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.
Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! But day seven marks the end to the festivities! We celebrated with a Music and Dance Taster Session and Boxing for Wellbeing with Empire Fighting Chance.
Missed the events?
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I was particularly excited for the boxing taster session at Empire Fighting Chance as I have always wanted to try out boxing but felt like it was a daunting hobby to take up on my own. By the end of the session I was feeling extremely motivated, energised and wanting to take another class (if not ever so slightly sweaty too)!
The session started with Martin and Courtney from Empire Fighting Chance telling us a bit about the history of the organisation, their roles within it and their current day-to-day activities. Their man goal is to fight the impact of deprivation on young people’s lives through non-contact boxing. They provide support- both on and off the gym for young people to realise their unique potential. I found their work and story truly admirable and powerful. They also recognised the benefits of boxing to these children’s mental health as well as behaviour in school.
Well, not till we warmed up first of course!
We started with a set of skipping exercises with minute intervals for rest. During this, Courtney told us how they would train the young people with these warm up exercises by setting themselves motivational goals with the number of skips they could do. This is meant to help them push themselves- preventing them from being discouraged and giving them a sense of achievement.
Last but not least, we got to put the gloves on! They taught us the proper starting position and gave us tips on how we should execute our punches. We put these tips into practice by doing some circuit training with the boxing bags.
It was exhausting but extremely fun and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun way to get fit!
On Friday evening we bid farewell to Freedom of Mind festival for another year, and we decided to go out with a bang-literally!
Our music and dance taster event was an opportunity for our guests to release their inhibitions, shake off the cobwebs and connect through invigorating activities. As we began the evening in a cosy room in Hamilton House, we were treated to an exciting, pumping drum performance by Ilu Axé, an Afro-Brazilian percussion, song and dance group based in Bristol.
We then descended into what Mark Allen aptly described as ‘organised chaos’, with half of the group trying their hand at playing some funky samba rhythms on the drums and the other half blending some beautiful vocal harmonies in ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ with Riff Raff choir. I chose drumming, and while I can’t say I have the sharpest sense of rhythm, I did have a lot of fun whacking the drum and listening to the different layers weaving together. The groups then switched with singers drumming, and drummers dancing- learning a fast paced, energetic samba dance routine with Adele from Sambazinhas.
It was wonderful to be performing alongside everyone, moving as one to the beat. It was a magical way to close the festival, and embodied the essence of Freedom of Mind – community, expression, wellbeing and fun.
And so wraps up Freedom of Mind Festival 2018! Look out for our final wrap up on the whole festival, and keep your eyes peeled for exciting things over the next year or so.
But for now…
Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Day six – the penultimate day of the festival – featured two events in the evening. We started things with an event run by Glug Bristol – with speakers and discussion tied into World Mental Health Day and Freedom of Mind Festival. Following that was our Homelessness and Mental Health Panel Discussion at Barton Hill Settlement.
Missed the events?
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The discussion led by Lewis from The Big Issue, aimed to answer questions targeted around the current condition of homelessness within Bristol along with the mental health challenges which can be a cause or a result of the situation. It was eye opening to hear from different perspectives from the journey of homelessness and mental health either by personal experience or through line of work.
Many homeless people live by relying on friends, sofa surfing, hostels or abusive, dangerous relationships rather than sleeping on the streets. The stereotype of someone living on the streets begging for money may be the most common image, but is not the always the biggest issue we are trying to deal with being homeless. Often being without a home can negatively impact your mental health which can result in making poor choices. Alcohol and drugs are sometimes coping methods, a bad one at that, but they are very rarely the cause for homelessness.
It’s clear more needs to done to tackle the problems which can lead to homelessness, focusing on the source.
We need to target young people and educate them, informing them of what help is available. We need to speak with families experiencing problems to resolve issues before it’s too late.
Being homeless often holds a stigma that they are there due to personal failings, but truth is, it could happen to any of us. It is so important we speak to our family and friends, to make sure they’re doing okay. To let them know that they have a support network behind them in case things don’t work out.
It’s fantastic to find out there is so much support available in Bristol, but the challenges lie with cuts being made at government level contributing to the housing crisis.
Four years ago, if you were in need of non-urgent supportive housing the process would take two weeks.
Today, it takes four months.
Homelessness and mental health services are understaffed and the demand exceeds the support.
There was an opportunity for a Q&A session at the end and a personal take away for me was what we can do to help.
I loved hearing the different perspectives explored. Giving someone a choice by asking them if you could get them anything could be so powerful to someone who doesn’t have a lot of choice in their life. More importantly though, that engagement of talking to them is often worth more than whatever you end up getting them.
There is help available out there – the Bristol Homelessness Connect website has information on where you can get food, or have a shower – and it’s more long lasting help than a one off gesture.
