These wellbeing messages are written by our wellbeing mentor, Emma Williams, and shared weekly with the King’s High community.
Food affects mood – How?
Blood sugar – glucose, which is obtained from the carbohydrates (carbs) we eat, is the brain’s main source of fuel. Without this fuel, our brain will be less able to fully function. Some carbs are better for us than others. Sugar, chocolate, white pasta, biscuits, white bread and cakes will only give a short burst of energy due to the sharp rise in blood sugar they produce, leaving you feeling tired and grumpy very soon after the sugar high wears off.
Complex carbohydrates - such as wholegrains, brown rice, beans, pulses, and vegetables, are a much better choice. These are slower releasing fuels and do not have such a dramatic impact on blood sugar, so giving a more sustained energy source.
If you eat lots of sugary foods and drinks, stimulants such as coca-cola or drinks containing caffeine, blood sugar levels will ‘yoyo’ up and down. This can make you irritable, anxious, and sometimes even dizzy. Poor concentration and aggressive behaviour are also associated with rapid blood sugar changes.
Proteins found mainly in meat, fish and soya products are broken down in the body to amino acids, which are vital to good mental health. The brain’s communication centre is fuelled by amino acids, so protein is vital for effective brain function.
Depression, apathy, lack of motivation or tension can be associated with too few amino acids in the diet.
Good Fats - essential fats, found mainly in oily fish, seeds and nuts, cannot be made within the body, so we have to get them from food. Sixty per cent of the brain is made of fat, and the fats we eat directly affect its structure. A lack of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to various mental health problems, including depression and lack of concentration. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble vitamins and can only be transported around the body in the fat we consume, so the lower fat diets = low levels of these essential vitamins being available for the body to use.
Brain food: top tips
• Don't skip meals. Eat three meals a day with two ‘healthy’ snacks (for example fruit or yoghurt) in between.
• Try not to skip breakfast.
• Try to have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
• Try to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.
• If you have to go for a pre-packaged meal then go for the options with fewest ingredients and avoid additives and artificial colourings and preservatives.
• Fresh bread (the type that goes stale overnight) is far better for you than any ‘stay fresh’ version, which contain many toxins.
Additives and preservatives are most often made from chemicals and are highly toxic for your bodies.
Stay whole food, stay healthy, eat well and be well.
Keeping hydrated is crucial for health and wellbeing, but many people do not consume enough fluids each day. N.H.S Choices suggest we should drink about 1.2 litres (six to eight glasses) of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated, although most healthy people can stay hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty.
Here are a few good reasons your bodies need water:
- Water lubricates your joints
If your body experiences dehydration on a regular basis then this reduces the ability of your joints as shock-absorbing. This can further lead to joint pain, the cartilage, found in your joints and the disks of the spine, contains around 80% water.
- It helps to deliver oxygen around your body
Because your blood is more than 90% water and your blood delivers oxygen to all the different parts of the body.
- It boosts skin health and helps regulate your body temperature
A dehydrated skin is a vulnerable skin, water is essential for maintaining elasticity and promotes a healthy complexion, also prevents premature wrinkles. Water that is stored in layers of your skin comes to the skin's surface as sweat when your body heat rises too high. As this water evaporates, it cools your body down.
- It cushions the brain, spinal cord, and other sensitive tissues
A hydrated brain is an effective brain. Dehydration can affect brain structure and its functioning. Water is involved in the production performance of hormones and neurotransmitters.
As well as being essential for our digestive system, water also helps maintain healthy blood pressure and lubricates our airways, which help with allergies such as hay fever and conditions such as asthma.
In short your bodies need water to function properly, in fact every single cell and organ in your body needs water.
Our bodies have learnt to crave many things, not all of these are healthy or good for us. In fact most of our learnt craving we can do without. Our bodies do though have a few justified cravings, these are for essential life giving things such as; - fresh air, sunlight, clean water, whole foods and sleep. Over the next four weeks we will take a really brief look at each of these things and how they benefit your health and wellbeing.
Fresh air and walks in the sunshine
Taking fresh into your lungs is one of the most natural cravings for our bodies. Fresh air helps your lungs to function more fully, walking increases your heart rate and also your breathing, enabling you to take deeper, longer breaths – which increases the amount of oxygen that is available in your blood, which is then transported to your brain and all around your body's cells. People often report improved energy levels and greater clarity of mind from taking a walk outside. Participants of an environmental psychology study, done in 2010, reported feeling happier, healthier and more alive when they spent time outside walking in nature.
