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10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

By Health2 Comments

Today (Tuesday 10th October 2017) is World Mental Health Day. So here’s 10 easy ways to improve your mental health:

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Tuesday 10th October 2017 – World Mental Health Day

10. Regular Exercise
I don’t mean becoming a gym bunny or taking up running. Start walking. Walking is the easiest form of exercise. Take it slow and easy. Do it regularly, a couple of times a week. Gradually build up the distance. It’s even better if you can walk in places of natural beauty, as you’ll have the scenery to enjoy.

NHS Choices says:

Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression…

(From: NHS Choices, last accessed: Thursday 28th September 2017)


9. A Better Diet
We could all do with eating a bit better right? Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet – aim for five a day. Cut down on the amount of sugar and salt in your food. Try to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid per day (roughly 1.2 litres). You can learn more about diet on the NHS Choices – Eatwell Guide website.

8. Go Smoke-Free
Despite many smokers saying that a cigarette reduces their stress levels, Nicotine is a stimulant which means it has the opposite effect. It increases anxiety and stress levels, especially when those nicotine receptors in the brain need feeding. Becoming smoke-free has loads of other benefits as well.

7. Drink Less Alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant drug and affects your brain chemistry. Drinking a small amount of alcohol decreases inhibitions and can make you feel happier. But drinking heavily can lead to a lowered mood. It’s also not a good idea to drink if you are angry or upset, as it can make you feel worse and do things that you wouldn’t do sober.

You don’t have to stop drinking alcohol, just cut down on the amount. A good tip is to buy less alcohol. If you buy less alcohol you’ll have less to drink.

6. Meditate
Meditation is about clearing your mind and focusing on the present or a particular thought or emotion. Research suggests that daily meditation for just 20 minutes per day has benefits to mental health after just five days. Benefits of meditation include: lower stress levels, feeling more positive, improved concentration, improves the ability to be in the moment and helps with clarity of thought.

Start slow with meditation. Set an alarm for a short period of time, say 5-10 minutes and gradually build up the time. Gradually build up the frequency of meditation sessions to, so start with a couple of times a week and work towards daily practice. Like anything, your ability to meditate will get better with practice. So don’t be surprised if you struggle with intruding thoughts initially and don’t let them discourage you.

5. Recognise the Signs of Stress
Recognise when your stressed and take steps to de-stress. You can do this by taking a deep breath, focusing on your body, mind and feelings and look for signs of stress. I call this checking-in with myself and try to do it a few times a day. Signs of stress include:

How you may feel emotionally

  • overwhelmed
  • irritable and “wound up”
  • anxious or fearful
  • lacking in self-esteem

How you may feel mentally

  • racing thoughts
  • constant worrying
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty making decisions

How you may feel physically

  • headaches
  • muscle tension or pain
  • dizziness
  • sleep problems
  • feeling tired all the time
  • eating too much or too little

(From: NHS Choices, last accessed: Friday 29th September 2017)

4. It’s okay to say NO
When we think about saying no to people, we imagine the world will end. But the reality is nothing like our imagination. In fact, most of the time, people are okay about it. Remember that it is okay to say no and say it when you need to.

Sometimes it’s better to say no rather than say yes. Otherwise we risk over committing ourselves and spread our limited energy too thinly.

3. Sleep
Sleep is so important for good mental health. Sleep allows our bodies to rest and repair. The average adult needs eight hours of sleep. But children and teenagers need much more. But it’s not just about the amount of the sleep you get, it’s also about the quality. Poor quality sleep lowers resilience and increases the risk of physical and mental illness. Get your shut-eye in and try to have a good sleep routine.

2. Off-Load
We all need people to talk to and to off-load to at times. Some off-load to their families, their spouses, their friends or their therapists. Find some people in your life who you can off-load to.

Important characteristics in people you choose to off-load to: they should give you a feeling of trust, they should have the ability to actively listen to what you say, they should be non-judgemental, they should be empathetic and they should challenge you when needed.

1. Relaxation
Write a list of things that help you relax. Then do some of the things on the list on a regular basis. For example, reading really relaxes me. So every night before bed, I read, even if it’s just for ten minutes.

Write soon,

Antony

References
NHS Choices – Benefits of exercise
NHS Choices – Eatwell Guide
Smokefree NHS
Drink Aware – Alcohol and mental health
NHS Choices – Does meditation reduce stress?
NHS Choices – How to deal with stress
One You – Sleep

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The Hadrian’s Wall Adventure (Part 2) – Poltross Burns Milecastle, Walltown Quarry and Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum

By Adventures, Friends & Family, Happiness & Joy, Life, NatureNo Comments
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Simon & I had a coffee break at Birdoswald Roman Fort & Museum prior to getting back on the road.

This is part 2 of The Hadrian’s Wall Adventure, part 1 can be read here.

My good friend Simon and I stopped for a coffee and cake break at Birdoswald Roman Fort & Museum before getting back on the road.

4. Bridge over the River Irthing
We couldn’t find this. Unfortunately I didn’t have mobile phone signal to search for it on Google Maps. We could have asked a local, but decided to drive on instead. We had a number of places on a list we still wanted to see.

5. Milecastle 48
We followed the road along Hadrian’s Wall. We saw the good signage for Milecastle 48. We parked up in the free carpark. We followed the signs, the field was muddy and we’d recommend hiking boots. From the bottom of the hill we could see train tracks that blocked our access to Milecastle 48. There’s obviously another entrance to Milecastle 48, but we decided to move on to our next destination.

