Beating the January Blues – 8 Tips…

The January blues appear to be even more prevalent this year. I’ve read several articles and heard many people complain about feeling ill and or despondent this year. Does this resonate with you?

Psychological research helps discover the reasons for this annual lack of vitality and is intensified by a perception of how someone wants things to be and how they actually are. The disparity between the two are highlighted during January after the excitement of December. This is not helped by the cultural activities which include spending so much condensed time with friends and family and in my opinion, now it is splashed across the internet, is exacerbated even more. Apparently, it is a time when people think about what they have achieved and this can lower their mood. The research at the University of Exeter explores what the mechanisms underpinning depression are and find the underlying factors which cause depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. The research concentrates on three main areas which include underlying psychological mechanisms, psychological treatments plus trials and third, increase the accessibility of evidence-based treatments for as many people as possible.

The research determines how you can attempt to improve your mood and unsurprisingly include physical and mental exercise with an emphasis on socialising, hobbies but there is an interesting thought process that also helps according to Professor Ed Watkins, Director of the University of Exeter’s Mood Disorders Centre (MDC), :

“There is good evidence that being more active – physically and mentally – connecting with other people, getting absorbed in interesting activities, becoming more concrete and specific in your thinking (eg, by asking how?) rather than thinking about meanings and implications (eg, asking why?) all help people to feel better.”

(Source: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/research/feature/janblues/)

Ask yourself how rather than just why? This is making the thinking process more discernible, helpful and can change our perceptions.

The unit is working with Dutch colleagues processing controlled trials by providing internet treatment. Preliminary data shows this treatment reduces the risk of depression by a third. The unit is working with the charity Help for Heroes to support the mental health of veterans and their families. Also, a trial will be implemented by NHS Cornwall with a 1000 patients. Interesting times.

One thing we do know, is feeling low in January is common and so at least if you are feeling fed up, you know you are not alone.  Studies have shown that you can boost your mood by having Vitamin D. During the darker months we are not getting enough Vitamin D due to the lack of sunshine. This is another reason to go out for a walk!

Many foods help with this too and include:

Fortified breakfast cereals and dairy, eggs and fish such as sardines, herrings and salmon are all good sources. Plus, along with improving your mood, topping up on vitamin D can help strengthen the immune system and keep bones and teeth healthy.

(Souce: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/keep-momentum-how-beat-january-blues-0)

Another tip is to lay on the floor with your legs raised which helps boost energy and makes you feel calm. This is from the Chinese principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and relaxes the back and opens the stomach energy channel. Health expert Fiona Slatter suggests you do it when you wake up when your body needs the energy.

To sum up, there are many things you can do to help with the January blues but obviously if you feel really ill you should visit the good old GP. Personally, my favourite exercise at present is a countryside walk. I’ve done quite a bit of walking lately, some in a solitary way and some with others. Going with a local group is good because you hear some of the local news and about how others are coping with their lives. Exploring the local area by yourself is a fruitful way of doing something for your soul and is invigorating.

Something like checking out your outside space could be prudent. Wash your car, sweep the drive or tidy the garden. You may start chatting to the neighbours! Also, book a day trip, holiday or some sort of adventure. If you haven’t much dosh (it is January after all) go on an exploration adventure and take a picnic!

Hope you find some of the research and tips useful because it does seem to be a widely discussed issue. Think we all need some motivation to spark some life back into ourselves. As usual, I need to follow this advice too. Sometimes, you do have to just embrace the winter months and at least we can try to convince ourselves that spring is around the corner!

Top Tips…

Physical and mental exercise

Socialising

Hobbies

Becoming more concrete and specific in your thinking (eg, by asking how?) rather than thinking about meanings and implications (eg, asking why?)

Vitamin D

Diet (foods above)

Exploring new areas

Use your outside space

Book a holiday/adventure/day out

It’s all about the insta! https://www.instagram.com/mishmashmediablog/?hl=en 

Sources:

https://www.exeter.ac.uk/research/feature/janblues/

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/keep-momentum-how-beat-january-blues-0

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-154138/How-beat-January-blues.html

http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/the-january-blues-what-is-it-and-how-can-you-beat-it

Photos – Andy’s

#Running again and some healthy tips… Update

Pleased to say, that I’m beginning to run on the treadmill again. It is rather exacting and the “random” level has been lowered so the hill climbing isn’t too ridiculous. Also, during the so called run (shuffle), I’m tending to walk a little too. It isn’t a good idea to overdo things.

