Freedom Of Mind, Author at Freedom of Mind

Cycling is a fun and healthy way to exercise

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.

But Exercise is haaaard…

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.

It doesn’t have to be a science

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.

It doesn’t have to be a marathon

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.

Enjoy it!

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.

• Feline Mindfulness Weaving workshop

15 October

by Freedom Of Mind


Feline mindfulness workshop
Feline Mindfulness workshop at You&Meow Cafe

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.

Make a boho wall hanging in our Mindfulness weaving workshop

Make a boho wall hanging in our Mindful Weaving workshop

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:

  • How to construct and weave a basic bohemian-style wall hanging
  • How to create tassels and pom-poms without any specialist tools

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!

About To Be Adorned

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

Cat Life Drawing

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.

About Phoebe Kitcher

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.

Tickets & information

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 2019 is here!

9 October

by Freedom Of Mind


Freedom of Mind Festival 2019

We’re back! Freedom of Mind Festival tickets are on sale

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:

Ride on

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.

Raise The Bar Poetry Takeover

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.

Be Your Own Boudica: an evening with Bristol’s inspiring women

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.

Feline Mindfulness

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.

Tickets are still available and with so much going on, there’s sure to be something for everyone…

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

Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Day three featured (fittingly!) three different events across all sorts of genres. We started with an Afternoon Tea Party Against Loneliness, where we worked with Link Age Network and Marmalade Trust to deliver an afternoon of fun and games. We followed that with a film screening and Q&A of “I made this for you”. Finally, we wrapped up the evening with Spoken Word with Raise the Bar.

Missed the events?

Check out our thoughts on how they went…


Cai’s Experience at Afternoon Tea Against Loneliness

I had no idea who would come along to this event. You never do at these things, but especially so at this one. When we began programming it, we wanted to create an event that would be inclusive for everyone, but particularly welcome some of the older members of our community.

As the event began, Mark was on the doors welcoming people as myself and others fetched tea. Watching the room fill up was exciting – it really was filled with everyone from the under 5s, to the over 70s! At first, there was an air of nervousness around everyone – what to say, how to act.

That atmosphere was quickly dispelled by a little thing we like to call Human Bingo!

We moved through the room starting conversations with people we’d never met before, which really set the tone for the whole event. I found myself engaged in discussion with a couple of elderly women about reducing plastic use, but only after playing jenga with some toddlers.

What was particularly engaging was some of the talks from the people at Link Age Network, Marmalade Trust and a couple of the other partners. They talked of supporting others and looking out for the people within our community. You could see people across the room opening up throughout – sharing their experiences of Loneliness and the support they received (or wish they’d received!)

That was the most powerful moment in this event – listening to others.

Mark – who was hosting the event – left us with two challenges. These were designed to encourage us to reduce loneliness within our community. And I urge you to take on these challenges too.

  1. To trade e-mails/social media/phone numbers someone new.
  2. To reach out to someone you already know who might be feeling lonely.

Between everyone at the event, I hope that this triggers a knock on effect that makes a real difference. For me – I took the details of someone who runs creative workshops at the event, and I’m going to message a friend that’s been going through a hard time.

All in – we had a great time challenging loneliness as a group.


Katie’s Experience at the Film Screening and Q&A

TW: Discussion of Suicide.

I Made This For You is a beautifully artistic film about a young man who, after attempting suicide, receives a DVD from his friend containing a series of interviews with people from throughout his life. It was really exciting to be able to share this moving and raw film with a wider audience, and the Director Cristian Solimeno joined us for a Q+A after the screening.

The documentary style to the film, and the true stories behind many of the interviews shown, makes this a realistic piece and we discussed the way Cristian moulded the actors sessions in order to achieve this. Confusion from the audience demonstrated how effective this was, and Cristian explained how much he wanted to “break the rules of filmmaking” and create something full of improvisation.

It was moving to hear Cristian speak of his friend Billy, one of the actors in the film, who did take his own life before the film was complete.

He had one of the most profound lines about how when you are contemplating suicide you have pictured how everyone will react at your funeral, how your death will impact their lives. As someone who has been in that dark place, this really resonated with me and highlights how mental illness can affect any of us.

One of our content creators – Liam – created a sketchnote of the Q&A with Christian. This is the result of the discussion

An important and powerful film I Made This For You shows a realistic interpretation of how suicide can influence people’s lives whilst still managing to maintain the positives of the impact of friendship, family and love.

If you would like to speak to someone about suicide or any emotional difficulties, the Samaritans is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can contact them by phone for free on 116 123, email or visit your local branch (in Bristol this is 37 St Nicholas Street, BS1 1TP).


HJ’s Experience at Spoken Word with Raise The Bar

There is something about Spoken Word that aims a gun straight to my heart and shoots words that pierce me to my core. But it feels more like a lesson, a strength in its softness. A therapy of some kind.

As I walked into a row of chairs and a host of fairy lights at Prince Street Social, I knew this was going to be a good one. One by one, audience members grew into a pack of 60+ people, all watching two companies with one common reason; mental health.