Vitamin D is another reason to get outside. Did you know there are molecules present in your skin that are activated by the sun, to produce this vitamin in your body? Having enough vitamin D in your body is essential for your bones to form properly. Vitamin D also helps maintain the calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood and promotes healthier skin.
Sunlight is also associated with increased serotonin levels in the brain, which is known to help ward off depression and stress. This ‘happy’ chemical serotonin is higher in the brain during the times of the year when the days are longer.
We have certainly had a good deal of sunshine recently and more than is usual for this time of year, so all the more reason to get outside and get walking.
Anchors have many uses and in the most general sense anchors are used to secure something that is movable to something that is fixed.
So here are a couple of definitions that I thought may be helpful for this exercise:-
An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the craft from drifting due to wind or current.
In rock climbing, an anchor can be any device or method for attaching a climber, a rope, or a load to the climbing surface - typically rock, ice, steep dirt, or a building - either permanently or temporarily.
So both of these descriptions I think are good analogies for what I want us to explore.
I invite you to take a moment (so this is by yourself and in a quiet place) to think about what your anchors are. Take a piece of paper and draw a big circle on it, big enough to fill the page. So the object of this exercise is for you to symbolise (using drawing, colour or written words) the things that make you feel safe, the things that make you feel calm and the things that make you feel grounded. You can do this in any way you choose, there are no rules here, just an objective…to express what your anchors are?
Now I would like you to think of the challenges you currently face, or the things that are currently unsettling you. Just as the climber uses an anchor to hold her weight (should she fall) as she climbs up to the next level, imagine your anchors as securing you whilst you move up to the next level, or move through your current challenges – whatever they may be for you. Or it may be even to stay still and be immovable (as the boat on the water) - if your challenge is maybe feeling like you are being swept along by a strong tide, this might be the pace of life, stresses you are experiencing or even fast moving transitions in your life that are going on around you. Thinking about your anchors and imagining yourself securely attached to them, just as the climber is attached to the rock face or the boat secured to the sea bed in the storm, using this exercise to remind yourself that you are never alone, you always have an anchor that will help you to feel safer, more secure and more grounded as you face your challenges through life, in whatever direction they leads you.
Well-being message from our Well-Being Mentor, Emma Williams: There is so much research that analyses and records screen time or time spent on mobile devises. Although there is some variation in the recorded figures. According to eMarketer, 22% of mobile phone time is taken up by texting, 22% by phone calls, and 10% by email. This would mean we spend, on average, about 55 minutes a day texting, 55 minutes a day on phone calls, and 25 minutes a day on mobile email. What the research also seems to show is the exponential rise in usage over the last few years, with figures almost doubling between 2012 and 2018. So looking through the research and gathering evidence into why not to spend time on these devises, I came across theses common themes: Better sleep It is now widely recognised that for many reasons any sort of screen time before bed can negatively impact your sleep, and it seems that phones are particularly bad for this. More free time It goes without saying that if we are spending so much time on our phone, wouldn’t it also go without saying that this time could be used to do other things, or even do nothing. I hear so many time girls say I have no time to myself, no time to relax. I would like to put it to you that if the benefits here are seen for not using your phones then the argument that ‘I use my phone to relax’ doesn’t seem to hold water. Increased productivity Everybody procrastinates from time to time, and believe it or not, in small doses, procrastination is healthy. Nowadays though it is being reported more and more as a problem for people. It does seem that smartphones are largely to blame. Numerous studies showing the negative effect of smartphones on our productivity.
Less comparison Social media encourages a culture of ‘compare and comparison’. When I was growing up I remember doing everything I could to not be like everyone else, there was something special about celebrating uniqueness. Nowadays everyone seems to want to look the same and have all the same things. Compare and comparison is the thief of joy.
More Social Smart phones propose a great social life, actually what they deliver is something very different. Cyber or virtual chat actually encourages isolation and encourages inauthentic communication, which leads to false relationships and feelings of loneliness. Talking to someone face to face, meeting up with them and having ‘real’ time together encourages authenticity and ‘true’ relationships. “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” Joseph F Newton The advantages of putting down your phone described here also lead to decreased levels of anxiety, encourage and enhances levels of awareness, which in turn promote personal growth. What better reason to put down you device and engage with the world around you. Build yourself some bridges.
