Further Reading: Quitting Bad Habits

Quitting a bad habit can be just as valuable as gaining a good one. We’ve collected information on the latter in our Further Reading: Forming New Habits, so it’s time to look at the former.

Idea collective

There are many different methods to quitting bad habits, and Lifehacker’s top 10 in an excellent place to start for inspiration. Each of the ideas are backed up by an additional article for more reading, and the user comments are very helpful, too.

Link [via Lifehacker]

Habit replacement

Quitting bad habits is an excellent opportunity to replace them with a good one. Habit blogger James Clear has written this excellent article on just that. Full of good observation on factors such as triggers and stress, his blog in general is an excellent resource on habits and their formation.

Link [via James Clear]

Mindfulness and quitting bad habits

In 2015, Psychiatrist Judson Brewer presented this TedMed talk about using mindfulness to help with quitting bad habits. He explains the way the brain works in establishing a bad habit, and then how the very same process can used in conjunction with mindfulness to retrain the brain.

Tea Time: Benefits of Types of Tea

There’s nothing quite like a good cup of tea, so we thought we’d look at the various benefits of types of tea out there.

Pu-Erh

Pu-Erh is an earthy tea with a distinct flavour. Some people find it to be an acquired taste, but it’s worth it for the benefits.  Pu-Erh is said to aid digestion and fat burning, as well as helping to lower cholesterol and stress levels.

Chamomile

Made from flowers, chamomile tea is renowned for its calming properties. Often used as a relaxant before sleep, it also settles the stomach and helps with symptoms of diabetes.

Mint

Mint tea is an excellent digestive, helping ease the symptoms of cramping, bloating and gastric discomfort by helping move gas through the body. Its digestive properties also help with bowel problems from diarrhea to constipation. Whilst mint teabags are easy to find, the best way to experience mint tea is with fresh leaves from the plant itself.

Lemon & Ginger

Like mint tea, it’s recommended to make lemon and ginger tea with fresh ingredients for the best flavour and effect. Whilst both can be drunk separately, the combination of both makes for a refreshing and effective way to combat a cold, or preventone happening in the first place. For added zing, add fresh chopped chilli.

Ginseng

Ginseng tea is a great booster – it enhances energy, the immune system and apparently even sexual energy. It’s also another great digestive to add to the list.

Another factor in tea making is preparation. There’s an excellent at-a-glance guide to factors such as temperature, brewing time and tea types here.

Link [via Itoen]

Post Care: Depression Care Packages

Mental health website The Blurt Foundation is offering subscriptions to their “BuddyBox” depression care packages.

When the pace of modern living meets depression, it’s easy to overlook simple things that can benefit mental health. One of the many symptoms of depression is simply not taking care of yourself. From not exercising, eating well or taking time out to mentally relax, the definition of “taking care of yourself” is very far-ranging and varied.

depression care packages - blurtWith this in mind, Blurt’s monthly BuddyBox depression care packages include such things as tea, toiletries, toys and stationery. Signing up to the initiative means that the person receiving the package gets something in the post, which is always a pleasant experience. It also encourages community involvement as recipients post their reactions to the contents to the site or social media.

BuddyBoxes are available via various means of subscription. There’s monthly, quarterly 6-monthly and annual rates, as well as one-off and BuddyBox Lite subscription-free options. You can see the full breakdown of prices here, and the full contents of Blurt’s previous BuddyBoxes here.

Whether you use Blurt’s service for subscription or inspiration, these depression care packages are a thoughtful way to show someone you care or to give yourself a nice surprise to look forward to.

Further Reading: How to Boost Learning Ability

Whether you’ve been inspired by our Top Websites for Online Learning, or are just wanting to boost learning ability in general, here are some articles we’ve found that explore how to improve cognitive performance

Know your learning style

Knowing what type of learner you are is a good first step and can be a real eye-opener, and help you work to your strengths. Most people learn via a mix of auditory, visual and tactile means, and this short quiz can help show which type of learning you lean towards.

Link [via Learning Without Boundaries]

Absorbing information and best practice

Do you find yourself reading information but not absorbing it? One person asked users of the crowdsourcing Personal Productivity platform of the Stack Exchange website for their tips and insight, and it’s useful reading. There are no easy answers, but plenty of good advice.

Link [via Personal Productivity Stack Exchange]

Another site with an excellent breakdown of study solutions, Academic Tips gives advice on how to tackle boredom, improving your note-taking and memory, and even how to set up study areas.

Link [via Academic Tips]

Learning about learning

A recent study into the relationship between aerobic physical activity and cognitive performance has shown that one way to improve memory is to have an active lifestyle.

