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How you can talk to someone about their mental health

How you can talk to someone about their mental health

We’ve probably all experienced situations where we ask, ‘How are you?’ and our response is a standard ‘I’m fine’.

You may suspect ‘I’m fine’ might not be the whole story, yet hesitate to express your concerns.
You want to help, but you:

         Don’t feel like a mental health specialist

         Don’t know where to find out more about mental health

         Aren’t sure if you can help

         Worry you may say something wrong or even make things worse

         May not feel great yourself and want to avoid being overwhelmed yourself


The good news is, we don’t have to be mental health experts to open up a conversation about mental health. Nor do we need a psychologist’s knowledge to support those in struggle.

Here we share tips to help you start a conversation about mental health - and feel more confident in how to respond in a way that’s helpful. We also share sources of further information and support for others - as well as yourself.

Tips to open up conversation

Sometimes the hardest thing can be to broach the subject of mental health in the first place. Here’s how to get the conversation going and put someone at ease:

1. Rely on what you notice (to avoid making assumptions)

The person will most likely have said or done (or not said or done) something that has given you cause for concern, so why not start with mentioning that? For example, you might say:

‘I notice you’ve been very quiet lately, is anything wrong?’ or
‘I notice you haven’t been coming along to our gym class lately – is everything ok?’

2. Disclose something that’s going on for you, to see how the person responds

For instance, you might say, ‘I’m really struggling with these long, dark evenings…’ (of course, choose something true for yourself).

3. Try not to judge what you’re being told

Be prepared that what you hear might be a surprise to you - or you may have opinions about what you’ve heard. Remember, expressing this may not be helpful. It’s important to accept where people are right now and try not to judge them for what they’ve shared with you.

4. Take your time

Take some time to ease into the conversation – sometimes people can tell us things in an indirect or roundabout way. Be patient, listen and use gentle prompts (like the open questions below) to unpick what they’re sharing with you.

To keep them talking, just listen.

Once someone has started opening up, the most important thing you can do is listen. Try the Samaritan’s SHUSH active listening tips:

  • Show you care
  • Have patience
  • Use open questions
  • Say it back
  • Have courage


Show you care – put away your phone, try to maintain eye contact and focus on the other person.

Have patience – sometimes opening up is about forming trust between you and the person you’re talking to. Bear in mind that it may take several attempts before the person decides to open up. It may also take them time while having conversation, to formulate their thoughts properly, so try not to rush them.

Use open questions – questions beginning with ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and how’ - help to expand a topic and create space for self-reflection and thinking. You may want to use phrases such as ‘How was that for you?’ rather than ‘Was it bad?’ (the latter assumes what someone’s experience was, rather than finding out how they really feel).

Say it back – repeating what someone is saying is a good way of showing them that you’re listening and allows you to check if what you’ve heard is actually what they said.
Have courage – you may feel as if you were intrusive by asking someone how they really feel, but you’ll soon find out if they feel comfortable with you. Don’t be put off by silence or a negative response.

Important: if you’re concerned for the person’s immediate safety or the safety of someone else, it’s important that you seek help. In these circumstances it is best if you call 999 as they will be able to talk you through what to do next.

Things you might try to avoid

Sometimes we might think we have an idea of what’s wrong with someone and what will help or maybe we think we’ve felt similar to them. Try not to give advice or say what has worked for you in the past, as this may not work for others. Unless you’re a medical professional, don’t give a diagnosis as it may be harmful. Remember, you don’t have to take responsibility for solving things for the person you speak to, nor is it your responsibility to see that they seek help.

Remember: Sometimes the most difficult thing about struggling with our mental health is feeling as if we’re all alone with what we feel or experience. So even if we you something wrong, it is often more important to show somebody that we care.

Wellbeing College resources that might help

When you become aware during a conversation that someone is struggling with their mental health, let them know that there is help available. You could encourage them to talk to their GP and perhaps share the resources on the need help now page of our website.

Have a bit more time? Why not study our course Mental Health Awareness. This is available as a self-study course you can view in your own time. Or you can attend a live session with others via Zoom or in person. Find out more on our courses page.

Finally, always be aware of how you’re feeling. Make sure you have somebody to talk to after having this conversation or use the resources provided above if you need to.