The funny thing is, moving at a faster pace should be harder, but I find the process is advantageous and oddly relaxing. The same with fast walking. You feel you’ve achieved something and are re-energized afterwards.

Apparently, the best foods to eat after a run are eggs, bacon, toast, yoghurt and fruit. For lunch a chicken sandwich with a side salad or a burger with sweet potato fries. So a selection of healthy fats, lean protein, dairy and fruits are ideal. When over 50 years old, it is recommended to try ‘protein pacing’ and spread out your meals so you eat about every four hours and drink plenty of water. This is good for muscle repair so make sure you get plenty of healthy protein. To be honest, this is good advice because once you start getting really hungry, you start manically stuffing rubbish food and the diet falls apart. If that happens call it a PLUS DAY rather than a bad day, and start again the following day.

I’m pleased to say that it is ok to run before breakfast if you don’t run for more than an hour. This is great because it is the best time to exercise, in my opinion. Going to the gym in the morning is far more successful than in the evening. It’s easy not to bother after work and the energy levels are so much better in the morning.

Anyway, it has been a slow process for me, but the aches and pains have gone, at least for now. As running was on the after Christmas agenda, it is a good result. Well goodish. Still feel that fitness should take a higher priority, but you have to have fun as well, don’t you?

Apparently, a beer or two is OK because it offers fluids, sodium, potassium and carbs although you shouldn’t choose a beer over four per cent alcohol. Well, that’s me in the dog house then. I  drink the craft beers (American IPA) and they are usually high in alcohol. Oh well, I am improving and it is a tricky time of year…

Tonight, I’ve had a lovely salmon stew with spinach, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, fresh basil and it was rather good, even if I say so myself.

So I’m trying to retain some sort of sensible diet but it is challenging isn’t it? Taking small steps is a good way to get going so I’ve managed to cut out rubbish food, particular processed sugar. It is all about having the right frame of mind and when you are poorly, it is hard. It is great to feel better and hopefully I will stay healthy. Anyway, hope you are all well and looking forward to having some time off at the end of this month for the festivities.

To sum up:

  • Take exercise and build up slowly
  • Morning exercise is best for motivation (in my opinion)
  • Eggs, bacon, toast, yoghurt and fruit are best after exercise. For lunch chicken, beef with salad
  • Have a treat!
  • Check out my previous foody blogs for inspiration
  • If you have a bad day just call it a PLUS DAY and start again, the following day.

Thank you for reading my blog,it is appreciated and don’t forget to follow. 🙂

,  Salmon Stew

 

 

Source: https://www.runnersworld.co.uk/nutrition/10-running-nutrition-questions-get-answered

Are you feeling SAD?

With the onset of winter, it is easy to feel tired and fed up. The clocks change and make the mornings glaringly light for a few days but the evenings darken immediately.

When I went to Iceland, a young chap told me they only have about three hours of daylight in November and everything tends to get done during that time. During the summer, they party into the early hours as it barely gets dark at all.

In the UK, around 6% suffer from seasonal affective disorder or Sad and in countries such as Canada, Denmark and Sweden, these symptoms are so severe that people cannot function properly.

The condition can cause disruption of sleep, weight gain and depression. Apparently, women are much more likely to suffer from SAD and this is thought to be because of evolution…

Robert Levitan, a professor at the University of Toronto says,

“Ten thousand years ago, during the ice age, this biological tendency to slow down during the wintertime was useful, especially for women of reproductive age because pregnancy is very energy-intensive. But now we have a 24-hour society, we’re expected to be active all the time and it’s a nuisance.”

Many people get the “winter blues” and this is characterised by feeling uninterested in your surroundings, unmotivated and fatigued. Around 15% suffer these symptons although my humble opinion would put it higher than this.

Light therapy is recognised as helpful for people suffering badly. Many people suffer from low spirits during the cold, dark months. However, sometimes you can embrace it, as I have done and explore other places in the world, such a Norway, Rome or warmer climes like the Canary Islands during the winter months. Or just have a jolly day out or a long walk preferably with a lunch break in the pub! Curling up with a cup of tea and a good book is another favourite of mine too. A break and change of routine, during the winter months is helpful and refreshing. Too much emphasis on summer holidays can become tedious and it is interesting to explore different areas and participate in a variety of activities.

So what is the solution? The main thing that will cheer you up is socialising. Sometimes I will invite someone for a meal and take time planning and preparing it. Having a good natter is fun and enlightening. But as for December, it does go on a bit, doesn’t it?

