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Living in a consumer society we are well versed in paying money and getting goods and services in return, but does this make us less appreciative of what we receive? Do we notice the skills involved in making something, the time & thought that has gone into its creation or listen for all the instruments that make up a tune. If we had to make something from scratch would it make a difference to how we viewed the things around us?
Have a think about all the things that you consume and love. Is it books, music, food, fashion, growing your own vegetables? Maybe you enjoy home cooked food, watching and listening to someone playing the guitar or singing. Or perhaps you admire someone who knows how to code, or builds shelves or fixes cars, but you’ve never thought you’d be able to do something like that.
Consuming is easy. Getting inspired is easy. Following instructions is easy. But when you go from a consumer to a creator, you may start to think about things you never thought about before. Instead of observing and consuming, pick something and try to become the creator yourself. As well as the satisfaction and pride from making something research has shown that creating or tending things by hand makes us happy and enhances mental health. So as the New Year starts why not plan to make something rather than buy it!
In 2014 figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that people in the UK are among the most lonely and isolated in Europe. The ONS data compared the UK with the rest of Europe. The UK came second from bottom for not feeling close to people in their local area. Germany came bottom and Cyprus came top. Loneliness and isolation can have a major impact on people’s wellbeing and mental health.
In the latest ONS Survey “Measuring national well-being: Life in the UK, Apr 2017” it shows that whilst many aspects of our lives have improved, areas that have deteriorated over a 3-year basis included the mental well-being of the population.
Isolation & loneliness affects many in our countryside and this was recognised by young people working within the agricultural industry. The Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) began the mental health awareness campaign “Are EWE Okay” in May 2016 during mental health awareness week. They recognised that there was a stigma associated with mental health issues, people working in the agriculture & rural industries are often working on their own so are facing isolation and through the nature of the work people often find it difficult to access services or support. Through the campaign they aimed to challenge the attitudes towards mental wellbeing for the industry’s next generation. In October 2017 their campaign was named as a ‘Farming Hero’ during the British Farming Awards.
Social media is often criticised for a variety of reasons, however in this instance it is being used in a positive way by a recognised body to reach its members – young people, who may otherwise have no one to turn to. The principles of ‘Are Ewe OK’ can so easily be transferred to anyone so perhaps we could all ask ‘Are you ok’?
Solomon thought so, he says to ‘go to the ant’ and ‘consider the ant’ and refers to them as little upon the earth but exceeding wise. He suggests that taking a leaf from their book will preserve us from poverty and give us wisdom. Given Solomon is the richest man the world has ever known (today he would be worth 100 times more than John D Rockefeller), some ant facts are worth knowing.
So, how do ant communities do it?
1. Strong leadership
Ant communities are headed by a queen or queens, whose function in life is to lay thousands of eggs that will ensure the survival of the colony. Workers (the ants typically seen by humans) are wingless females that never reproduce, but instead, forage for food, care for the queen’s offspring, work on the nest, protect the community, and perform many other duties. When the queen of the colony dies, the colony can only survive a few months. Queens are rarely replaced and the workers are not able to reproduce. The lesson;
Without strong and clear leadership – failure is imminent!
2. Communicate & cooperate
Ants are social insects which form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. Ants communicate and cooperate by using chemicals (pheromones) that can alert others to danger or lead them to a promising food source. The lesson;
Nothing can succeed without clear communication and cooperation.
Carnegie Trust UK have published their second report looking at loneliness and social isolation and the impact of kinder communities. The report finds kindness is a necessary ingredient of successful communities. However there are major factors that get in the way of engaging and encouraging kindness both in individuals and organisations. Read the report here
Christmas is a time of giving and receiving, spending time with friends and family and maybe overindulging just a little bit?
Here are our top tips to ensure you don’t start 2018 with that sinking feeling of too much Christmas pudding being the final straw;
- Don’t sit down all day – go for a walk, kick a football about, ride a new bike. Not only will this aid digestion, but help you sleep better too.