The more we can learn to talk about our mental health, the more we might encourage others to share how they are feeling too. You never know how important that conversation may be to someone.


Co-production at the heart of what we do

As I write this article, I’m much encouraged by the thought that another of our students may be interested in volunteering with us - it just so happens to be a course of the creative kind.

I’m particularly delighted this person has approached us to make the jump from student to volunteer co-facilitator because I feel he has much to gain personally as well as give to those who sign up.

You might be forgiven for imagining at the Wellbeing College we follow a rather linear way of working- that tutors plan and deliver courses whilst students attend, learn and give their feedback.

You might be thinking back to your schooldays- the last time perhaps that you found yourself in a classroom. The teacher taught and you learned- it could have felt like a one-way street with very little opportunity for collaboration.

At the Wellbeing College, we do things a little differently. Co-production is at the heart of everything we do.

What is co-production?
Co-production means involving local people in the delivery and development of the Wellbeing College. We work alongside our volunteers and students to make sure that the way your College is run and the services we offer, meet your needs.  It means, for example, that you can help shape the courses we offer and influence how the drop-in Hub sessions are run. This doesn’t mean you have to commit to volunteering with us (although this would be most welcome!). There are various ways you can get involved!

How do we do it?
When the College was first established, several consultation events were held across the Borders. These allowed local people to suggest what courses they’d like to see the College delivering. What you told us shaped the initial college programme.  We ask our students for feedback on an ongoing basis via course evaluation forms and direct mailings. Our volunteers attend team meetings and have regular supervision to allow them to influence the shape of our work. Volunteers, who’ve often been students themselves, help with the delivery and development of our courses.  We also have an Advisory Group involving student representatives allowing them to have a say in all matters relating to the College.

How can you get involved?
If you’d like to help shape what courses we offer and how you’d like the College to work in the future, why not join our Have Your Say Sessions in June?

In need of a distraction? How about this?

Given the difficulties of the last year, many of us will have found ourselves stuck in a bit of a rut, looking to distract ourselves from the news or find ways to pass the time whilst living under restrictions.

For me it’s been a mixture of the following. Does any of this sound familiar?

• Watching endless repeats of Midsomer murders (even though I’ve seen the episode at least three times before and know who did it)
• Finishing the packet of chocolate hobnobs realising I only just bought it yesterday
• Going to the internet to find a recipe for (yet more) oat muffins to eat as a healthier alternative to the chocolate hobnobs, to suddenly find myself on YouTube looking at puppies

I’ve also probably bought enough books off Amazon to stock a small library.

What if there was a distraction you could find that doesn’t require an internet connection, needn’t cost money, won’t add extra calories and doesn’t do dull repeats that have you reaching for the remote? Oh and it’s something that, according to research, makes us feel healthier and happier

In line with the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week, I’m talking about connecting with nature.  Now, before you think connecting with nature means you have to go full Ray Mears and adventure into the wilderness - scale the Alps or backpack in the jungle or such like - don’t worry. It needn’t be that complicated.

You don’t have to ‘Escape to the Country’ or ‘get away from it all’ as we’re so often told. Besides, it can be hard to find the motivation just to step outside some days.  Put simply, the way to connect with nature is just to notice it - and that’s something you’re probably doing already.

For instance, if I were to ask what spring means to you, you’d probably say things like:

• trees coming into leaf
• cherry blossoms flowering
• yellow daffodils and purple crocuses popping up
• spring lambs playing in the fields
• longer, sunnier days - or even refreshing spring showers

I doubt you’d say: ‘Spring, well that means March 20th of course!’ (the date spring officially begins).

Even if you don’t consider yourself outdoorsy or a nature lover – even if you live in the middle of a town - there will be things in the natural environment even you can’t fail to notice.

Have you ever:

• Been caught out by an unexpected spring shower?
• Suddenly noticed your skin has gone a bit pink from the sun?
• Become aware that after months of being grey the sky is actually blue?
• Lost time staring through a window at the clouds? (As I’m doing right now!)
• Noticed your house plants need a water?

Whether you’re a budding naturalist or someone who simply notices changes in the weather (i.e. you’re British), you already come equipped to experience more. You just need to use your senses.