Link [via Harvard Medical School]

Learning new motor skills can be easier if you play fast-paced video games. A study by the University of Toronto found that playing action games led to people picking up skills such as typing or riding a bike quicker than non-gamers.

Link [via The Telegraph]

 

Further Reading: The Benefits of Knitting

The benefits of knitting are many and varied. Not only is learning a new skill good for the brain, learning to knit produces practical results. We’ve found some further reading on the benefits of knitting.

Knitting effects on physical and mental health

Following on from World Mental Health Day 2015, the LoveKnitting blog asked its members and followers for examples of the benefits of knitting in regards to mental health. Personal stories range from using knitting to tackle anxiety and depression, to the calming, repetitive action easing the stress and pain of chemotherapy.

Link [via LoveKnitting blog]

More personal experience stories on the mental and physical benefits of knitting are curated in the Craft Yarn Council blog. It’s an excellent resource of personal testimony from people with a range of physical and mental difficulties.

Link [Craft Yarn Council]

If you’re looking for a summary of the psychological science of why knitting is so beneficial to physical and mental health, Psychology Today has a helpful article.

Link [via Psychology Today]

Knitting for art and community

There’s been a recent explosion of what’s known as “yarnbombing” or “guerilla knitting”, where knitted art is installed in public spaces, with or without permission of the local authorities. You can see some of the projects by “Your friendly neighbourhood graffiti knitting art collective” Knit the City.

Link [via Knit the City]

On the subject of yarnbombing, this sweet story of 104-year old Grace Brett becoming the “world’s oldest street artist” as part of a wider arts festival in her home town of Selkirk in the Scottish Borders shows the perennial power of knitting.

Link [via Bored Panda]

On a similar note, this story of Australia’s oldest man knitting sweaters for injured penguins is simply lovely, and full of very cute pictures of the penguins.

Link [Huffington Post]

Learning how to knit

If you don’t know how to knit, or want to point people towards a good video tutorial, then this lessons covering the basics is very good.

World Mental Health Day 2015

World Mental Health Day is on the 10th of October each year since 1992.

Originally created by the World Health Organisation (WHO), previous years have highlighted certain themes such as “Mental health and older adults” and “Living with schizophrenia“.

This year’s theme is “Dignity in mental health“, which aims to raise issues of respect and inclusion, whilst also demanding better standards of training and policy.

You can read the full WHO report into this year’s World Mental Health Day theme here. It’s a long read, but highlights the many factors of personal and societal care needed to provide good mental health services, as well as highlighting interesting statistics and providing stories of personal experience.

Top Websites for Online Learning

Online learning is a growing industry, with many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) available on a wide variety of subjects from educational organisations around the world. If the range of subject matter wasn’t impressive enough, the fact that the vast majority of these video, text and interactive learning tools are free is incredible.

Whether you’re exploring a subject out of sheer curiosity, or looking to re-train, the following MOOC providers are a great place for inspiration and education.

FutureLearn

An enterprise owned by the Open University, Future Learn has a wide range of subjects from universities across the UK and global cultural institutions. Classes begin on set dates and are presented in a “step” system with weekly reinforcements such as quizzes, essays and tests. Comments and class forums are available to exchange ideas, and at the end of the course you have the option to purchase a “Statement of Participation” to add to your educational portfolio.

Link

EdX

Originally founded by MIT and Harvard, EdX courses are now provided by those institutions and a vast number of renowned global educational institutions. Boasting a massive choice of subjects and courses, the site also give a handy overview of how much work and time is expected for completion.

Link

Coursera

Similar to EdX, Coursera has a wide range of subjects delivered by many global educational institutes. It also provides an timeline/workload overview. Coursera also has a “Signature Track” program where users can pay a fee to undertake an officially certified course, with certification awarded upon completion.

Link

Udemy

Udemy provided courses more focused on practical skills, which are a mixture of free and charged courses. Courses can be uploaded by users, with overviews and student reviews available to see whether signing up is worth your time or money. These lesson vary in price and come with a 30-day money back guarantee.

Link

Academic Earth

A rabbit hole of online education, Academic Earth’s curative nature means that it’s less of a MOOC provider and more of a library. A hub of information and links to course material on a large variety of subjects, it also hosts overview information on what to expect from online degrees, although bear in mind that it is very US-centric.

Link

Code Academy

This online learning site specialises in teaching all kinds of computer coding skills. Learn how to make various types of website, or pick up another programming language. Programming and understanding computer language can be useful in many ways, and this site is perfect for beginner-level introductions and lessons into the subject.

Link

Khan Academy

Designed to be accessed by everyone from children to parents to teachers, Khan Academy focuses more on interactive exercises than courses. Subjects range from various mathematical disciplines to art appreciation, all of which can be added to a personalised online learning dashboard.

