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Part 9 of our how to beat the blues today is one I’m sure you will all like, seeking intimacy.
Be it going to the pub to meet your mates, visiting a family member for a long weekend, or having a sexual relationship with someone, intimate relationships are the most important key to good mental health, says Ms Blair, a mental health expert. “Having a meaningful relationship and reminding yourself that you do – either by visiting them or having sex with them – is really good to boost a sense of well-being. We are helpless as babies and it’s hardwired into us. Different people needs different amounts of intimacy, but we all need connections. “Just being part of a web that weaves together, and needs the other parts to exist.”
It may not seem connected but many of our London and Thames Valley personal training clients come to us single and fairly low on self esteem and confidence. Part of the all round approach at Diets Don’t Work is not just to make clients fitter and thinner but also to encourage them to try activities outside of training sessions that they might like, and also they might entail developing new relationships, whether they be just new friends or otherwise. Some clients have ended up joining running clubs (many local municipal leisure centres have nights when a personal trainer will take out runners of all abilities), other personal training clients have joined rowing clubs, a few have tried kayaking and are still sticking with it and some have even gone out and bought themselves mountain bikes and are loving that. So there really is a link between how good you feel about your self and how successfully you develop new relationships and acquaintances. Fitness and sporting clubs can be a really good way of doing this.
To improve your happiness and well being you should do something for someone else for free. Britons work the longest hours in Europe, and many have a lengthy commute. Do we have the time to volunteer? Finding the time may help boost our spirits, experts say. For instance, the Canadian Mental Health Association says giving time for free “gives a sense of purpose and satisfaction that paid work cannot”.
Dr Harper, a leading psycologist says: “Increasingly we live in a society where people focus on work and leisure and that whole aspect of giving something back to a community has changed.” The fact people give so generously to charity shows they respond to helping others, he says. They can take it one step further. “It’s important to think about doing things locally. We need to build local communities. How about helping the neighbour next door, and getting to know the people in the next street.”
Originally I am fro Barbados, and was lucky enough to grow up there, and although there is a much higher discrepancy between the rich and the poor many of the ordinary people are much happier with what to us might seem like a more primitive and undeveloped way of life. Not many people have the internet or flat screen TVs but there is still a sense of community with village live more like it used to be in Britain 40 years ago. If someone has a heavy bearing mango tree then his or her friends in the village will be given some; the elderly are looked after by family close by or quite often by their neighbours; everyone is generally always looking out for everyone else, and there’s a true sense of community. These people are not rich, and yet by U.K. standards perhaps they have a better life than we do. By giving to others as this blog shows they are actually getting lots back.
Phillip Hodson, a fellow of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy gives the following advice; “Unless we have an interest and unless you have work – play work or money work – an activity that means something to us, it’s hard in our society to feel relevant or useful,” says Mr Hodson. It helps if the pastime we choose is “something that absolutely takes you out of yourself. “If you only dwell in your own head you’re going to be miserable.”
Our hobbies should, ideally, be something we can take with us through life and connects us to our earlier selves. “I stopped playing squash when I was 40,” cautions Mr Hodson. “The idea of picking up a squash racquet now is fanciful,” he admits.
So it might be knitting, Kitesurfing (I persoanally have just taken up the latter, and hope that I will be able to continue doing it for quite a few years to come) or another hobby, but the advice from us here at Diets Don’t Work personal training is to try lots of thoings before you decide to go for one or the other. Don’t be dissapointed if the first things you try are not as good as you thought they would be, keep going until you find something you like and then are more likely to stick with. For some of our personal training clients it’s not just that they are getting some structured exercise and losing weight or toning up, but that the hour with their personal trainer is one of the only hours in any given week where they are taken out of themselves and do not have to think about everyday things or worries. This hour or two (or more!!) a week is really important to maintain a healthy balance for both your mind and body.
