It’s time to talk about mental health

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Today is the first ever Time to Talk Day. Organised by the brilliant Time to Change, the largest programme in England tackling the stigma and discrimination often associated with mental health, run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. Time to Talk aims to start conversations around mental health, raise awareness and share the message that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and neither is talking about it.

For inspiration on how you can get involved – have a look at the Time to Talk events page that lists everything going on in your area. There’s loads happening online too, keep up to date via Twitter and #TimetoTalk for all the latest information. If you head over to the Rethink Mental Illness Facebook page at 2.00pm-3.00pm today, you could also have a live web chat with the very inspiring Jonny Benjamin, who recently made the headlines with his #FindMike campaign, where Jonny got to say thanks to the man that saved his life.

Every small conversation helps…

What regularly slips your mind?

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For me, it’s where on earth have I left my house keys. I’m always invariably on the last minute to catch a bus, train or get to an appointment and have just realised my keys aren’t where I thought they would be. Cue mild panic: I usually find them a few minutes later in quite a sensible place. My trouble is I’ve absent-mindedly put them down while doing something else at the same time. Multi-tasking has a lot to answer for…

So, the reason for my forgetfulness introduction? New research by the Post-it brand (those providers of bright, sticky notes that are memory-jogging wonders) has revealed the average person forgets four facts, items or events every day. The study of 2,000 people found our constant busyness leads to some scatter-brained moments. It even suggests we can forget as many as 1,460 things over a year – yikes!

The brand has compiled a ‘forgotten fifty’ list of the top 50 things that slip our minds. The top five all have that air of familiarity about them, though my worst offenders are numbers one, two, five and 28.

1. Forget what you went into a room for
2. Misplacing keys
3. Forgetting items while food shopping
4. Forgetting people’s names when introducing them
5. Forgetting where you left your pen
28. Forgetting train or bus times

Our hectic lives can leave us forgetting things here and there, and this is all perfectly normal. When you add this to the fact we naturally become a little more forgetful as we become older – it’s easy to see how and why things can slip our minds.

However, if you are at all worried about your memory loss, don’t keep it to yourself: talk to someone.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why clenching your fists may boost your memory

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We all have days where our memory retention skills could do with a boost, whatever our age. US researchers feel the answer may lie (quite literally) in our own hands.

Scientists at the Montclair State University have found clenching the right hand for 90 seconds helps with memory formation, while the same movement in the left hand improves memory recall. In the experiment, 50 students were given a list of words to remember and found they performed better when using fist clenches. The researchers feel the fist clenching movements activate specific brain regions that are associated with memory processing. Further research will continue.

If you’re rubbish at remembering names or always forget at least one thing you want to pick up from the supermarket (like me), it’s certainly worth a try…

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Brighten up on Blue Monday

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If you want to avoid feeling too down in the dumps on Blue Monday (Monday 21st January), wear bright clothes, Mental Health Research UK advises.

January as a whole can be a month when many of us feel pretty miserable, yet researchers claim that the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. This is due to bad weather, reduced daylight, debt, the need for Christmas detox and poor motivation.

MHRUK hopes to brighten up Britain with its campaign, Blooming Monday. The charity aims to raise awareness of depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and hopes to encourage people participating in brightening up their attire for the day to donate £2 to MHRUK to fund research into treatments.

If you’re wearing bright colours on Monday and want to make a voluntary difference, you can donate £2 to MHRUK by texting BLOO22 to 70070.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Five reasons why we should eat more Marmite

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Apparently we all either love or hate Marmite. I don’t actually love or hate it, I’m very much in the ‘it’s okay but I don’t eat it very often’ camp.

My GP recommended I eat more Marmite to try and increase my iron levels, I’m prone to anaemia you see. This provided a catalyst for this post as I wondered what else Marmite can help with and as it is vegetarian-friendly too, it could be a good health boost for many of us. Here’s why…

1. Boosts brain power – as it’s rich in vitamin B12 and folic acid, Marmite can help to improve memory and focus.

2. Tackles anaemia – Marmite is not only a rich source of iron, it also contains iodine which helps our bodies to absorb iron.

3. Can help combat depression – a lack of B vitamins can lead to anxiety and depression. Marmite is loaded with B vitamins and could help to improve low mood.

4. Great hangover fix – we feel so rough after a night on the sauce as a result of our bodies lacking essential nutrients such as B vitamins. Marmite’s sodium content can also help to replenish lost salts.

5. Makes skin glow – vitamin B1, more commonly known as thiamin, helps our bodies to get the most out of the energy and nutrients in our food. This in turn helps our skin to look good. Marmite also contains riboflavin (vitamin B2) which is essential for healthy hair, skin and nails.

I’m making a pact to increase my weekly (currently non-existent) quota of Marmite, who’s with me?!

 

Image courtesy of Press Loft/Prezzybox.

Talking summer SAD

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While most of us are craving more sunshine and blue skies, summertime can be one of despair for the estimated 600,000 people affected by summer or reverse SAD in the UK.

Seasonal affective disorder is more commonly known as a wintertime condition, where the shortened days and decreased sun exposure cause symptoms of depression. Summer SAD is simply the reverse of this.