A host of poets blurted their deepest secrets out on to the microphone.

You could hear a pin drop as honest accounts of what it is to feel, fell between us. Every year I’m excited about this event, and every year I’m left more inspired.

If I could introduce this artform to someone who doesn’t know it, it would be this; these artists have chewed up an entire dictionary, understood exactly how they work, and eloquently spat out the words in a rhythmic concoction of genius that unlocks something inside you that you didn’t know exists. They make human pain the most beautiful song I’ve heard. They make memories last forever. Some artists stand quietly behind the mic stand, spitting every silent syllable, and some bodies become enraged with their words, the whole performance turning into a visceral dance – their words their song.

For this ‘mental health special’, they spoke of domestic abuse, eating disorders, religion, suicide and love. They twisted their hard times into a live audio book that no one could put down.

They united a group of strangers and made situations you haven’t been through completely understandable.

It was a pleasure to watch every truth unravel, to watch these artists modestly accept their applause and cheers, and to speak to the general public about their mental health. As a mental health campaigner, the most important thing to see is Mental Health as a subject lose its stigma entirely, and come alive in its own right – to find its place in everyday conversation. Freedom of Mind execute this effortlessly at every event.

And not only are these poets painfully talented and intelligent, they are the bravest souls around.

They are able to voice the times most vulnerable to them, put them on a plate and serve it to you, and make you realise you are most definitely not alone.

To become vulnerable and to allow your softness?

That’s the greatest strength I’ve ever seen a human perform.


And so wraps up day 3! For day 4, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel our Book Signing with Jonny Benjamin as he’s come down with a virus, but join us on World Mental Health Day for an Early Morning Silent Disco and a Body Image Panel Discussion

See you next time!

Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Our second main event was a wellbeing walk at Leigh Woods! And we were hoping some dogs would come along too. Missed the event?

Check out Anna and Cai’s thoughts on how it went…

Cai’s Experience

I love dogs. And so when the idea of a dog walk was floated in the team, I was instantly on board! Cut ahead several months to Leigh Woods on the morning the walk. Opening my blinds in the morning revealed a perfect day for it – the sun was out, it was crisp and I was ready.

After we’d all arrived at the meeting point, we began our walk.

Making our way through the trees felt peaceful and relaxing. Being around nature makes you feel good, so whether we were talking about mindfulness or just playing with dogs, it helped.

The route was enjoyable. It remained easy throughout and never got too tricky. Making my way through the group of people that had gathered was fun to listen to the different conversations that were being had.

With a huge range of people from all sorts of backgrounds (and a variety of dogs to boot!) it was a great community event with loads of fun.

Anna’s Experience

Yesterday morning a group of intrepid dogs took their two legged friends for an adventure through Leigh Woods for Freedom of Mind’s Wellbeing Walk! Excited barks could be heard echoing through the trees as dogs big and small, scruffy and smooth greeted new friends and strained to get going.

We followed the purple trail winding through the woods, each at our own pace, as dogs bounded and plodded around us, and a young boxer sprinted at full pelt looking for the best stick. Many conversations naturally moved to the importance of being outdoors, among plants and wildlife, and of course the healing power of our waggy tailed companions.

One quote that really struck a chord with me was from a lovely woman with a gentle border terrier:

‘We measure progress by how far we have moved away from nature’.

We both agreed that getting back in touch with nature was part of what made us feel truly alive.

Overall, the event encouraged people to see new faces, get some fresh morning air with their furry friends and remember how good it feels to wander through a green landscape and just BE.

And so wraps up day 2! For day 3, we’ve got a trio of events – an afternoon tea party against loneliness, a film screening and a spoken word night

See you next time!


Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! We started this week long adventure with, well, exactly that! An afternoon on adventure! We collaborated with the Women’s Adventure Expo to put on the Adventure and Wellbeing event at Watershed. Missed the event?

Check out Katie’s thoughts on how it went…

We kicked off with an afternoon long event discussing wellbeing and adventure. Working again with WAE lots of different organisations and individuals shared the great projects happening across Bristol and the country. From cycling projects like Two’s company with life cycle to adventure expeditions for women escaping domestic violence from My Great Escape we heard about some incredible things.

An interesting talk followed from Dr Nathan Smith about his work with professor Emma Barratt at Manchester University on the links between adventure and wellbeing. A quick overview of their work demonstrated how much adventures (however big or small!) Can have a positive impact on our wellbeing.

Following this was a series of workshops, we joined Mark and Cat in discussing the barriers you might face to have an adventure, and the ways we can overcome these.

Together we came up with Top Tips to Mini Adventure Wellbeing:

• Stretch your stretch zone

• Know yourself and trust your instincts

• Give thanks to the universe

• It’s okay to be selfish and it’s okay to need people

• Trust the process

• Remember to enjoy the journey

And so wraps up day 1! For day 2, we’ve got an exciting photo-walk with Colin Moody through the streets of Stokes Croft and Montpellier. 

See you next time!


Mel is a YouTuber who talks often about body positivity. In this video, she shares about how her mental health has affected her body image.