Link

Further Reading: Forming New Habits

The time it takes for forming new habits is something that’s been up for debate for quite a while now. We’ve compiled some of the best reads out there on the subject.

The history of habits

19th-century Psychologist William James was one of the leading modern researchers into habit, and its relationship with character and personality. His insights into “habit loops” and the process of acquiring new habits were pioneering for the time, and still relevant today.

Link [via Brain Pickings]

No easy answers

Recent research has found that there is no magic time scale to forming new habits, either. In fact, the idea of 21/30/90 day solutions is down to historical misunderstanding rather than fact. The truth it is, forming a new habit takes as long as it takes.

Link [via James Clear]

Insight into the mind

Forming new habits is a mixture of routine, willpower and reminders. Psychologist and owner of Psyblog Jeremy Dean published Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick in 2013.  It’s an excellent and approachable exploration of the psychology of forming new habits.

Link [via Amazon.co.uk]

Personal experience

While overviews of psychology and history are interesting and helpful, personal experience can’t be overlooked. Here’s one person’s story of how they trained themselves to be a (very) early riser in order to live a healthier lifestyle. Getting up at 05:00 may be a bit extreme for some, but this person’s story show how the right triggers and motivation can help fuel willpower.

Link [via Smart Productive Work]

Walking Apps – What’s Available

The physical and mental benefits of walking are well known, so we thought we’d look out some of the walking apps available to aid the experience.

The apps can be split into two types: Activity Measurement (pedometers), and Route Mapping. It’s worth bearing in mind that any app that uses GPS may be a drain on your smartphone’s battery. It’s also worth checking to see what the weather will be like if you’re planning a big walk!

Activity Measurment Walking Apps

Accupedo (Android, iOS)

Walking apps - AccupedoDesigned to be a “daily walking buddy”, Accupedo acts as a pedometer and a hub of information which logs information on distance, calorie burn and step count. All the information is collected and displayed on daily, weekly, monthly or yearly charts so you can see your progress.

Link

Endomondo (Android, iOS, Windows)Walking apps - Endomondo

A “personal trainer in your pockets”, Endomondo is designed for encouraging motivation through distance sports whether it’s walking, running or cycling. It provides activity logs, calorie burn and distance measurements, too. If you’re wanting to take your walking to the next level, this may be the app for you.

Link

Moves (Android, iOS)

Walking apps - movesThe “activity diary of your life”, Moves is a very funky-looking app that automatically records any physical activity you undertake. It also automatically records steps, distance, duration, and calorie burn. These activities are displayed as a “daily storyline”, which helps give insight into activity. You also have the option of adding extra activity such as gym training.

Link

 

Route Mapping Walking Apps

Walkit (Android, iOS)

walking apps - walkitDeveloped as an “urban walking route planner”, Walkit allows users to get routes between two points and view journey time, step count, calorie burn, and even carbon saving. It also allows you to explore other people’s recommended routes and tailored information for 70+ cities all across the UK.

Link

Viewranger (Android, iOS, Kindle Fire)

walking apps - viewranger

If the great outdoors is more your thing, then Viewranger might just be the walking app for you. You can plot your own trails or those made by other users. It’s a hub of information, tips and insights generated by its active and dedicated worldwide community

Link

MapMyWalk (Android, iOS)

walking apps - mapmywalk

A very popular app that uses GPS to track your activities and report back on distance, duration, route and calorie burn. You can also record and save walks taken to upload and share with other users. This means that you can also access other user’s routes to add variety to your walking workout.

Link

Sleep Disturbance Caused by Gadget Exposure

A recent Norwegian sleep disturbance study of 9,846 16 to 19-year olds has discovered something that is fast becoming fact: exposure to light from TVs, laptops, smartphones and tablet screens affects sleeping patterns and sleep quality.

Teenagers in the study who spent more than four hours per day exposed to screens had a 49% increased risk of falling asleep later and having difficulty in doing so.  Their risk of sleeping for under five hours was also increased by three and half times.

The vast majority of participants in the study were exposed to some form of electronic device an hour before bedtime. This has prompted researchers to advise at least an hour of screen free time before sleep, and for parents to be especially alert of the risk to their children’s quality of sleep.

 

The researchers have highlighted that the effects of using screens close to bedtime may not just be intruding on sleep, but could also be affecting the nervous system and internal body clock.  As well as the recommendation to individuals to avoid screen time before bed, the researchers are asking public heath agencies to review their own guidelines. The report concludes that “The results demonstrate a negative relation between use of technology and sleep, suggesting that recommendations on healthy media use could include restrictions on electronic devices.”

Technology has become a permanent part of the everyday human experience, and more proof of its disruptive influence on sleep is coming in with studies such as these.