What you can see, hear, smell, feel or (with caution) taste when in nature - can turn an everyday stroll outdoors into a mini adventure – you only have to look for it.

In his book, How to Connect with Nature, Tristan Gooley writes that a connection with nature means ‘expecting a fascinating and enriching experience each time we step outside’.

When I go for a walk, even just a short stroll around the local neighbourhood streets, I don’t hope I will find something interesting to experience - I know I will.

The rustle of leaves in the wind; the scent of freshly mown grass; the chatter of sparrows on the rooftops; the taste of salty sea air on my lips - even how clearer the air feels after the rain.

Once you develop the habit of noticing things, you might just realise all the things you haven’t been noticing before.

As Tristan continues: ‘Once we notice something that until now has slipped past us, our minds are likely to develop a voracious appetite for more’. The more we notice, the more we will want to seek out.

What’s more nature is always changing, never static so there’s no need to ever be bored with the same old thing. Even has as I type, I’m watching the clouds take on different shapes and colours every so often when I look out of my window.

The thing is though, it’s easy not to notice things. It’s easy to wander about with our minds fixed on our troubles or irritations, our worries about work, the kids, the world - and not see the nature that’s all around us.

Last week, I was out for a walk, rushing along, not really noticing. Then, unexpectedly, I heard a sky lark singing boldly, somewhere in the sky. It was as if it was saying – very loudly – ‘Stop! Look at me’.

So I did.

I allowed myself to get absorbed in its song and the quest to spot it – a tiny dot high in the sky; and whatever it was I was troubled by was instantly replaced with joy and childlike curiosity.

I began to wonder, why don’t we see sky larks in the summer? Where do they go? How do I tell it apart from that other little brown bird I see on my walks?

Instead of searching for the hobnobs when I got home, I looked it up. 

For me, there’s no better distraction. 

I wonder, what fascinations await you outside, if you decide to expect them?  What might you notice that, until now, you’ve missed?

If you need more inspiration, why not try our online course Natural Wellbeing and learn simple ways to connect with nature - even from within your own home.

Meantime, I’m going to resist the biscuit tin and get back to staring out of the window.

What is normality?

This month’s Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival theme is ‘normality’. It’s an interesting theme to be exploring together and no doubt inspired by these past 13 months during which we have been living in somewhat abnormal conditions.

I think what has been highlighted is our awareness of the very individual ways we live our lives. For some introverted individuals there have been many more opportunities to take advantage of a simpler, more slower paced life. In the absence of all the external social outlets such as concerts and family gatherings in restaurants, many people have relished time spent on their own without the expectation or pressure to go out in public or even be around others. Rules around meeting in groups of people in public or at home have tightened enormously in an effort to get Covid infection rates under control. Perhaps this enforced way of living has come as a relief to those who enjoy their own company.

There are other people who instinctively crave sociability and feel energised when they are in others’ company- both at home and out and about in public spaces. With restrictions in place they have had to adjust to get-togethers with friends online on Zoom or FaceTiming their family. Added to things like working from home and using these platforms much more frequently in their working life means that Zoom fatigue has been a real thing for some people. Some of my friends, for example, have not always been so enthusiastic about monthly Saturday evening chats due to feeling- in the absence of social outlet- they have nothing new to share now. This means they have tended to avoid joining the group chat, withdrawing and then ending up feeling worse. Therefore, for natural extroverts physical disconnection has translated also into a feeling of emotional disconnection.

For many of us- whether we may be extroverted or introverted- there have been restrictions placed on our normality which have been tricky to adjust to and continue to tolerate over such a long time. We might therefore be emerging tentatively from the life we have been used to and start to access those things we were taking for granted before Covid.

Normality at the Wellbeing College has been a little different over the past year, with several adjustments having to be made. For example, many of our courses have been offered online via Zoom, we have developed a variety of self-study courses which can be accessed by students in their own time from home. Personal tutor appointments have had to be done on the telephone instead of in person. Our base at the Hive in Galashiels saw its doors closed at the end of March last year and none of our courses across the region have been able to take place.