Homemade cold remedy
With all this cold weather and more on the way, here is a natural way to fight off a cold or flu. Lemons: Are high in vitamin C, which helps to keeps the immune system strong and also neutralizes the free radicals in your body. Ginger: Helps you sweat out the toxins that have built up in your body whilst the cold or flu virus has taken hold. Ginger is also helpful for settling upset stomachs, for reducing dizziness, nausea, and cold sweats. Honey: Is very soothing, especially for a sore throat, which is why often medicines contain honey as it is an effective and natural cough suppressant. Honey also improves the body’s ability to fight infection and decreases the risk of fevers. Honey is obviously naturally very sweet and also balances the sharpness/acidity. These flavours are also complimentary, making this remedy very palatable. Cloves: act as an antiseptic, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and they can also help heal and are used to treat coughs, Ingredients • 2 lemons (washed and dried) • 2 piece of fresh ginger (about 3 inches of root - per piece) • 250g of runny honey (preferably raw honey) • 12oz jar or container • 30g jar of cloves Directions 1. Slice the lemons and the ginger into thin slices. 2. Place into a/or container jar, alternating the layers of lemon and ginger. 3. Now pour honey over the lemon and ginger. Make sure the honey coats the lemon and ginger slices, and fills the jar to the top. Then seal tightly. 4. Store in the refrigerator overnight - the mixture will start to form into a soft jelly. 5. Scoop 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture into a mug full of freshly boiled water – try to get some of the pieces of ginger and lemon too. 6. Add a couple of cloves to each cup of remedy. 7. Let this brew for a few minutes, maybe 3-4, and then sip until gone. You can make this immune boosting, remedy at any time and it should store successfully in the fridge for at least a month.
Well-being message from our Well-Being Mentor, Emma Williams:
Exercise is an excellent way to reduce stress, this is true for several reasons:
- Exercise helps release built-up tension in the body and helps release emotional tension too.
- Exercise releases endorphins and other ‘happy hormones’ in your body, promoting a feeling of wellbeing.
- Exercise helps promote overall health and wellbeing, which can also lessen your experience of stress.
Some forms of exercise have a strong social element, which can also be great for stress reduction. Exercise can also raise feelings of self-esteem and bring other benefits that improve quality of life.
This time of year can be tough when it comes to motivating ourselves to get active and exercise. Maybe you feel too tired, maybe you’d rather get home and get in the warm. So lack of motivation can easily hinder our vision for a more active lifestyle. What I want to encourage you to remember is that initially the reward may be a delayed one. When you commit to take up a new activity of exercise you often get the ‘feel good factor’ and the ‘more energy’ afterwards. Try to exercise with a friend of family member so you can encourage each other; make a pledge that when one or both of you feels as though you can’t be bothered, that you encourage one another to press on and ‘Go For It’.
You don’t have to join a gym or join a team, going for a walk together, or taking the dog for a long walk can have tremendous benefits both physically and mentally. Exercise wakes us up, it makes us feel more energetic and encourages a positive mood. Physically active people are more likely to be energetic and alert, and are generally more likely to be more concerned with their overall health and well-being, including heathy eating and a healthier lifestyle. A reward for all your hard work will most certainly include a sense of overall wellbeing and a sense of achievement.
Here are a few more benefits:-
- stronger bones and muscles and improved posture
- more mobility and greater flexibility
- increased endurance – able to keep going for longer
- more spatially aware and more comfortable in your own body
- greater resource of energy and less prone to illness
- stronger, healthier heart and lung function.
Exercise doesn’t have to cost money, there are plenty of free resources to take advantage of, and https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/ has plenty of useful information about exercise ideas that are free and can be done anywhere. For more free information try these links N.H.S Get fit for free or start running with the N.H.S Couch to 5K podcasts
Very nearly the end of term now! This is the final well-being message for 2018 and I just wanted to touch on the spirit of Christmas, that of giving. A few words that hopefully will encourage you to look around and see how you can make a difference.
Society in so many ways conditions us to receive, to accumulate more stuff, higher status and greater wealth; western society is becoming more and more materialistic. There is nothing wrong with having a good life, money and nice things, but if we look to those things to bring us joy and happiness we will always, eventually be disappointed.
True joy is not found in receiving stuff, in material things, true joy comes from within because of what we believe about life, so is more about the position of our hearts. Someone once told me a few years ago “If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.” I remember how that shocked me and at the time. I am not sure how true that percentage is today, but I certainly trusted the person who told me at the time to be accurate. We know that the gap between great riches and poverty is ever increasing so the percentage certainly won’t be less today.
Whatever we do have or do not have in life, we can be sure that someone, somewhere in the world has less.