If you are interested in making a difference there are shelters across Bristol which are always looking for volunteers. Especially as Christmas approaches. Caring in Bristol will be running it’s Caring at Christmas project if you are able to volunteer some time. Challenge misconceptions and talk to friends and family to ensure support networks are in place. Campaign for change, vote and donate to organisations if you can.
The road from homelessness to a better life is linear on paper, but the reality of it is there are often many loops.
After a bit of casual networking, attendees sat down to hear stories of dealing with mental health issues while working in creative roles.
James Routledge, founder of Sanctus kicked off the evening by sharing his story of setting up a start-up, and the pressure he felt to be successful.
This led him to creating an alter-ego which he struggled to live up to. After some time, he began to realise the toll this was having on his mental health, and wrote a blog post about mental health in startups. The blog reached hundreds of people who began to share their similar experiences. This inspired James to start Sanctus, a movement which aims to change the perception of mental health and put the first mental health gym on the high street.
Next up was Ciara Hillyer, who shared her incredible story of living with cystic fibrosis and the mental health issues it has caused.
She spoke passionately about how she believes mental health should be spoken about more, and shared how creativity had been both a solace for her during difficult times. Throughout her entire talk, the room was completely silent – you could have literally heard a pin drop. It was a truly powerful and inspiring 20 minutes.
After a quick break, Whalecake founder Wes Hosie took to the stage to share his story of living with chronic anxiety and panic disorder. Wes is determined to encourage men to become more comfortable to speak about the “taboo” topic, and has just launched a podcast, I’m Not Mental, which will feature him sharing his own experiences and inviting interesting guests. Finally, photographer and Community Manager Jess Siggers, Giggle Studio founder Steve Garrett, Digital Marketing Specialist Charli Tomney and Glug host Keri Hudson sat on a panel and discussed the challenges of working in the creative industry while experiencing mental health issues.
The evening rounded off with many attendees agreeing how refreshing it had been to hear so many people speak candidly about their own mental health journeys.
The general consensus was that many more of these events should be held to help further conversation – which is something Freedom of Mind will continue to strive to do.
Freedom of Mind Festival 2018 is HERE! Day 5 featured two different events to celebrate World Mental Health Day 2018. We started with an Early Morning Silent Disco on Castle Park! And rounded up the evening with a Panel Discussion on Body Image, Dieting Culture and Mental Health.
Missed the events?
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It must be the combination of endorphins from all the dancing, sugar from the fruit smoothies, and the feeling of togetherness from being with such lovely, shiny people on a beautiful sunny morning!
I’d been banging on about running a morning rave since starting as a volunteer 2 years ago, and my wish was finally granted.
When I was starting to plan it I randomly came across Free Silent Disco in Museum Square and got chatting to Naren. He puts them on purely to bring joy to people and I knew immediately that we had to collaborate.
It was a pleasure to see so many people there, some tentative at first, but soon getting into their dancing. Thanks also to Cat from Nudge Yourself who led some short warm up sessions, and everyone that got involved with the smoothie bike.
On the warm evening of World Mental Health Day, we huddled in a cosy Zion Cafe awaiting the start of the Body Image, Food and Mental Health Panel Discussion.
Alice, the chairperson who spreads her positive vibes via Instagram on ‘aliceandpeanutbutter’, introduced the diverse panel. The 5 person panel ranged from Imogen whose ‘the_feeding_of_the_fox’ page promotes ‘radical body politics and non judgemental compassion’ to an inclusive swimwear designer, Antonia.
What caught my attention was that the panelists all had shared a background of fighting mental ill health and all had social media platforms. When they were asked about this conflicting relationship, Cait, who promotes anti diet ideals via a newsletter and soon-to-be blog, said something so prominent it will probably stay with me in all aspects of my life. They said,
and extended their answer explaining that you need to try curate yourself and go to spaces where your mental health is welcomed.
Extending the theme of social media was the question, “What is body positivity?”
Sam Roswell enlightened most of the crowd, myself included, when they spoke of where ‘the now’ Instagram phrase originated. Body positivity, now known mostly for its hashtag on social media was a movement started by marginalised women of colour who wanted to revel in their bodies which were often discriminated against. Sam revealed that there was a difference between the movement and just generally loving oneself and being positive of one’s image.
I cannot thank Dan, a stand up comedian and the only male on the panel having fought anorexia, for always cracking jokes and always pushing for us to praise mental health just as much as we talk about mental ill health.
I’ve learned how to be a concerned friend, how to check the way I think and how to stay uplifted and love myself all in one night.
There was so much exchange even amongst the crowd in the Q&A and so much debate that allowed perspectives to be shifted and people to be heard.
Can’t wait till next time!
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?
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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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or visit your local branch (in Bristol this is 37 St Nicholas Street, BS1 1TP).
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.
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.
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!