Part 6 today of our beat the blues series, and although you may need some serious flexibility training form one of our London personal trainers to do this literally, it is really important to give yourself some positive reinforcement and congratulate yourself when you have done something well. It may sound od and you may feel foolish doing it for the first few times but psycologists emphasise the importance of mirror talk – positive encouragement in front the mirror – out loud.
Every day you should compliment yourself out loud. First of all, it’s probably going to make you laugh, and that releases endorphins. You identify with the sound of your own voice, because you listen to it in your own head, and you are also arrested by your own image. That message goes straight in!
In my ongoing series based on a recent mental health report, here’s the how to beat the blues part 6. The presence of pets can be a huge help in mental health improvements, and many care homes have found that the introduction of animals for which residents have a responsibility for can greatly increase their levels of happiness. Some care homes have brought in cats and dogs so that residents – some of whom may have had to give up pets moving into homes – can stroke and play with the animals. And in many cases the simple act of stroking a cat or dog can lift spirits. “A pet can also give someone something to focus on other than themselves, to give kindness and affection,” Dr Harper says. There is a basic human desire to give things, he says – in a way we reward ourselves by being nice.
Another study recently featured in the daily mail showed the particular benefits of having a dog:
“New research has revealed that the daily chore of walking the dog can ward off depression and loneliness.A study by the University of Portsmouth found that the UK’s 6.2 million dogs helped motivate their 15 million owners by encouraging them to exercise through a daily walk, even when they didn’t feel like it.The dog walkers surveyed reported that the exercise gave them a better overall sense of well-being as they often met like-minded people, leaving them feeling happier.Participants in the psychological study also found that even if they were feeling low, they always felt better once they were outside.Whilst older dog walkers found that the exercise helped them stay physically fitter and maintain social contacts, it also encouraged children to venture outdoors and spend less time in front of the television, according to the report.The findings by the university’s Department of Environmental Design and Management come as conservation experts launch a new campaign to urge more people to “reconnect” with the environment.
As an interesting side effect we have found at Diets Don’t Work that many of our clients who have dogs don’t just get fitter and slimmer (and as a consequence happier) but so do their pets! Lots of our home personal training clients have dogs, who often come jogging with the client and trainer. In particular we have quite a few greedy labradors who are now much fitter, happier and slimmer. For a good example have a look at Lucy (black, furry) and Sharon (Human, non furry) on our home page and on the success stories page.
Cook a meal from scratch
“Food is destiny,” Mr Hodson (a fellow of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) says. “We are what we eat in every sense of the word. And food is the physical pleasure that lasts longest in life.”
Turn your back on takeaways and cook a meal from scratch
There’s a sense of self worth in gathering ingredients and cooking a meal – one that grows the better we know the recipe so that we can do it almost on autopilot, allowing our minds to wander even while preparing our food. “Independence requires that you can feed yourself. If you can’t cook you’re not an adult. You need to be able to give yourself harmony and balance, nourishment.”
By cooking yourself you will also be obeying the rule that personal trainers put above nearly all others; to try and maintain the principles of the wholefood diet, eating as much unprocessed food as possible, with no additives or preservatives. By following this wholefood nutrition you are not only ensuring that you are getting all the essential vitamins and nutrients, but also that you will find it much easier to maintain or get to a healthy weight. These wholefods are low in sugars and processed fats and are also usually calorie light, so you can have lots of them. Have a look at our free pdf fact sheet on nutrition, and give it a go. If you combine this home cooking with some structured and tailored exercise with one of our personal trainers then you will be fit and slim in no time!!
Exercise – be it swimming, playing badminton, or going on a 10-mile hike – often tops lists as a way to lift spirits. And it’s been proven to aid mental health as well as giving physical benefits.