Of course, the most obvious thing that may help is going outside to exercise, even if only for a few minutes a day. Nothing more boring that being stuck in an office. Put on your brightest clothes, (we all wear too much black and grey) and wander out for some fresh air. You will catch some light somewhere among the grey clouds and feel better moving your body.

So what do you do to get through the winter? Do share!

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/30/sad-winter-depression-seasonal-affective-disorder

Walking at night? Really? Here is why you should!

It is irritating when you come home from work and it is too dark to  venture out. Or is it? Not according to this article on night time walking.

When I spotted the article, in The Telegraph, I initially ignored it and then went back to find the article because it is, well, something a bit different. Then I decided to go out for a walk around the village even though the sun was setting. The fresh cold air was invigorating and as I increased my pace, I soon warmed up. Time to wear the old leather gloves though.

“Britain has a great tradition of literary nightwalkers. First Chaucer, in an age when darkness could be banished only by faltering, fallible candles; later the Elizabethans, then the flaming torch or cradled lantern passes to Wordsworth, De Quincey and Dickens.”

Well, I know we don’t have “fallible candles” anymore but if those literary nightwalkers can do it, so can I! Yes, some of them may have been high on opium, but all great writers.

Anyway, the photos I took, made the local ambiance look brighter than it was. Night had definitely arrived by the time I was home. The walk was peaceful, helped my annoying aches and pains and frankly gave me some time to think. This, maybe a habit I will repeat. In the past, I have been walking in Ashdown Forest before, to look at the shooting stars and planets and it is eerie but quite fascinating in a solitary sort of way.

Christopher Salisbury, a professional outdoorsman and storyteller says, “It’s a beautiful time; reflective and contemplative. The darkness forces you to come into the present moment.”

“The winter is a dark time – let’s celebrate it. Let’s capture some of that mystery and enchantment and bring it back,” says Christopher [Salisbury, outdoorsman]. “Culturally we’ve banished the night. We have light bulbs and street lamps. So, to particularly be in a natural environment, where we can experience true darkness, or even true silence, culturally we’re a little comforted by those things. There’s some excitement. Some little edge of, dare I say it, danger of the night-time.” 

Is this mad? No, my area is fairly safe and I am talking late afternoon/early evening. The pedestrian exploration is invigorating and gets you out of the house. I may not want to traipse around the countryside, but will consider some village/town walks. It is a good idea, isn’t it? The question is: Is this the weirdest idea I’ve ever posted about?

In the country | Five night walks to get you started…

Holnicote Estate, Exmoor

Exmoor National Park was designated the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe, and it’s one of the UK’s best spots for stargazing, thanks to low levels of light pollution. You can get closer to the stars at Dunkery Beacon on the Holnicote Estate, the highest point on Exmoor. The 1,700ft summit offers stunning 360-degree views of the skies above Somerset, so there’ll be plenty of stars and constellations to keep you occupied. You can also listen out for nightjars, and keep your eyes peeled for low-flying bats. nationaltrust.org.uk/holnicote-estate/trails/dunkery-and-horner-wood-circular-walk

Warrens, Girts and Ouzels, Dartmoor

Starting and finishing at the historic Warren House Inn, with its famous open fire that is said to have been burning since 1845, this route can either be walked or cycled and has a number of variations that make it more or less challenging. It is also accessible by bus, although at the present time these do not carry bikes. This route is almost entirely off road following unsurfaced bridleways, so expect rough going in places and some mud or lying water at times. visitdartmoor.co.uk/things-to-do/warrens-girts-and-ouzels-p2356713

Stackpole, Pembrokeshire

Formerly a grand private estate, Stackpole provides access to some of the world’s most beautiful stretches of coastline. It’s also home to Broadhaven South, one of four designated Dark Sky Discovery sites in Pembrokeshire. Run by the National Trust, this is the perfect spot for staring up at the Milky Way. Make an afternoon of it with a walk around the lily ponds, ending up at the beach just in time for the sun to go down. Remember to take warm clothes and a torch. NB: take particular care crossing the lake on the narrow causeway bridges. nationaltrust.org.uk/stackpole/trails/bosherston-lily-ponds-freshwater-magic-walk

Barbury Castle and the Ridgeway, Wiltshire

A delightful downland walk along the Ridgeway, said to be Europe’s oldest road. The Iron Age hill fort of Barbury Castle is believed to be the site at which Cynric, the King of Wessex, defeated the Britons in 556AD. Constructed in a double-earth bank design, the outer bank was reinforced with huge Sarsen Stones that can still be seen today. Barbury Castle can be a good spot to watch the sunrise. The car park closes at 7.30pm but there’s places to park on the track outside. visitwiltshire.co.uk/things-to-do/activities/walking

