Archive for the ‘Health & Wellbeing’ Category

Good reads for Mental Health Awareness Week

Sunday, May 20th, 2018 | Health & Wellbeing

Below, I’ve collated a bunch of my blog posts on mental health into a list of interesting stuff to read. It’s all been published here or over on the Worfolk Anxiety blog.

Does social media damage your mental health?

In May, Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Young Health Movement published a report on the impact of social media on mental health. The TL;DR is that yes, social media can be harmful. But it also has its uses, so when used in moderation, like most things in life, can be a useful tool.

Things you should know about antidepressants

This is a pretty old article now, and if I wrote it today I would probably say way more. But it highlights a few key things to think about when deciding to go down the antidepressant route or not, and more widely, what opinion you hold of them.

Things to do when you’re well, according to people with anxiety

Mental hygiene is the things you regularly do to keep yourself mentally healthy. Just like we have a daily routine for physical hygiene and dental hygiene, there are things we can do to keep our mental health on the right track. But what actually helps? We asked people who live with anxiety.

Things to tell yourself when you’re not well, according to people with anxiety

In last week’s blog post, we looked at some good things to do when you are feeling well. But what about when you are having a rough patch and can’t find the energy to do anything? What should you tell yourself?

Will suicide nets stop jumpers at the Golden Gate Bridge?

When it comes to stopping people throwing themselves off the bridge, the question is, can a one-time intervention really save lives? Turns out the answer is yes.

We don’t need more money for mental health

You regularly hear politicians talking about how the NHS needs more money for mental health. In today’s post, I want to challenge this idea and offer a very different explanation and very different solution.

What would a mental health workout look like?

If you want to improve your physical fitness, you might work out. Maybe you would eat a high protein breakfast, hit the gym, do a warm-up followed by some intervals and then take a warm bath to recover afterwards. But what about mental wellness? What would a training session look like? What specifically would you do?

Announcing Mindfulness for Social Anxiety

Saturday, November 11th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

After much hard work, I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new course, Mindfulness for Social Anxiety. It follows on from the free 5-Day Mindfulness for Anxiety that already has thousands of students registered.

Does social media damage your mental health?

Friday, July 28th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

In May, Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Young Health Movement published a report on the impact of social media on mental health. We wrote about it extensively on Worfolk Anxiety and you can read the full write-up over there.

The infographic was too good not to re-post, though. The TL;DR is that yes, social media can be harmful. But it also has its uses, so when used in moderation, like most things in life, can be a useful tool.

(more…)

Mindfulness for anxiety course

Thursday, July 27th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety and increasing our enjoyment of life. Practising it allows us to re-train our minds to focus on the present, rather than wandering off into worry-land.

Which is why during the 30-Day Challenge I ran in April, we did two mindfulness meditations.

They were really popular. So, I have expanded them out into a full course. It’s called 5-Day Mindfulness for Anxiety and provides you with an introduction to what mindfulness is and how it works, before giving you five guided meditations, one for each day.

Best of all, it’s free. It’s hosted by Udemy, and you can preview the course here.

It has already proved a hit with the Udemy community. Nearly 500 people have enrolled and it has an average star rating of 4.8/5.

That slightly beats out the 30-Day Challenge, also available on Udemy, which has an average rating of 4.6/5. Though the challenge has over 1,500 students enrolled.

They’re both awesome. Give them a go.

In defence of gardening

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

Gardening is not the most glamorous of topics. For many, it belongs in the same category as golf, filed under things you should only do when you retire, or at very least become a middle-aged adult.

But gardening has some great benefits.

It happens outside

You can garden inside, but you probably won’t want to. Apart from the soil that will end up on your carpet, there will not be enough daylight for your plants. Therefore it is a great motivation to get yourself outside and enjoying the fresh air.

You can watch things grow

It is satisfying to see plants spring to life out of nowhere. You can do the same thing with children of course, but that is massively time-consuming. Plants just require some sunlight and some water, and you’re done.

