Physical exercise, we all know by now, is not just good for our physical health but our mental health too. It’s prescribed worldwide as a harmless, free and noncommittal treatment for depression and anxiety. Making it an appealing option for many of us when compared to therapy or medication.
Exercise gets us active and releases endorphins in our brains, proven to improve mood and decrease stress. It can also provide us with social interaction, a sense of achievement and improved confidence. While all these perks are great for anyone, they might sound especially good to someone suffering mental health issues.
The issue is, when we’re struggling with mental health issues, or perhaps even when we’re not, actually doing exercise can be hard. It seems simple at first but requires motivation and energy at the very least, things many of us suffering mental health lulls find lacking.
Not to mention there’s the anxiety of comparing yourself to others, or even a previously fitter version of yourself, to battle with. The stress of doing good enough. Workout routines, diets, calorie counting, step counting, timing, measuring, weighing. These days it’s easy to feel like you need to be a scientist to pick up a dumbbell.
Exercise isn’t inherently hard, it’s the standards we attempt to live up to that are difficult to undertake. Rather than worrying about muscle gains and weight loss and metabolic maths, let’s remember the basic requirement to achieve any level of the previously mentioned benefits for our mental wellbeing – that is, exercise. That’s all. No specifically stated regimes or rigorous torment. Just. Some. Exercise.
All we need to do is tackle the motivation. To do it. Breaking in the running shoes in the first place. If comparing yourself to others and thinking about structures and goals and routines is wearing you down before you even begin, be aware of that. Change your focus and forget the noise. Your focus is just to show up. Get your kit on. Get to the gym. Hit the pavement. Break out your home stair master. Once you’ve done this, you’ve genuinely already done the hard part.
Once you’re on the stair master, taking the next step is literally as easy as taking a step. You’ve already achieved more than nothing, congratulations. The amount of steps, light-weight lifts, presses or pulls is entirely up to you, and likewise for the length of time you do it. Do it for ten minutes and it’s a heck of a lot better than none. Showing up is the practice and doing any exercise is the cherry on the cake.
Pick exercises you enjoy, that eliminate as many mental blocks as possible. If you’re too anxious to leave the house, workout at home. If you can’t do a push up because you have the upper body strength of a dandelion, use your knees. Hop on an exercise bike if the rowing machine is not your thing. If that’s boring or strenuous to the point of not being fun, pedal low-resistance instead and listen to an audio book. Chest exercises can be fun if you’re averse to back exercises. You may wind up with an asymmetrical body one day, but you’ll sure be thanking yourself for improved mental health.
If you don’t like any of these things go for a swim, or a walk. Play badminton. Join a climbing centre. Research the endless active activities you could be doing to meet our basic criteria of simply engaging with exercise at all.
When we take the pressure off and the anxieties away, we are much more likely to do it, enjoy it and keep on doing it. Thus, reaping the benefits. Our goal with exercise is improving our mood, not providing another thing to feel stressed or inadequate over.
As part of Freedom of Mind Festival 2019, we’ve teamed up with LifeCycle UK to bring you an exciting cycle ride across Bristol. To find out more and book onto our ‘Ride On’ cycle ride, visit our events page.
Attention cat-loving friends! Pets are proven to enhance happiness, so as part of Freedom of Mind festival 2019 we’re bringing you an evening of tranquility with a series of feline mindfulness workshops at You&Meow Cafe.
Anyone who has spent time around or living with cats knows the difference it makes having them around. Cats make an environment feel relaxed and peaceful – at least, they do when they’re not causing mayhem. But there’s also genuine research to suggest that cat owners live longer. Maybe being a ‘crazy cat lady’ isn’t so crazy after all…
Here’s an interesting fact: cats purr at a frequency of 26 Hertz, which is also the frequency scientists use in vibrational therapies to promote tissue regeneration. There is an old veterinary saying that goes: “If you put a cat and a pile of broken bones in the same room, the bones will heal”.