Keswick, Cumbria

An easy short walk from the centre of Keswick or Lakeside car park by the Theatre by the Lake to Friar’s Crag looking down Derwentwater. You will need a torch but most of the trail is fairly level. On the way, past the boat landings and through the trees, listen for the tawny owls. At the end of the trail there is a viewing point (with bench) that looks down the length of the lake into the dark of the Borrowdale Valley, making it an excellent spot for stargazing. visitcumbria.com/short-night-walk-keswick/

 

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/mind/night-walking-helps-see-things-new-light-ten-walks-get-started/

 

Being a foody and losing weight… Tips

Well, the plan is to develop new recipes which fill  up the stomach without getting fat. Yes, the scales in the gym, record my fat content. Oh joy! No starving myself at the last minute, then.

At this time of year, it is easy to over eat and odd how simple it is to eat what you enjoy even though you feel so much better when you eat healthily and can fit into your clothes. Who doesn’t feel so tired when they eat well?

The plan is to consume more couscous, beans. sweet potatoes, swede, carrots with copious amounts of tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach and eggs. Eggs are so filling. Porridge is great for breakfast too. A few nuts are ok for a snack. 

My aim is to eat well, but similar to how I normally eat. Just not quite so much beer! Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables which will fill me up, so plenty of fibre and filling nutrients.

Extras like bread and wine will have to be eradicated or at least reduced, which is really hard. Portions need to be controlled and recorded if one can be bothered. Apparently, we are all eating far more than twenty years ago. Portion sizes in restaurants and ready meals have risen exponentially.

“Whether you’re eating at home or in a restaurant, your meal should include a mix of non-starchy veggies (like broccoli, spinach or courgette), lean protein (like chicken, fish, beans or lean red meat), complex carbohydrates (like whole grains, sweet potato or wholewheat pasta) and healthy fat (like olive oil, avocado or nuts).”

Read: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/weight-loss/how-to-eat-healthy-at-a-restaurant#ixzz4z3xE5A31

Ok, you may think, this is a bit boring but actually having these foods on your plate, often provides an interesting meal. For example, sea bass with fresh herbs, mushroom/onion, etc., tomato sauce is delicious rather than a calorie laden creamy, but bland sauce. Often, when I go for a so called healthier option, in a restaurant, I end up really enjoying it and do not feel like a blown up balloon afterwards! Recently, I eat a so called Hong Kong chicken meal with rice and salad. It was rubbish. I’m sure the sauce was ketchup with a bit of vinegar in it. Yuk! The rice was good though with prawns and peas. But it all felt rather insipid and crappy. Sometimes you feel places have not moved with the times and their choices.

Another top tip when cooking at home, is, cook enough to last for two days which saves time too. Today’s shepherd’s pie, will last for two days and will be a filling meal with lots of veggies.

To sum up, try to vary your food. Potatoes, pasta, rice or cous cous with a variety of veggies are all tasty if you add some herbs/spices. If you have some of the dried things in your pantry, you don’t have to think about it too much! Meals with pasta/rice are quick to prepare. Just throw together some ingredients into a pan (mushrooms, peppers, onion, chicken, fish, broccoli) with tomato puree (and even a splash of wine or a tiny bit of cream cheese) and it makes a super, delicious meal. Simple, quick and cheap.

Porridge is great for breakfast with some nuts and fruit. Eggs are filling and good for snacks as are nuts too. Make enough for two (or more days). I’ve been known to cook three casseroles, at a time. All were quick and cheap to prepare. See previous blog: Three Day Stews

Good luck everyone. It is not easy, especially when it is so cold and dark but it is worth the effort and doesn’t take much time.

Many Life Changes…

A lot has happened over the last few weeks, relating to work and fitness. I’m about to leave my current job, mainly, because I’ve lost some of my passion for social media and require a change with some new challenges. My only regret is that I wasn’t proactive earlier because I’ve felt this way for a few months. Things change, and you need to change with them. There are opportunities out there! Do you ever feel like this?

Also this month, I’ve decided to join a class aimed at gaining fitness and losing weight. Many people seem to have gone off the fitness trail and I’m one of them! A class meeting is being held twice a week, with a weigh in once a week. My start has been slow due to a weak ankle and now a bad back. Injuries are unusual for me, because I train to avoid them. So frustrating.

Because of all of the recent changes above, I will be writing some blogs about diet, fitness and well being. I am not an expert, but like to read articles about health/fitness, run (shuffle), exercise and write about my experiences. Also, I’m very normal and prone to overeating and drinking one or two beers. So you can take my ideas with a pinch of salt or try them out and read any attached links if you wish.