There will be change once again with the further stages of easing of lockdown in the next 3 months- at the Wellbeing College we recognise that individuals may feel very differently about this. Some may welcome being able to attend plays at the theatre or eat dinner at a restaurant with friends and family. Others may feel nervous at the thought of even leaving their home and uncertainty about how safe it will be to be out in public. We will continue to offer learning opportunities in ways which might feel okay for everyone to attend in their own way- online and in person alike.

At the end of a year of uncertainty I feel one thing is certain: it will be healthy to go forward in a society which accepts us as individuals who experience challenges to emotional wellbeing and mental health. I really hope that will become normality.

Personal tutor appointments

Personal tutor appointments at the Wellbeing College

A Personal Tutor appointment is an opportunity for you to meet one-to-one to discuss your learning with a Personal Tutor at the Wellbeing College.

A Personal Tutor appointment might be of interest to you if you:
• Are new to the College and want to find out more about us and what we offer
• Have been in touch with the College for a while but have not accessed any of our courses or resources yet
• Would like to create Personal Learning Plan to help shape your learning at the College

At the College we want to help you discover and celebrate your personal strengths as they relate to your mental health recovery. Rather than focussing on difficulties - which we can all have - the appointments focus more on the positive changes you would like to see in your life. You are in control of the conversation and we won’t ask you to discuss something you are not comfortable with.

Our Personal Learning Plans are an opportunity for you to identify the areas of your wellbeing that you would like to focus your learning on, the key challenges you would like to overcome and your hopes for your future whilst working with the College. We will then work together with you to link these with what is available at the College that may help. This may include accessing some of our resources, volunteering with us or attending some of our courses.

For the moment, all of our Personal tutor appointments will continue to be offered on the telephone but we continue to review this in line with local restrictions.

If you are new to the Wellbeing College, you can find out more about our Personal Tutors on the Our Tutors page. We try and ensure students see the same tutor each time, but this will not always be possible. We will do our best to let you know in advance if your usual tutor is not available.

If you are interested, there are a few ways you can book an appointment:
• Via email or phone 01896 807000.
• Through the Wellbeing College website
• Tick the relevant box on our registration or course evaluation forms 

Once you have booked, we will send you the date and time of your appointment by email (or post).  If the date and time we offer you is not suitable, or circumstances change, please let us know and we will arrange another appointment for you.
We understand sometimes it’s difficult to attend appointments for many reasons. You can cancel or re-arrange if you need to, by telephone or email.  It’s helpful if you let us know as soon as you can if you are unable to make your appointment, so we can offer the time to someone else.

Our appointments are confidential unless you give us consent to share any details out with our discussion. However, if you were to talk about intentions to harm yourself or reveal knowledge that a child or adult is at risk of being harmed, we would be obligated to breach confidentiality in these instances. If this were to happen, we would make every effort to discuss the issue with you in the first instance before making contact with the appropriate services.

We recognise our Personal Tutor appointments will not benefit everyone and sometimes it may not feel like the right time. If you need help immediately, please refer to the Resources tab for information on organisations and services which can help.

If you think a telephone appointment may be helpful to you, please contact us to arrange one on 01896 807000 or email

April - the national month of hope

April is the national month of hope and considering the year we have all experienced it feels timely to consider hope.

What do we mean when we talk about hope?
Hope is an abstract concept: one definition of hope is that it’s ‘an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large.’ (Wikipedia)

How many times have you heard someone say, ‘I hope it will get better.’ 

The last year has without doubt brought about great losses to many people in Scotland, the UK and around the world.

Despite the many challenges and sadness, we may have encountered in the last year, we have also witnessed many reasons to remain or to become hopeful about the future.
Communities have worked together as never before, offering their time, creativity and skills in a plethora of ways. From uplifting banners and drawings in the windows of homes across the land, to poignant and beautifully painted stones offering messages of hope.

Old and young alike have outwardly shown their genuine appreciation for our NHS and keyworkers.  Volunteers have tirelessly shopped, cooked and distributed thousands of meals for others.

Hope has been fostered in many people in hearing about the kindness of neighbours, ensuring others are not forgotten, by having a chat across the garden fence or delivering home baking to a friend’s doorstep.  It has felt hopeful to witness all the opportunities which have been freely offered; online workshops from yoga to crafting, music and dance events and baking - the choice has been endless!