- Go easy on the booze
- Don’t give yourself a Christmas stuffing! Recent research suggests that we consume around 3,000 calories in our Christmas dinner – more than the entire recommended daily intake for a grown man!
- Keep colds at bay
- Don’t stress – ’tis the season to be jolly remember
- Eat fruit – even the clementine tucked in the bottom of your stocking will boost vitamin C warding coughs and colds.
- Do something for others – do you have an elderly neighbour who would love to share some festive spirit?
- Engage your brain – play games, do a crossword, not only does this keep your mind active but can be fun for the whole family
It’s never too late to rectify those ill-fated New Year’s Eve resolutions in which you swore to lead a healthier life. But if traditional spas leave you cold and meditation bores you, don’t worry, there are plenty of other options out there.
- Prison pampering, Thailand
While a visit to a Thai correctional institution may scream holiday hell rather than whisper wellness, in Chiang Mai a trip to prison is an unorthodox experience.
Inmates at the women’s correctional institution are given holistic training that will aid job prospects once released. They pamper visitors using the skill learned. It not only soothes aches and pains, but any tips earned are kept for prisoners on their release.
- Wine Spa Japan
At the end of a hard week, for many people one of the best ways to relax and unwind is with a glass or two of red wine.
But why not go one step further than drinking the stuff, and book a trip to the Yunesson Spa Resort in Japan?
It’s a self-described ‘spa theme park’ where you can legitimately bathe in hot tubs filled with Merlot or Bordeaux.
- Laughter Yoga
Invented by Indian doctor Madan Kataria in the mid-Nineties, laughter yoga now has thousands of devotees. Many sessions, are free for anybody to join, providing newcomers don’t mind an early start. Propelled by the philosophy that laughter gives humans huge spiritual and medical benefits, its main objective couldn’t be simpler – to set you’re giggling, howling, chortling and smirking instincts free.
- Buried Alive; a shamanic death & rebirth
With hopes of experiencing a closer connection with Mother Nature, pilgrims journey to the northwest coast of the US to take part in a shamen led burial ceremony.
Free spirited individuals are taken into the wilderness and covered fully with earth. After re-emerging individuals are said to feel a deeper connection and knowledge of spirit and creation.
- Cryotherapy, Slovakia
Nothing shouts health kick like freezing bits off in temperatures of -120c. Sportsmen and women have been using cryotheraphy to aid recovery for decades but now the public can don gloves, a face mask and step into a giant fridge.
Benefits are said to include the natural productions of enzymes and hormones as endorphins, adrenaline and testosterone are released. It’s the coolest wellness trend in town.
It’s an eerily calm Sunday morning on the city’s Avenida Reforma, an avenue which is grid-locked on weekdays by tens of thousands of cars sitting bumper-to-bumper.
The Reforma’s closure to car traffic on Sundays in 2007 kickstarted the capital’s attempts to make life easier for cyclists. In 2010 a 17km-long bike lane through the city opened.
The car still reigns supreme in this metropolis of 22 million people, with more than four million vehicles clogging the roads every day.
Perhaps the biggest factor has been the launch of the so-called Ecobicis (Eco-bikes) in 2010. Following on from similar schemes operating in London, Paris and Barcelona, Mexico City launched a public bike rentals at 90 different sites. Since then, some 30,000 people have joined and there is a waiting list for new members. The Ecobici system is expected to expand to 75,000 users by the end of 2012, with 4,000 more bicycles made available at new sites.
The scheme is not without it’s critics with some of Mexico City’s drivers spending up to four hours a day on their journeys to work, with three separate rush-hours. Some say cyclists have only made matters worse.
One local radio host Angel Verdugo angered bike users when he called on car drivers to run over the cyclists. He said championing the new breed of cyclists was a form of racism. “They want to be like Europeans,” he says. “They believe they are living in Paris and riding along the Champs-Elysees.”
He subsequently made a public apology.
There’s no doubt that Mexico City is for the most part still a car-orientated city but it is also clear that cycling is in the ascendancy. More cycle ways are planned, and public opinion supporting active travel is growing. A car free city is, however, a long way off.