Tag Archives: relaxing

The Mental Health Benefits of Walking

As May is National Walking Month 2016, we thought we’d look at the mental health benefits of walking.

The physical benefits of walking are well known. It’s an excellent form of easy exercise that burns fat, encourages bone density, lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and can benefit memory functions. Walking is also excellent for mental health in the following ways:

Walking is exercise, and exercise improves mood

Any type of exercise releases endorphins, and walking is no exception. Endorphins are a hormone which calm and boost mood. A walk of 30 minutes is recommended to start releasing this hormone, but if you can’t walk for that length of time, you can supplement it on either time with gentle exercise such as stretching or even housework.

Walking gets you out and about

Some mental health issues are exacerbated by or have symptoms of isolation, either real or perceived. It’s easy to lose days without leaving the house or going out as little as possible, and walking can help break that cycle. Coupled with the mental health benefits of walking as mentioned above, getting out and about a little bit more can be the first step in improving mental health.

Walking takes time

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the depressive, stressed or anxious thoughts which can wear down mental health. Going for even a short walk can help to interrupt these though patterns, or give you a different space and perspective to tackle them. It also gives you something positive to incorporate into your routine to maintain good mental health.

Walking is cheap and easy

All you need are decent shoes and clothes for whatever weather you’re going out in. You don’t have to invest in any specialist clothing or equipment as you would with other “entry-level” physical activities such as jogging or cycling.

Walking helps you sleep

Exercise is a tiring activity, which can help provide a better night’s sleep. Good sleep is a crucial part of good mental health, as it give you, and your brain, the chance to properly rest and repair.

Walking takes you places

Going for a walk can be a way to discover a whole new side of familiar areas where you live or work. This change in routine and observance of new things can be an excellent way to divert your brain from depressive, stressed or anxious thoughts.

If you’re wanting to use technology to log your travels or get ideas for new routes, we suggest you check out our guide to walking apps:

Walking Apps – What’s Available

Further Reading: The Power of Napping

As important as a good night’s sleep is, the power of napping is undeniable when done right. Due to a pervasive 24-hour culture, napping has an unwarranted social stigma and association with laziness, which can lead to guilt and burnout. However, done the right way, a nap can be an essential boost to your day, helping you both mentally and physically. We’ve compiled some of the best tips and interesting facts about napping to help guide you to the land of quick nods.

The power of napping and sleep cycles

Napping has huge benefits to both brain and body, including (but not limited to): memory, mood, learning ability, alertness, productivity, blood pressure and even weight management. However, the timing of naps has to be considered in order to get the best results by working with humans’ natural sleep cycles and therefore avoiding oversleeping and drowsiness.

Link [via io9]

The benefits of a quick nap are generally determined by the length of the nap. Shorter naps are best for staving off tiredness, whilst longer naps can give a longer boost to your day. Knowing sleep cycles is an important way of determining the length of time for a nap.

Link [via The Art of Manliness]

Knowing how and when to nap

Not everybody needs to nap, and if you are needing the type of sleep which naps cannot fulfil, then you may need to examine your sleep patterns and habits in more depth rather than papering over the cracks by napping.

Link [via Time]

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with sleep cycles and whether you need to nap or not, it’s time to settle down and get ready to get the most out of your nap. Whether it’s a one-off or habitual nap, preparing the right environment for a nap is crucial to experience its benefits.

Link [via Lifehacker]

Napping in history and around the world

The most famous type of nap is most likely the siesta. This habit has a long and fascinating history, which stretches far beyond Spain and far into our ancient history.

Link [via Slumberwise]

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]

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.

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

Myths about Meditation

Meditation is a very popular way to reduce stress and anxiety for mental health situations, however sometimes people don’t understand it’s not for everyone, there are some downsides to it.

It’s been proven that it can have positive effects on the mind and body, but it’s also thought to be a temporary effect so you need to keep it up to gain full the effect.

You don’t have to consign yourself to the spiritual aspect of the practice either, but it has shown that people who practice some form of meditation become more spiritual over time.

Here is a great article that goes deeper into the myths of meditation.

Photo credit: Balint Földesi