Tag Archives: stress relief

Things to do While Walking

Whether you’ve been participating in National Walking Month 2016 or just do a lot of walking in general, we thought we’d give a few suggestions of things to do while walking.

As we listed in our Mental Health Benefits of Walking article, walking is an easy, cheap exercise which is excellent for both physical and mental health.

Listen to something

Music (whether it’s the tunes you love or something new) is the obvious choice here, but podcasts, newspaper articles, and audiobooks are excellent for longer walks. Podcasts on many subjects are easy to find from various sources, and a directory of free audiobooks can be found at the Open Culture website.

Link [via Open Culture]

Call someone

Walking time can also be a great time to catch up on family or friends. They can provide virtual company which helps to pass the time, and conversation with good friends is an excellent way to maintain good mental health. If you can talk for a long time with people on the phone, then they may also be good walking company if you want to invite someone along.

Take a photograph (or ten)

Depending on the time of day you go for a walk, you can have plenty of opportunity for taking photographs. You can challenge yourself by limiting yourself to just one photograph, or just go for it and take pictures of anything that takes your interest. These photos can act as a chronicle of your walks and the progress you’ve made.

Play a mental game

From playing a simple game of observance (“how many red cars will I see on my walk?”), to practising mindfulness, playing mental games whilst physically exercising is a great workout for body and brain.

Go on a tour

Depending on where you live, your town or city may have walking maps of local areas which can be found online, in tourist-friendly places (such as museums or art galleries), or in a local library. If such maps are not available to you, pick a landmark/spot you’ve seen from a distance or wanted to visit and go there.

Make plans

As with mental games, making plans whilst exercising can be an effective and beneficial use of time. Whether it’s a daily, weekly or general plan, thinking about which priorities to tackle once you get back home can give you a better perspective then thinking about them at home or at work.

Break it up

Whether it’s going down a street you’ve always wanted to explore, or aiming for a completely new area, anything that prolongs or varies your walk can help keep things fresh and interesting.

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

App Asks for GPS Art, Community Responds

Mental Health Awareness Week 2016

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2016. The Mental Health Foundation aims to raise awareness and spark conversations regarding mental health with a different theme each year.  Running from 16-22 May, this year’s theme is relationships, and the role the connections between friends, family, colleagues and others have to mental health.

The organisation has launched a website hosting information and resources. The campaign has highlighted some interesting messages of the importance of relationships in good mental health. It emphasises that connections between people help prolong life and reduce the risk of physical and mental health problems, and that “Investing in your relationships is as important as healthy eating, exercising and not smoking.”

The organisation is also running a “Daily relationship challenge”,  where people can sign up to daily reminders and tips, and a “Relationship resolution” pledge.

Episodes of mental health difficulties can make people feel isolated and unsure of who to turn to. This campaign’s message of the importance of relationships in good mental health is a nice reminder that nobody has to suffer alone.

Mental Health Awareness Week [via the Mental Health Foundation]

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

National Walking Month 2016

May is National Walking Month 2016. UK Organisation Living Streets is using the official event to launch its #Try20 campaign, which is tasking people with getting out and about for at least 20 minutes a day.

The campaign is highlighting the mental and physical benefits of walking. The website even has a “Walking Bingo” card to print out and use.

Living Streets has also teamed up with Westfield Health to run a #WHWalkingLunch challenge, which encourages workers to “reclaim their lunchbreak, get active and try to walk for twenty minutes in the middle of the day.”

National Walking Month 2016 [via Living Streets]

Walking Lunch Campaign [via Westfield Health]

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

One Man’s Experience of Video Games and Mental Health

Video games and mental health have a surprisingly long history. There has been much written about the moral panic of violent video games, to the cognitive benefits of play. One aspect that has been overlooked is how video games and mental health relate to each other, especially in terms of depressive and stressful situations.

In a detailed and personal long read, one gamer has laid out his journey with video games and mental health, and how playing games gave him hope for the future. Whilst not a magic cure, video games were a beneficial activity to turn to: “In my case at least, changing my lifestyle and accessing treatment in the real world was what mainly improved my mental health, but gaming provided a useful outlet during the worst times.”

The article also focuses on how games can be inspiration for change, highlighting their ability to: “tell interactive stories about the future that can provide an inspiration for the kind of real world political and social change that would ensure people don’t end up feeling depressed in the first place.”

The author compares the best types of video game story to speculative fiction, where imaginative concepts can be explored in detail. “Utopian stories have been a source of political and social inspiration for hundreds, if not thousands of years, they illuminate problems in our present while also modelling solutions for our future.”

The article advocates the role of video games to be part of an “avenue to explore and spread ideas for use in our everyday lives”, which can help lead to a more positive future, or at least give hope for one.

Gaming, Mental Health and Seeing the Future [via The Leveller]

One Woman’s Confrontation of Her Own Worst Enemy

Are you your own worst enemy? A common symptom of poor mental health is a stream of negative thoughts, voices which berate and belittle. These thoughts can wear people down over time, to the point where they become normal and believable.

Lotte Lane, a woman who has lived with these thoughts for as long as she can remember, has recently written about how starting therapy helped her confront her internal criticism, and how doing so improved her mental health.

“Those thoughts – the horrible, soul-crushing messages pinging around in my brain – were just thoughts. Not reality. Not truth. Not God-given fact.”

Lotte continued therapy, and one day, decided to “confront the bully in my brain”. She made a list of all the things her “shitty committee” said about her and filmed herself reading the list out. The almost 5-minute video is emotional in ways, and Lotte cites this moment as being a real turning point in her mental health taking a turn for the better: “Confronting my shitty committee was my first wobbly step towards learning to like myself.”

You can read the full article and watch Lotte’s video through the link below.

I’m My Own Worst Enemy [via Blurt]

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: 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

Scottish Government Develops App for Mental Wellbeing

An internal team within the Scottish Government‘s Directorate of Health & Social Care Integration have developed a free app for mental wellbeing. Developed in collaboration with NHS24 and New Media Scotland, the Ginsberg app has a “mission is to improve mental health and wellbeing through new technologies.”

App for Mental Wellbeing - CycleThe app is named after the poet Allen Ginsberg, and inspired by his quote “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness”. The Ginsberg app aims to help users track behaviour and mood patterns and give insight into how the two are interlinked.

The app provides a platform to log physical activity, quality/length of sleep, diet and mood. Data is collected over time and provides insight into patterns and triggers so users can “feel more in control with what is going on.”

Available for both Apple and Android, you can sign up to Ginsberg for free here.