6. Poltross Burns Milecastle
Poltross Burns Milecastle is well sign posted, just drive slowly due to two sharp bends with immediate turns straight after. There’s a dirt track opposite at least one big house where you can park for free. It wasn’t on our list of places to visit, we more stumbled across it accidentally. It is the remains of a Milecastle set beautifully on top of a hill with good natural light. It is well worth the short walk. Below are Essential Info and photos:

Essential Info:

  • Remains of a Roman Milecastle.
  • Highly Recommended: beautiful and a good photo opportunity with the Milecastle wall.
  • Admission Fee: Free
  • Opening Times: Always open. It is recommend that you visit in daylight. There is no street lighting and there are stairs that would be hazardous after dark.
  • Car Parking: Free on a dirt track.
  • Not suitable for wheelchair users due to stairs and no ramp access.
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Stairs to Poltross Burns Milecastle.

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A beautiful view on a bridge on the short walk to Poltross Burns Milecastle.

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Poltross Burns Milecastle is a great place to take a photo with a high wall behind you.

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Poltross Burns Milecastle Foundations/Ruins (1).

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Poltross Burns Milecastle Foundations/Ruins (2).

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Simon sat in the sun on Remains of Poltross Burns Milecastle.

7. Walltown Quarry
Walltown Quarry is a place of natural beauty. It does take you into Northumberland, meaning that any parking tickets you bought in Cumbria aren’t valid. It has a large natural duck pond, plenty of space to walk in nature (whether you prefer a short or longer walk) and a newly planted peace labyrinth.

The large duck pond is lovely. There’s lots of natural beauty to be admired. The peace labyrinth has been newly planted, but once the plants embed the walls will be about waiste height, full of colourful flowers and be reflective and peaceful. Below are Essential Info and photos:

Essential Info:

  • Walltown Quarry is a former quarry and now a place of natural beauty. It has a large natural duck pond, plenty of space to walk in nature and a newly planted peace labyrinth.
  • Highly Recommended: a place of natural beauty.
  • Admission Fee: Free
  • Opening Times: Shop open 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday. Unsure of Sunday opening hours.
  • Car Parking: £4 for all day.
  • Facilities: Toilets. Reasonably priced gift shop that sells reasonably priced coffee and provides tourist information.
  • Caution: Stick to well worn paths. There are reeds covering some of the surrounding wetlands, which could be hazardous or even life threatening.
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Walltown Quarry, a bird came to visit Simon and I on one of the many picnic benches.

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View of the large natural duck pond.

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The newly planted Peace Labyrinth.

8. Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum
Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum is just passed the Roman Army Museum. We had originally decided not to visit Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum due to the admission price of £6.75 per person. We were looking for Sycamore Gap and decided to go into the reception of Vindoland for directions to Sycamore Gap. The reception staff were helpful and informed us of where we could find Sycamore Gap, showing us a map and informing us that it is a 45 minute walk from Vindoland.

Simon suggested that as it was four thirty in the afternoon that we should pop into Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum instead of walking to Sycamore Gap. I was reluctant at first, especially after our disappointing experience at Birdoswald Roman Fort & Museum. We decided to go for it and it was anything but disappointing.

Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum is a ginormous fort ruins with a surrounding town. It is well worth every penny of the admission price. There is free parking. To see and absorb everything at Vindoland will take you at least half a day. They are still excavating at Vindoland, so if you visit in another few years there’ll be even more to see.

Due to time of our arrival, we didn’t have time to see everything. So set at least half a day a side for Vindoland alone. We intend to go back next year, spend the morning in Vindoland and then the afternoon on the road continuing to follow Hadrian’s Wall and stopping at places of interest. Below are Essential Info and photos:

Essential Info:

  • Remains of a Roman Fort, Town and has a museum, cafe and gift shop.
  • Highly Recommended: It will take you at least half a day to see everything.
  • Things to do there: Walk the streets that the Romans did. Marvel at Roman architecture and planning including: sewage and drainage network (without the sewage thankfully) and under-floor heating. See both a wooden and stone turret recreation, visit the museum, listen to archaeology talks, have coffee in the cafe and checkout the gift shop.
  • Admission Fees: View here.
  • Opening Times: View here.
  • Car Parking: Free parking with a large carpark.
  • Has toilets, cafe and gift shop.
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A Roman-style Fountain in the courtyard of the entrance to Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum.

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A statue of the Goddess Juno in the courtyard of the entrance to Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum.

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Model of Vindoland Roman Fort and Town in Introduction room of Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum.

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The path to the foundations and ruins.

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Romano-Celtic Temple Remains.

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Wells and Water Tanks.

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Wooden Turret.

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Stone Turret.

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The Mausolea foundations.

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The remains of a foundation that predates the Roman settlement.

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Bath House remains.

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Building Remains.

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We walked along the main street, probably part excavated and part restored.

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A photo of a heart shaped foot stone.

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Inside the Fort remains.

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The Fort Wall.

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Inside the Fort, looking out into the Town that built up around it.

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Remains of Temple to Jupiter Dolichenus.

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Back Entrance to Fort.

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HeadQuarter Building (Principia)

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Prefect’s House Well.

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Roman builders stone carving.

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Cook brick-work on Roman remains, probably for drainage.

We had a lovely day exploring Hadrian’s Wall. We will be going back, probably about this time next year to do Vindoland Roman Fort & Museum properly, to hopefully visit Sycamore Gap and explore more new places of interest in the Northumberland side of Hadrian’s Wall.

Blog soon,

Antony



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