I’m sure you all have a colourful Christmas list and are very excited about opening your presents on Christmas morning; of course you are and that is lovely.
Can I encourage you to take a moment at some point over Christmas to think about your giving; who do you give to and why? Are there people you know, maybe who live close by who could really benefit from some help, or an act of kindness, this Christmas time?
The Apostle Paul tells us in (The Bible) 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, that God loves a cheerful giver, he says that he who gives should give from a good heart, not grudgingly or out of a sense of duty.
There are some wonderful benefits to be experienced through giving, not only from a heartfelt perspective, but also a heart health and well-being one too.
Giving to others and that includes helping others feels good. When you give to, or help, others, it promotes positive psychological changes in your brain, which are associated with a sense of well-being and happiness. Looking to the needs of others also help us to gain new perspectives on our own lives and our personal outlooks. Giving to, or helping, others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves, helps us to take our focus off what is missing in our own lives and makes us more grateful for what we already have. In turn this can help us to gain a realistic and healthy perspective on the things that cause us stress, helping to reduce our stress levels.
Acts of kindness, even the small ones, have potential to make the world a better place and even though we cannot change the whole world by giving something or helping someone, we may change one person’s whole day or one person’s life in some way and that is priceless.
Whether you help an elderly person carry their shopping to the car, offer to sweep up the leaves for a neighbour, or maybe visit someone in a care home. As well as improving their quality of life (even if just for that day) you will also improve your sense of self-worth and confidence. Giving can improve your calmness in the here and now and your optimism about the future. It also models to others that they too can contribute towards a more positive community. Giving from a pure heart demonstrates love and elicits gratitude, which in turn promotes a sense of happiness and well-being both in your own life and the lives of others.
Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit. - Aristotle
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” - C.S. Lewis
I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff. - Jon Katz
A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow. - William Shakespeare
As we get older making authentic connections with others becomes harder, developing and maintaining genuine lasting friendships takes more effort.
A few things to consider when we think about our more valued friendships is to think about our investment, a bit like putting a few pounds away each week into you savings account, one day you will see some real value in the saving.
The investment here though is not just about giving to the friendship in practical ways that is obviously an extremely valuable part of friendship. The investment I want to focus on here is more about considering your role in the relationship and taking responsibility for your part in the ‘whole’ relationship, which includes the highs and the lows.
A few principles you can consider that will help you be a more authentic self in your friendships:-
- I want to ensure that your perspective of me is trustworthy
- I’m human and fallible, I sometimes make mistakes
- You too can make mistakes
- I don’t expect you to be perfect
- Making ‘mistakes’ is part of relationships
- You can tell me if I react in an inappropriate way in the future and I won’t fall apart
- I don’t always recognise immediately the impact of what I’ve said or done, sometimes that comes through a time of reflection
- We can always revisit something that is troubling us.
Being an authentic friend is not just about listening to yourself, but also being prepared to listen to other people’s perspective or perceptions of you, and being open to acknowledge it when there may be something they need to tell you about their experience of you. Feedback doesn’t define you, but it can inform you how to be a more authentic friend in the future.
Defining Effective Personal Boundaries
Clear and healthy boundaries are critical to living a healthy, fulfilled life. A lack of boundaries will pull you away from being your best. This quick guide will help you identify key boundaries that may need some of your attention and will provide some practical tips to get you started thinking about setting and maintaining those boundaries.
What are Boundaries?
The purpose of personal boundaries are to protect and honour important parts of our lives. We set them to clarify what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviours from others. Just as a fence protects and preserves our real property, so should personal boundaries protect our personal selves.
Key Areas to Protect Using Boundaries
- Private/Personal space – This is the space directly surrounding and includes our physical bodies. This space (within the invisible line that separates us from others) protects our physical bodies and helps us to feel safe within ourselves. As we grow we develop a sense of ‘personal space’ and sense of privacy which is unique to each of us. We usually feel uncomfortable when someone ‘crosses over’ or ‘enters into’ this virtual boundary – ‘our space’. Some people have a need for a ‘greater’ space than others; some need very little and are okay with closeness. However, it is important to develop our own ‘healthy’ boundary in terms of what is allowable and how close we allow others to get alongside us. Some people like a hand shake, some people like a hug, what do you like?
Another example of ‘space’ might be your bedroom. This is a special place for you and should be a space which you can take some ownership of. If others invade this space without being asked in, this can leave you feeling disempowered and even intruded upon.