Clinical psychologist Linda Blair says our anxious reaction to stress – the fight or flight syndrome manifested by nausea, racing heart and sweating – cries out to be relieved through physical exercise. But those averse to donning trainers and sweating on the pavements can still get many of the benefits from singing loudly or enrolling in a dance class. “Not only does it balance all the gases in your body but it stops you getting a racing heart and sweating… that’s not useful when you’re sitting in a traffic jam.” Aerobic activity releases endorphins, “and that’s a natural, good free drug,” she says.
Of course at Diets Don’t Work we believe that a higher level of intensity will bring more gains both in terms of mental health, physical well being, disease prevention and longevity. Any good personal trainer will advise you that to gat all the benefits from exercise you should either exercise at or above 60% of your maximum heart rate for 20 minutes 3 times a week. If you are just getting going or are no longer a spring chicken then you can take it a bit more gently, but you should try to exercise at or above 50% of maximum heart rate for 30 minutes 5 times a week. If you are struggling to get motivated at all then even a few sessions with one of our supportive personal trainers might be enough to get you going.
Today it’s the second instalment on how to beat the blues!
2. Get out in the garden
Gardening has often been cited as a hobby ripe for getting people out of depression. That’s because it takes people out of their own thoughts and helps them focus on something that needs their care and attention, says Dr David Harper, a reader in clinical psychology at the University of East London. “You’re feeling close to nature by being outside and nurturing nature in some way. It connects you to a broader world out there. And if you’re growing things, that’s going to give you a feeling that you’re sustaining things.”
This tip today is of course included in personal training at Diets Don’t Work, as in home personal training we are outdoors as often as possible, and in the average week you would be surprised how little we get rained off. Although not quite personal training, gardening is an extremely good form of exercise, and is also very good for the mind, as it is both soothing and satisfing to watch the steady progress of one’s garden.
Today I am going to start a ten day personal trainer series on how to stay cheerful and positive, and it’s not just based on exercise. New research from the mental health foundation charity show that the mental health of the nation is not great;from economy pressures to family stresses we could all do with ways to beat the blues. These charities have come up with 10 ways to stay positive, and of course exercise is one of them. So here’s number one..
LightboxesThe effect of long winters, some say, can be shortened with the use of lightboxes, which deliver a dose of bright light similar to daylight to alleviate seasonal depression. “Certainly, there’s enough people in the two hemispheres who say ‘thank God it’s summer, I feel so much better’, and that may be because it’s light, or to do with heat,” says Phillip Hodson, a fellow of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. “A lot of people swear by lightboxes.” Attitudes to the mood-lifting qualities of light are strong in northern climes such as Scandinavia, which has long, dark winters.
“The fact is, northern winters are pretty long and pretty hard, and if you’re going to die of starvation that’s the time to do it! A light box is something well worth trying. Put it this way, there’s been one in our house for 25 years. My partner has one, and she says it really makes a difference.”
Can you feel it at the moment? If you have been reading this or other blogs, or even better a book, for more than 6 minutes, then your stress levels should have been reduced by 68%. This is the implication of research carried out by the university of Sussex which found reading to be the most relaxing of pastimes, even more so than listening to music, having a cup of tea or going for a stroll. A group of volunteers were made to do exercise and then immediately afterwards were made to engage in the above mentioned activities. Six minutes later their heart rates and muscle tension was measured. Slow walking brought about an improvement of 41%, having a hot drink made a 54% difference, music chilled them out by 61% but the biggest result was after reading, which led to a 68% decrease in tension levels.
As a personal trainer I deal with lots of stressed out people who often find getting a balance between work and home life difficult, and this new research fits in with advice that I give clients; no matter how busy you are, or think you are, taking 20 minutes a few times a week solely for you and no one else is extremely important. Not only will it make you more relaxed, but it will improve your efficiency and success in all the other areas of your life, from work to family relationships. You might think “I can’t just take 20 minutes of, this needs doing or that needs doing, but that 20 minutes will make you better at getting through everything you do, and give you a calmer and more positive perspective. Remember also that structured exercise is also a great weapon against tension and negativity.