I’m Mel Ciavucco and I make body image and self-esteem YouTube videos. I totally support body positivity and think that we should all love our bodies, but sometimes I feel like the biggest hypocrite ever. I’ve struggled with body image and self-esteem issues, and anxiety, all my life. But I’m on a journey to try to be kinder to myself. I’d love you to join me!


In this video I talk about how body image issues and anxious thoughts have impacted my life, and I share some of my tips and coping strategies too.



If you have something you want to say about mental health send us a pitch to

Keep your pitches to less than 150 words and tell us what content you want to make and why you want to make it. It can be anything, from a poem, to an article, to a video, to a piece of artwork – we’re just after stories to tell. We can keep things anonymous if you’d like and we’ll help you to edit your piece then get it up on the blog.


In this Guest Blog Post by Taya Bryant, they write about their own experience with recovering from mental ill health, and how it has impacted their relationships.

It all started for my second year of university, Doctors classified me with depression. However, my mental health didn’t just affect me, but it affected my relationship with families and friends. I kept having arguments with my mother because she didn’t understand. It broke up my love interest relationship because he felt I was ‘too insecure’ with myself and I became distant. I closed off my friends, family and even strangers. My friends noticed how distant I became and even though they would offer to listen, I found it hard to approach them for help.

When I started medicine for my depression, I felt like I was the most distant from everyone. I didn’t speak to anyone for months, not even a text throughout the day as it caused me to go inwards on myself. I didn’t see anyone or go out of the house for weeks. I even lost some friendships because they thought I was ignoring them. This all spiralled and made me feel even worse.

Every individual had different methods to help them keep their mental health stable. Whilst medication didn’t work for me, one service that helped was OTR Bristol (Off the Record). OTR is an organisation that supports young people (ages 11-25) living in Bristol and South Gloucestershire to improve their mental health. They have a wide range of services, from expressing your emotions through art, going on walks, workshops, book clubs and discussions for parents who want to understand their child’s struggle, but I settled on their free one-to-one counselling and “Mind Aid” course

The six weeks counselling helped me process my feelings and actually made me realise methods I already had when I felt an anxiety attack coming on. The counselling sessions helped me talk to my closest of friends; as if talking to stranger was a mini-step for me to talk to people whom I care for. It is always feels like a struggle talk to friends, but once you start and you realise they are there for you, you know there is nothing to be scared about.

Mind Aid was similar to a group therapy; it helped me see that I wasn’t alone in my time of need, and that others were going through a similar situation with me. It was good opportunity to hear other people’s stories and their methods. There were two good techniques Mind Aid taught me that I will forever keep.

One was the breathing and listening technique.

If you felt like your mind is overflowing with thoughts, you would stop what you’re doing, take a deep breathe, just listen to your surroundings, and focus on sounds instead of the thoughts racing through your mind. This was difficult at first, as my mind would get distracted after 2 seconds and go back to the thoughts. But my mentor told me this was normal and all I had to do is take another breath and try again. It’s a short technique but whenever I was in crowded places and felt a bit overwhelmed this technique saved me.

Another technique I have is timetabling a routine (only small one).

For example, I would start by planning a 15 minute walk every Tuesday. As the weeks went on I added more and more to the weekly routine and whenever I completed a week without going off rota I would treat myself. To help you make your own routine, start by making a list of what makes you happy. Let’s say baking pies makes you happy, so once a week you would add bake a pie in one of your weekly rotas. It gave me a sense of goal and purpose for my week, which in result helped me feel more like me.

My self-esteem started to build; I actually started to think more positive thoughts and overall just started to feel more like myself. I am not saying I am “all confidence” now – I’m not, and I still have moments of anxiety taking over. But I can now take small risks without over thinking or feeling overwhelmed (Example- going to a job interview or presentation coming up). I focus more on my skills and likes compared to my dislikes and that’s a big step for me personally.

Most importantly, I’ve started to gain a relationship with myself again.

I’m more able to start trying to build up the relationships around me. My relationships still have a long way to go, as everything always does, however I have a group of friends who I feel supported by every second. It’s even beginning to improve my relationships with my family, and time will tell how that improves.

One of my close friends has helped me the most, even now. I ring him whenever I am feeling even a little bit of sadness and he helps me process my emotions, supports me and understands how I think. He has such a kind and calm matter, it’s like I absorb it when I feel a panic attack coming along. I will always appreciate the timing of when we become close and can’t think of it in any other way now.

It was hard and it took over 6 months to even have a tiny bit of positivity within me again. But with patience, anyone can overcome any situation and help others be aware about mental health and the struggles and stigma that come with it. Just don’t give up.

For more of Taya’s work, check out her blog.

If you have something you want to say about mental health send us a pitch to

Keep your pitches to less than 150 words and tell us what content you want to make and why you want to make it. It can be anything, from a poem, to an article, to a video, to a piece of artwork – we’re just after stories to tell. We can keep things anonymous if you’d like and we’ll help you to edit your piece then get it up on the blog.

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