- Emotions – Emotions control your thinking, behaviour and actions. Emotions can affect your physical bodies too. Negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, negativity, frustration and depression cause chemical reactions in your body that are very different from the chemicals released when you feel positive emotions such as happiness, contentment, feeling loved and accepted. Emotions should be protected. Often, people in our lives may say or do hurtful things (often unintentional) and unfortunately this can affect our emotions and hurt us internally.
- Energy – Energy is a source of fuel which enables us to function. In addition to food energy can come from many sources; sleep, our “quiet time”, being relaxed, activities that invigorate us can also re-energize us. When others do or say things that drain us of this energy (such as invade our privacy, create turmoil or make unreasonable demands) we are less likely to function effectively.
- Your personal values or other areas of importance to you – Anything in our life that is important to us (such as our personal values, needs, family, etc.) are all areas that can benefit from effective boundaries, anything you feel is worth protecting.
- Time – Time is valuable, we each have a limited amount of time we can dedicate to certain things. Learning to apportion appropriate time to tasks and things that demand out attention can be tricky. We also need to leave some time for ourselves to wind down or to do something we enjoy “just being”. When we do not leave enough time for ourselves we risk ‘burning out’ and this means that we are less effective and less able to function effectively.
So my question to you is “what are the boundaries in your life that might need some attention”? There are a number of ways to create and respect boundaries that are important to us.
Here are just a few examples:
- Be clear about the boundary to both yourself and others. Make sure you have been thoughtful about the boundary issue and have defined for yourself and others what is acceptable and unacceptable.
- Once a boundary has been crossed, remind the other person of your boundary and ask for their help in maintaining that boundary in the future.
- If the person continues to disrespect the boundary, ask them firmly and politely for the behaviour to stop. If the behaviour continues, consider what further action is appropriate to stop repetition of the behaviour. Remember that while you may be firm, you should also remain respectful of the other person.
- Identify ways to position yourself in a time and place that minimizes the opportunity for your boundaries to be crossed.
- Thank those people around you who respect your boundaries and thank those who have respected your requests to start observing/noticing your boundaries.
- Always seek to understand and respect the boundaries of others.
And remember always seek to understand and respect the boundaries of others, that way we are able to become more considerate and kind. Setting effective boundaries is not about being mean or selfish, but more about helping us to be respectful of ourselves and of others and to strive to become our best selves.
I may be stating the obvious, but emotions are part of life, they are part of us. In many ways we can’t help feeling them. Problems often start when we don’t know what to do with them.
So what are emotions? I like this definition:-
“A psychological state that arises subjectively, rather than through conscious effort and often accompanied by physiological changes; feelings.”
Sometimes we are happy, sometimes we feel fed up or sad, sometimes we are confused, sometimes we say things we don’t really mean. Sometimes our emotions seem illogical as they don’t necessarily represent what is going on around us at the time. This can make things really tough for us as we grow up. In many way we are not able to fully process or distinguish our emotions until we reach our early 20’s, this is because certain parts of the brain are not fully mature enough to do that job effectively. When an emotionally mature person experiences a negative emotion, generally they are able to reflect on what has made them feel that way. Then they can then decide what steps to take to change or improve that situation or attitude.
What I hear a lot of when talking with young people is that they feel misunderstood. This can be extremely discouraging and limiting to finding resolutions and moving forward. I am always encouraging people to talk to one another and to share feelings and it’s probably one of my most commonly used encouragements. However, when someone is brave enough to share their feelings they really want the person they are talking to hear and to understand what you are trying to communicate.
Feeling heard and understood doesn’t mean the person listening has to fix the problem or come up with a perfect solution to the problem. Sometimes advice is helpful, but most of the time it really is just about listening and trying to understand. When a person feels really heard it helps them to process their emotions more fully and will often help them to work out their own solution.
To help one another deal with emotions it’s important for us all to develop empathy. Empathy is listening with your heart as well as your head. When you listen with empathy you let the other person know that you’ve really heard them.
So here’s a little test - what type of listener are you? Are you apathetic, sympathetic, or empathetic?
Apathy = I don’t really care (communicates a lack of concern or interest in the other person)
Sympathy = Oh, I am so sorry, you poor thing (feeling sorry for, often keeps the person stuck)
Empathy = Sounds like you are really afraid of leaving your friends (communicates feeling ‘with’ the person, yet remaining separate)
When you are sad, angry, depressed or confused sometimes all you need is a listening ear, you may just want someone to listen with empathy to you as you express your feelings, without giving advice of judging the situation.
Allowing others to express their feelings without reflecting judgment or disapproval can help them to move on and is often all that is needed.