There are now many hopeful signs that Spring is on its way, birds are preparing their nests, daffodils are beginning to show, even a global pandemic can’t stop the renewal of the seasons and all that goes with it.

Hope has kept us going through the pandemic. Hope that the vaccine will allow life to start to resume some sort of ‘normality’. Hope that we will soon be able to connect face to face with family, friends and colleagues. Hope that people will begin to return to work and workplaces.

Hope that businesses which went the extra mile during this period will flourish in the future.

Without hope we may not have got through this last year.

Hope can fuel our resilience and can keep us going when we face adverse events, stress or change in our lives.

You only have to skim through a newspaper to find hope mentioned numerous times. Hope pervades our lives, everyday there is reason to be hopeful. Hope we can get to grips with the new normal, hope we can use the resilience we have developed to cope in the world with all its challenges and joys.

Hope doesn’t need to be felt in isolation. Rather than keeping it to yourself, why not be generous and choose to share it so that others can benefit too?

What is online studying really like?

What is online studying really like?

Here are some things students have told us about their experiences of joining our courses online:

Let’s talk about resilience student said: “I liked that you could text and not speak. Laying out the rules first. Time for thinking / not rushed. Very calm and positive.” 

Creative writing for wellbeing student told us: “Liked the pace of the session.  Plenty of time to think.  Liked the fact that there was no pressure to share / participate, though I did - only if you wanted to do so.”

Let’s talk about social anxiety student shared: I was less stressed in the smaller groups and also found the other participants comments on their anxiety very interesting i.e. I’m not alone in how I feel and react when anxious. Also, as another member said they were able to ‘say more’ in a smaller group.  I agree with that.”  

Mindfulness and you student said that: “It lived up to my expectations and more...I found it less stressful than being in a room with others, I didn’t take on others energy as I would have done.  Even though lots of distractions I still did practices -biggest positive was having the mic on mute.  No words to explain how powerful Mindfulness course was.”

Let’s talk about sleep student thought that: “Course had a very good balance between explaining the sleep issues and how a person has managed to cope with the issues.”

*Thank you to the students for providing us with their comments and for permission to share them. 

Is online studying really for me?
It’s completely natural to feel a little unsure, especially if it’s something you’ve not tried before. If you are worried about joining a course online or not sure how this will work for you, our Personal Tutors are here to answer any questions you might have or to discuss any of your concerns. Give us a call on 01896 807000 or email us at:

What are the benefits of online studying?
Going online, to study has some benefits,

 the weather doesn’t matter – come rain or shine our online courses won’t see any disruption and you don’t need to worry about a sudden downpour as you step off the bus!
 You can also attend from somewhere that’s comfortable for you, in your own home.  Not only can this feel a little safer at the moment and might save time, but there is also a high chance your seats are comfier too!
 If you prefer, you don’t have to interact with other students and you can turn your camera off.  This helps some people to feel less anxious.
 And finally, if you don’t feel confident speaking out at first during a live session, there are different ways to interact online that might feel more comfortable, for example using the chat box functions and reaction buttons. 

So, although it’s a bit different there are certainly some added bonuses to attending a course online.

How to book a place on an online course
You can book a course through our website here. We will receive an email to alert us to your booking request and we will respond to you as soon as possible.  You can also request a place on a course by calling us on 01896 807000, whichever way works best for you.

How to study online
We will send you some user-friendly guidance, so don’t worry if it is your first-time going online, this will help you to familiarise yourself before you start a course.  Some top tips include;
• For the purposes of anonymity as far as possible, when you join the meeting, please join using your first name and the initial of your surname e.g. Jo B.
• Check out your internet signal – is it strong where you plan to sit? If not, can you sit closer to your router? If you are using your mobile data, make sure that you have enough and that your signal strength is strong.
• If you’re on a mobile or tablet, try and place the device on a table so that your arms are free from holding the device.
• Don’t forget to have a charger nearby or have your device plugged in whilst attending, this way you won’t have to worry about running out of charge.
• Sit somewhere that you find comfortable. Although we will encourage movement and breaks it’s good if you are comfortable in your space.
• Find a space on your own – this is important for confidentiality but also so that you feel safe to share your thoughts if you want to.
• Try and sit with the light of a window facing you, if you can, so that your video image is clear.

