health has come up with a few suggestions to safeguard young people when they go online:

  1. A heavy usage pop-up warning on social media
  2. An icon to indicate photos that have been digitally manipulated
  3. Health information on social media to be certified as trustworthy
  4. Formal social media education in schools
  5. Provide adequate social media training to youth workers
  6. Utilisation of technology to automatically identify vulnerable users

Cold water 'just as good as hot' for hand-washing

An experimental study was carried out to assess different hand-washing techniques in relation to its effectiveness in eliminating bacteria. Published in the Journal of Food Protection, this study was conducted by researchers from Rutgers University and GOJO industries (produce hand soaps and sanitiser products).

10 men and 10 women were recruited to be volunteers. Initially, 1 ml of a harmless strain of E.coli was applied onto their hands. They then applied different hand washing techniques:

  1. Lather time (5, 10, 20 and 40 seconds)
  2. Soap volume (0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 ml)
  3. Water temperature (15 °C, 26 °C and 38 °C)
  4. Plain or antimicrobial soap

In order to determine the effect of each variable, one would be changed while the others remained constant. Each experiment was repeated 20 times. Samples were immediately collected from the subjects’ hands after hand-washing. They were asked not to dry their hands as doing so would remove any remaining bacteria.

At the end of the experiment, it was found antimicrobial soap was not significantly more effective than plain soap in eliminating bacteria. Furthermore, there was no significant reduction in the volume of E. coli at 15 °C (lowest temperature) and 38 °C (highest). Nevertheless, lather time did not affect bacteria count but washing for a longer period of time did have a positive effect (30 seconds versus 15 seconds).

The sample size in this study was small (20 participants). Also, it could have been more comprehensive by comparing the efficacy of hand-washing techniques with more strains of microorganisms.

Although it has its setbacks, the researchers hope this experiment will help policymakers to make evidence-based recommendations around hand-washing techniques in the future.


In a nutshell, addiction, either in the form of smoking, drugs, or social media, can be detrimental to our health. As such, we should try to keep clean from these harmful substances, and take up more beneficial activities such as strolling in the sun and exercising, but please do stay safe. And remember to thank those around you for their support in kicking the habit.

MMI UK hopes that everyone stay safe at all times.



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