So what is the plan? I’m actually going to exercise most days, but start slowly. To be honest, food intake is more important because I’ve lost the plot lately. Hasn’t everyone? My calorie intake will be about 1200 calories with the occasional cheat meal. All food will be recorded. Luckily, healthy food attracts me even more than junk food. Cooking from scratch, whatever that means, comes naturally to me. Also, recently, I’ve devised some recipes which will fill me up,hopefully, without making me fat. (Blog post coming up.)

Although I run occasionally, I will do less of this and focus more on strength training and attend the weight loss class twice a week. Walking is also a favourite of mine, so I’ll do more prancing about the countryside with the borrowed dog, Oscar.

Really enjoyed the first weight loss class. Blaring music and lots of movement, but several exercise options given, in case you aren’t fully fit. Great stuff.

So the plan is..

  • Focus on new opportunities (there is a plan!)
  • Aim to become healthier
  • More outside activities
  • New hobbies
  • Read about health, fitness, etc.

Are you going to join me? Let’s hope it won’t be too arduous. 😏

 

 

How boosting energy will make you run for you life…

Part 1 – Sleep

I’ve been poorly with a virus after weeks struggling with energy levels. So how do you improve energy levels and therefore fitness?

Having read various articles and papers by experts, plus watched some really interesting documentaries, I’ve decided to collate some points of interest.

The first point is you need to get enough sleep and most of us do not. The UK is known to be a sleep deprived nation. Insomniac Michael Mosley (Presenter of the documentary The Truth about Sleep) confesses that he usually wakes every night at 4 am and reads for a bit until he is able to sleep. So he investigated why we are so sleep deprived.  It seems easier to sleep when you are younger, but harder as life goes on.

The Sleep On-set Latency Test

To find out if you are sleep deprived, see if you can nod off in the middle of the afternoon. Hold a metal spoon over a metal tray and see how long you can hold the spoon. If it drops before ten minutes, then you are sleep deprived. If before five minutes, then you have severe sleep deprivation.

How Much Rest Do We Need? 

Apparently, you should get between eight to nine hours sleep, but many do not achieve this. In fact, as a nation, we sleep 1-2 hours less than 60 years ago. When we do hit the sack, our quality of sleep is worse and a third of us suffer from insomnia.

Caffeine and alcohol have a diverse effect on our sleep patterns and may cause snoring which, disrupts the partner’s sleep as well.

Sleeping pills are not the answer which is no surprise. They may possibly help for a few days but can be addictive as you build up a tolerance.

The biggest surprise, for me, is sleep deprivation can cause health issues such a Type 2 diabetes and obesity. This shocked me. Dr Helen Scott, from the University of Leeds has been researching this:

“We know that a lack of sleep alters different hormones that are involved in how we perceive appetite and hunger,” she explains.

“So we get more of the hormones that cause us to feel hungry and less of the ones that cause us to feel full.

“There.. [are].. some big studies suggest that people who sleep too little, and indeed those who sleep too much,…it’s associated with the development of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.”

 

Mosley’s documentary about sleep, investigated a few solutions which you may like to try…

THE TECHNIQUES:

1. Breathing.
Controlling your breathing can reduce stress. This approach is known as 4-2-4
– Breathe in deeply through your nose while mentally counting to 4.
– Hold your breath to a count of 2.
– Breathe out through your mouth to a count of 4.
– Try doing this for 3 to 4 minutes. It should feel relaxing.

2. Have a warm bath or shower 1-2 hours before going to bed, then allow yourself to cool. The act of cooling should trigger sleepiness

3. Eat two Kiwi fruit an hour before bed. A study done over 4 weeks found that this improved quality and quantity of sleep.

4. Remove electronic devices from the bedroom and turn off all screens at least an hour before bed. That includes TV, computers, mobile phone and all social media.

5. If you are a regular drinker then try skipping alcohol for a few days. Although it may help you go to sleep, alcohol also tends to disrupt sleep

6. Go for a 20 minute walk or a run first thing in the morning. The early morning light should help reset your internal clock, making sleep easier.

There is some science behind no. 2. A warm bath will increase your temperature and then drop when you experience cold air. This helps you to fall asleep.

Put away devices, because the blue light, is a good and vital point (that I don’t always follow myself). Plus alcohol will disrupt your sleep. Damn it!

Do the sleep challenge here.

How do you get enough sleep? Go for a walk, like Oscar?

More about gaining energy in Part 2…