You can eat some of them

Week after week I could get a bag parsley from the supermarket and end up having to throw some away because I could not use all of it. Having a herb garden is much more cost effective.

You can do it anywhere

Any outside space will do. I started gardening on my fourth-floor balcony. You can have window baskets, flower pots, or even a pop-up greenhouse. No space is too small to grow something.

It’s low maintenance

You need to water your plants every few days if they are undercover. If not, you can often get away with doing literally nothing. You can go away on holiday without putting them into kennels, and you can away with just not bothering for a week if you are ill. Or you can spend time lavishing them with love, the choice is yours. Plants are resilient organisms and either will probably keep them alive.

Will suicide nets stop jumpers at the Golden Gate Bridge?

Sunday, February 26th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

When it comes to stopping people throwing themselves off the bridge, the question is, can a one-time intervention really save lives?

When thinking of iconic places to take a suicidal jump from, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has to come pretty high up that list. In fact, 1,6000 have jumped to their death from the bridge since it opened. It is a fairly reliable way to do it. In that time 26 people have survived, a 98.4% “success” rate.

Now the Golden Gate Bridge are spending nearly £60,000 on installing suicide prevention nets. These wire nets will hang below the bridge, in an attempt to mostly hide them from public view, and be made of steel. It is not going to be a pleasant fall, but should at least save the life of the jumper.

But will it actually work?

According to The Bridge Rail Foundation, a group that has long been campaigning for suicide deterrents to be installed, there is no question that they will help the situation.

They argue that it is simply not the case that once someone has decided to take their own life, nothing can be done to stop them. In fact, most people who fail to take their own life do not try again. 90% of those who are stopped before they can jump go on to live our their remaining lives without suicide. This is a high suicide rate compared with the general population but suggests that intervening once is overwhelmingly successful in keeping people alive.

Experience from around the world suggests they will be effective as well. A similar scheme in Bern, Switzerland was put into place for bridges and city cathedral. Since the nets were installed at the later, nobody has decided to risk the jump. Since 1998 the only creatures to be pulled out of the nets were two dogs. Presumably, they ran over the ledge by accident.

New book, Technical Anxiety

Saturday, October 29th, 2016 | Books, Health & Wellbeing, News

I have a new book coming out. It’s called Technical Anxiety: the complete guide to what is anxiety and what to do about it. If you have read books about anxiety, you might have noticed that a lot of them seem to be written by people who do not really seem to know what it is like to have anxiety or how it makes you feel.

Technical Anxiety cuts through all of that. It covers things like talking to your friends and family (and work), being less self-critical, coping strategies, health anxiety, social anxiety, building a lifestyle that improves anxiety and loads more. To be honest, there is too much in it.

It is available for pre-order on iBooks and Kindle.

technical-anxiety-book-cover

Maximising your veg-based vitamins

Friday, July 22nd, 2016 | Food, Health & Wellbeing

tomatoes

Recently, I wrote about Freakonomics Radio and all the good stuff on there. One was a show entitled “Food + Science = Win” and contained some interesting information on maximising the amount of good stuff you get from vegetables.

Tinned tomatoes are the best tomatoes

Well, almost the best. Tomato paste is even better. But this seems the wrong way round. Usually, fresh is better. Asparagus for example should be eaten as close to harvesting as possible. Other vegetables are less time-sensitive. With the case of tomatoes, the process used to tin them is actually beneficial as it helps build up the lycopene. The Guardian go into detail on it.

Iceberg lettuce is bad lettuce

Especially in the US, where the podcast is based, iceberg lettuce has been bred for flavour rather than nutritional value. As a result, it has lost a lot of the latter. Comparing it to basically any other kind of lettuce, such as romaine, the other lettuce has much more nutritional content than the iceberg lettuce does.