Symptoms include: increased sense of heat at night, agitation, restlessness, insomnia, reduced appetite and a general feeling of being miserable, often for no reason. You may also experience a sense of not enjoying what are usually pleasurable activities.

I’ve recently written a piece on summer SAD for the current issue of the Depression Alliance’s membership magazine Single Step. As part of the piece, I spoke to Ricky and Julia, two people who fantastically illustrated just how difficult life in the summer months can be for those affected.

Some tips that can help to minimise the effects of summer SAD include: using black-out curtains, opening windows at night, avoiding bright light, having frequent cooling showers, taking an ice-cold water bottle or cooling blanket to bed and exercising regularly.

For more information on the causes, expert insight, further tips and Ricky and Julia’s stories – take a look at my piece.

If you would like to commission me to write a piece for you, do get in touch

Can we boost our grey matter with the white stuff?

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I’ve had mine today, have you had yours? Yes, we all know milk is a great source of calcium which helps build and maintain healthy bones, as well as giving our bodies a vitamin and protein boost. But did you know, a glass of milk a day could also boost your brain power too?

New US research certainly seems to think so. Milk drinkers, irrespective of age and health, performed significantly higher on a range of brain and cognitive tests than those who drank little or no milk in the study of 972 men and women.

Each participant was asked to keep a detailed record on their diets and how often they consumed dairy products, even including milk added to tea and coffee. The research, published in the International Dairy Journal, showed adults who consumed dairy products five or six times per week performed better in a series of tests to check memory, concentration and learning ability.

Interestingly, the study also found those who regularly drink milk also tend to maintain a healthy diet, compared to non-milk drinkers.

So, will this new research make you more likely to reach for a milky drink before tackling a looming work deadline? I’d love to know…

 

Image courtesy of Press Loft/Dotcomgiftshop

Get outdoors, laugh and sing to beat winter blues

Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, is urging us to get outside to guard against winter blues and to improve mental health.

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Many of us feel a dip in mood as the days get darker and research shows this is largely due to a reduction in sunlight. Our internal patterns of sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity all rely on natural light cycles. As daylight hours diminish to just eight in December, the winter blues can be something that affects us all. You may feel low, eat and sleep more or feel less inclined to get out and socialise or even go to work.

Getting outdoors, or ecotherapy, increases our exposure to sunlight and can positively impact on our mood. Research shows outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

Exercise, laughter and music all stimulate and boost endorphins, the feelgood chemicals in our bodies that help to lift our mood. Make a point of spending time with those who make you smile. Or pop on a quality tune and sing-along gleefully. It is also important to eat well.

“By simply getting outdoors, we can all help ourselves in strengthening mental resilience,” says Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind. “Whether going for a lengthy bike ride, a quick jog around the local park or just time pottering in the garden, I encourage everyone to step outside and find something they enjoy this winter.”

Mind has developed a super information and ideas site to coax people outdoors this winter. Use the Ecominds activity picker to conjure up some truly inspiring, fun and unusual suggestions…

 

 

 

UK Riots – free post-traumatic events workshops for Londoners

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The UK rioting, violence and looting witnessed earlier this week caused a wave of fear, anger and bewilderment across the nation.

Humanitarian organisation, the Art of Living Foundation will offer free workshops across London to help eliminate and manage the mental and physical stress associated with the events of the past few days.

Founder of the Art of Living Foundation, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has previously been instrumental in providing trauma relief workshops to victims of manmade disasters including 9/11, the 7/7 London bombings plus natural disasters including the Japanese earthquake, Haiti and Hurricane Katrina.

The workshops have also been effective in reducing trauma levels and stress in war-torn areas such as Kosovo and Iraq.

For more information, contact the press team.

 

Go bananas for a natural brain power boost

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Inspiration for this week’s blog post comes from Middlesbrough College and its excellent energy-boosting concentration-improving solution for A-Level and AS-level students – bananas.

Yes, the yellow fruit packed with potassium, is a superfood that can help to combat stress and boost brain power. As bananas are also a slow-releasing energy food, this makes them a perfect option for a mid-morning snack to help maintain productivity through the day. Having a banana for breakfast is also a great way to start you on the right track to 5-A-Day.

Students at Middlesbrough College are offered a banana and a bottle of water 30 minutes before exams begin. This was designed to ensure those skipping breakfast do not experience dips in concentration as a result of missing out on the first meal of the day.

The college believes bananas are the ideal antidote to exam fatigue, which can cause students to answer incorrectly as energy and concentration levels begin to drop midway through exams.

Director of A-Levels, Richard Ronksley says: “The theory behind it is not new, bananas have many health benefits. It’s a simple idea but we believe it will be beneficial to students and will hopefully have a positive impact on their exam results.”

Bananas are a great choice for all – potassium is an essential mineral that helps to maintain normal blood pressure and healthy heart function. Other banana benefits include: they are a great source of fibre, are low in salt and high in vitamin B6 making them an excellent mood food. Vitamin B6 can also be highly effective in controlling muscle spasms and strains naturally. Lastly, bananas are low in calories and are easy for your body to digest.

What’s not to love? Bananas rock. Spread the word…