Maybe strategically placing a purring cat on your broken arm isn’t the best way to fix it, but cats certainly have other healing powers. They reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. No wonder past civilisations thought they were enchanted! Read more about this in the wonderful blog over on You&Meow Cafe’s website.
The host of our second workshop of the Feline Mindfulness evening is Becca from To Be Adorned. During the creative weaving session you’ll have an opportunity to unwind and hone your yarn craft skills in a relaxed setting. Becca will show you how to use simple weaving techniques to create a colourful yarn wall hanging to take home and display. You’ll learn:
The workshop is completely beginner friendly and no special craft skills are required. It will be an opportunity to calm your mind, get creative and dig deep in the yarn stash! You’ll play with colour and texture to create your own one-of-a-kind textiles wall art by using yarn, thrifted haberdashery and foraged twigs, all in the company of some feline friends!
Becca’s a Bristol-based designer-maker specialising in vintage-inspired accessories for colour lovers and creative brides. She also runs yarn-based workshops locally and believes in the power of crafting. You can find Becca on social media @tobeadorned and on Etsy www.tobeadornedshop.etsy.com
The third session of our Feline Mindfulness evening is Cat Life Drawing with Phoebe Kitcher. This activity will include taking time to observe your moving, purring subjects. The aim will be to represent cats through your drawings, whilst accepting that we can’t get them to lie perfectly still for us. Take some time to yourself and sink in to this activity, leaving your worries for the week at the door.
Phoebe Kitcher is a local arts and wellbeing practitioner who thinks cats are great. Phoebe works in Bristol and study in Newport – and her interests include joyful art, intersectional feminism and queer identity.
These intimate workshops are part of our Feline Mindfulness series. They will be held from 6pm – 7pm and 7.15pm – 8.15pm on Wednesday 30th October at You&Meow Cafe. Tickets are only £6, you can get yours here.
Freedom of Mind is a Mental Health festival based in the wonderful city of Bristol. Our aim is to celebrate the discussion surrounding Mental Health and to ultimately create change within our local community. We encourage positive conversations through a range of incredible events for the whole community. We’ve been successfully spreading the Mental health voice for the past three years via a range of sell-out events including; spoken word nights, film screening, live debates and workshops.
We’re super excited for this year’s programme and Bristol’s local community has been incredibly receptive. This year, we have several exciting events lined up from 26th – 30th October 2019:
Cycling is an eco-friendly alternative form of transport and a fun way to meet new people. Our aim is to introduce cycling as a tool to combat loneliness while getting in some good old exercise. As part of Freedom of Mind Festival 2019, we’ve teamed up with Life Cycle UK to bring you 2 exciting cycle rides. Find out more.
Join us for a screening and Q&A of “Steve” – a feature length documentary. The film explores how we can confront the male mental health epidemic and try to use the tragedy of Steve’s death to save other men. Find out more.
Our friends Raise The Bar Poetry are back for their fourth year with Freedom Of Mind. We’re super excited to collaborate with them again to bring you a night of spoken word themed around the topic of mental health. Find out more.
We’re hosting an evening of female inspiration in partnership with Bristol Festival of Ideas, giving attendees an opportunity to awaken their inner Boudica! Find out more.
Join us for an evening of mindfulness, self-exploration and… cats! Yes, you read that right, we’re calling it Feline Mindfulness. Pets have been proven to enhance happiness, so why not spend an evening with Freedom of Mind and You&Meow in a cat cafe? Find out more.
Cai Burton, Director of FOM says “Everyone has a mental health and it’s so important that we have a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to it. We aim to celebrate mindfulness and wellbeing in the hope that it’ll help destigmatize mental health. We hope to create conversation, education, and change in order to build a happier and healthier city.” Ella Marshall, the Founder of FOM explains that “We want your voice to be heard regarding mental health, and for action to take place. We are here to create change for a happier, healthier Bristol, and we’re very excited to see you there!”
Join us for the festivities between the 26th – 30th of October 2019. For more information on each event check out the listing on our events page.
Got a question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.