Lightly cooking veg is good

So much for raw food being amazing. Raw food can be good of course, but typically lightly cooking vegetables makes them even better because it actually boosts their nutritional content. The best way to do this? A microwave! It may not do wonders for taste, but it is actually the best way to give vegetables the light steaming they need.

Let your garlic sit

Heating garlic can destroy a lot of the good stuff in it. However, there is some evidence that if you crush it, and then let it sit for ten minutes, more of the benefit will be retained. The jury is awaiting more evidence on this one, but there are some studies that indicate there is a benefit. The Huffington Post have summarised the case.

Slimming down

Thursday, July 14th, 2016 | Health & Wellbeing

Given my recent slip into bad BMI I’ve been working on losing some weight. So I have been playing around with some tools to help me.

Apple Health

Health is one of the apps that Apple forces on you. I had never actually used it. However, when I opened it, it turned out that it had spent the last year counting every step I make. That is both horribly invasive and rather interesting. I am averaging 7,500 steps per day.

You can record body metrics such as weight and then have them plotted on a graph. This makes sense. Why I would need to regularly record my height and plot that on a graph though is unclear. Perhaps it is aimed at children and the shrinking elderly?

apple-health

MyFitnessPal

I am using this to record my diet. Yep, I have become one of those calorie counting wankers. You put in your weight, target weight and target period to lose said weight, and it gives you the number of calories you need to restrict yourself to per day. This goes up and down as you exercise and eat, giving you a number of calories left for each day: I have 785 spare so far, which I could spend on two chocolate chip muffins…

myfitnesspal

I can also record exercise on it. This will be useful when I exercise without my phone, such as American football training. For running, I use the app below.

MapMyRun

I have used MapMyWalk for years but now I am upping the ante by using the run version. It is actually the exact same app. When you log a work out in one it immediately appears in the other. Also, once you have synced one with MyFitnessPal, they are all synced. They are all Under Armour apps, so you would expect them to work pretty well together and so far they do.

map-my-run

Results

After three months I had managed to drop 8kg. This was working off net 1500 kcals per day, which I hit almost every day. A few days I was a few hundred kcals over the limit, but on others I was up to 1,000 below the limit (due to large amounts of exercise) so I was definitely below the limit on average.

weight-graph

However, I then spent a week on my honeymoon and put 2kg back on.

Conclusion

I have a new found respect for anyone trying to lose weight. It is really difficult. At net 1500 kcals per day, which is the maximum my app allows, you can just about fit three meals in, but no snacks or beer in. After all of this, I was only losing 0.5kg per week. Then just a single week off ruined a month of work.

Of course, it could be that if you are significantly overweight it is easier to shift the first lot of kilos. However, it really is hard work and difficult to find the motivation when it piles back on so easily.

Parenthood and life expectancy

Friday, May 27th, 2016 | Health & Wellbeing

father-and-baby

One point of tension for me when becoming a father was the fight between my own needs and that of my family’s. The stress of looking after them and torture of sleep deprivation surely must have a negative impact on my health? How much would I be willing to sacrifice my own wellbeing for theirs?

However, in a speech by Scott Galloway, that I wrote about a few weeks ago, he claimed that being a carer was actually the best thing you could do to prolong your life expectancy. I knew that having a partner and friends was one of the biggest factors in life expectancy. However, he claimed it was the act of giving care that produced the effect. There was no source, so armed with some new hope, I set off to investigate.

Some studies have shown a lower mortality rate in parents than childless adults. However, perhaps it it could be that people who want to become parents tend to live longer, regardless of whether they actually have children or not.

In 2012, The Economist wrote about a Danish study that looked at people undergoing IVF. This was key because it controlled for the desire to have children. They found the same result: parents experienced lower mortality rates than childless couples.

Business Insider also wrote about the study noting that men who adopted experienced the same benefit (women experienced some benefit, but not as much as having their own children).

This is all good news. While I am sure the sleepless nights children cause will be very unpleasant, at least there is some comfort that it is actually good for my health.