What was on your New Year to-do list... gym visits, a mega spring clean and socialising sprees? If relaxation wasn't on the agenda for the start of 2009, it needs to be.

In fact, if you've been on detox and treadmill overdrive throughout January, you might just want to slow down the pace. Women who want to lose weight should ditch their diets and learn to relax, according to recent research.

Women who followed a relaxed regime of yoga and meditation were not only slimmer than the gym bunnies, but happier and healthier too, according to scientists at the University of Otago, New Zealand, who conducted a two-year comparison study.

We think that's reason enough to kick back to your heart's content and wave goodbye to stress.

Liz Wilde, author of Home Spa De-Stress, agrees.

"Modern life is spent speeding up, so it makes sense that to reduce stress you need to indulge in techniques that slow you down," she says.

Not so good at slacking off? Luckily the art of relaxation is big business in beauty. There's no need to pop a sleeping pill when you have a whole host of delicious products to help you chill out after a hard day.


If you have the time, skip the shower and take a long, hot soak in the tub to soothe away your stress. Look for products with essential oils - ylang ylang and petitgrain will help lift your spirits and leave you feeling mentally refreshed, while lavender eases away tense muscles and headaches.

"Massage using essential oils equals a relaxation extravaganza," says Liz.

"Not only does your skin draw the oils into your bloodstream, but deep breathing means you also inhale the oils. Massage movements ease tight muscles and release tension."

TRY: Aromatherapy Associates Light Relax Bath & Shower Oil, £29.35 (aromatherapyassociates.com); Champneys Perfect Sleep Bath Milk, £8 (Sainsbury's); Boots Essential Aromatherapy Sleep Easy Bath Float, £3.43; Crabtree & Evelyn Comforting Body Night Cream, £20 (www.crabtree-evelyn.co.uk).


Putting your feet up with a face mask is the ultimate indulgence and will let anyone around you know your relaxation intentions. Think of it as a 'do not disturb' sign hung around your neck!

Before applying your facial chill-out treats, Liz recommends using this relaxation exercise: "Scrunch up your face tight, clenching your teeth together and screwing up your eyes. Hold and then relax. With each exhale, relax your muscles a little more and enjoy the feeling of your body getting heavier."

TRY: Lavera Relax Meeting Skin Repair Face Mask, £47.93 (01557 870 568/www.lavera.co.uk); Prescriptives Comfort Cream, £29.36 (0870 034 2566); Yo Bubble Face Mask, £6.95 (01923 284 016/www.pressies4princesses.co.uk); Amirose Skin Benefits Cucumber Eye Pads, £4.99 (www.amirose.com).


Top-to-toe relaxation starts with the feet, so don't leave your tired limbs and tootsies out of the chill equation.

"Reflexology works on the reflex points in your feet, and massaging your adrenal glands reflexes equals instant stress relief," Liz explains.

"Situated on the soles of your feet slightly inside the middle of each arch, use your thumb held bent at a 45-degree angle and massage firmly into each reflex point for two minutes maximum."

TRY: Badger Foot Balm, £5.99 (01827 280 080); Homedics Foot Pleaser Ultra Deep Kneading Foot Massager, £53.82 (Boots); Elemis De-Stress Massage Oil, £28 (www.timetospa.co.uk); The Body Shop Divine Calm Relaxing Massage Oil, £8.


Don't underestimate the power of lavender in encouraging the onset of sleep. Using aromatherapy temple balms, sprays or candles is a great way to help you switch off at night.

"Lavender is the scent most connected with safe and comforting memories, and studies show it has the power to calm and relax us in even the most stressful situations," Liz says.

She suggests adding five drops to your bath water.

TRY: Neal's Yard Remedies Sleep Kit, £22 (www.nealsyardremedies.com); Botanics Aromatherapy Time for Bed Essential Oil Premix, £6.16 (Boots); Molton Brown Sleep Cedrus Temple Soother, £18 (www.moltonbrown.co.uk); Good Works Goodness Sleep Enhance Spray, £9.79 (Boots).


Aveda Full Spectrum Deposit-Only Demi Colour, from £52, available at Aveda salons nationwide (0870 034 2380/www.aveda.co.uk).

I wanted to brighten up my naturally red tresses for the New Year, but felt a bit nervous. Having previously hesitated about having my hair professionally coloured, I was totally won over by the Aveda experience. The deposit-only semi-permanent colour made from 99% naturally-derived formulas revamped my locks with fabulous rosewood tones - just perfect for winter. The scent of the essential oils and herbal ingredients was heavenly and my natural-looking colour and shine has seen me confidently into 2009.