How safe is online studying?
• Personal Tutors will only admit students they are expecting to the meeting.
• The meeting will be locked after 15 minutes meaning that no-one else can join so it’s important you join on time.
• If you lose internet connection please re-try to connect during the break or send an email to and let us know you are having problems, we can unlock the meeting and re-admit you.   

For further information, please see our "Online Courses Guidance for Students"

We hope to see you at an online course soon.

Compassion through a different lens

Compassion through a different lens

Article by volunteer, Jacquie Lamont

It struck me recently how difficult it is to show love and compassion to those who need our support and understanding in these difficult times.

Whilst out walking my dog recently a neighbour was trying to tell me about the sudden death of a young person, someone they had watched grow up. As she spoke tears appeared unbidden, and her voice was thick with grief. My natural instinct was to give a hug or reach out with a caring touch. But with physical distancing in place this natural response is impossible. Similarly, during the summer at my beloved aunt’s funeral, I found comforting and taking comfort from my family to be heartbreakingly difficult, not to mention deeply unnatural.

However, the government is telling us to stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work and to stay two metres away from other people.  And although we have all been living with various levels of these restrictions for nearly a year now, it is still not how we would choose to live our lives and we are all still learning and adapting to life in its’ current format.

So it left me with the question, just how do you show care and compassion when we have physical distancing in place?

But firstly, what exactly is compassion? Compassion literally means: suffering together. When we feel and understand distress in others, compassion gives us the courage and wisdom to do something about it to ease that suffering. It motivates us to help, to be kind, and to give support to others who are suffering.

I wondered if it would be helpful to try and see the current circumstances as a different era in our life. Look at life through a different lens, if you will. And not necessarily a bad one, even though you didn’t choose it.  Perhaps we can help each other to learn other ways of showing that we care.

Despite our physical limitations there are still lots of things that we can do to show love, kindness and compassion in these difficult times.  Small acts of love and kindness are always appreciated and maybe have an added significance and worth right now. Some of the suggestions below might help inspire you to find a way to help both yourself and others.

• When speaking to those in distress our tone of voice as well as our words can convey love and empathy.
• Listen with compassion.
• Tell a family member how much you love and appreciate them.
• Calling a friend that you haven’t spoken to for a while just to let them know you are thinking about them.
• Arrange to have a cup of tea and virtual catch up with someone you know.
• Arrange to watch a film or listen to a virtual concert at the same time as a friend and hold a video call at the same time.
• Tell a person in your life that you are proud of them.
• Tell people that you are thankful for them and grateful to have them in your life.
• Send an inspirational quote.
• Send an interesting article to a friend so that you can discuss it by phone later.
• Spend time playing with your pet and send cute pictures of them to others with pets. It will make you both feel connected.
• Leave a little gift on the doorstep, maybe a small bunch of flowers or a little bit of home baking.
• Reach out to or call a friend, family member or neighbour who is experiencing loneliness or self-isolation. It may just be a phone call or a text but by letting the person know they are in your thoughts can help make them feel less isolated.
• Arrange to have a video lunch with a colleague.
• Donate to a local food-banks or a charity that is important to you.
• Offer to skill share with a friend via video call. For example, you could teach guitar, language skills or help with home schooling if you have a particular area of knowledge to share.
• Offer support to vulnerable neighbours, maybe help with their shopping or meal preparation.
• Create a “WhatsApp group” with a group of friends so that you can all keep up with each other’s news, have a bit of fun, or comment on joint experiences. It will help to maintain the groups’ connections.

These are just a few examples of how we can show others we care. We are all aware that nothing is easy at the moment but sometimes the smallest gesture can make the biggest impact.

And remember being compassionate and kind is, however, not just about giving to others. We need to be compassionate and kind to ourselves, otherwise it is incomplete. We must try not to judge ourselves so harshly.  And perhaps, from viewing this era of our life through a different lens we can learn that this is a time to appreciate who we are as individuals, to recognise and value our different strengths, and accept our common humanity. We are all less than perfect, but we are doing the best we can in the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Missing hugs? Try this

Missing hugs?  Try this

With fewer chances to hug our friends and family than in non-Covid times, it’s even more important that we take care of ourselves and also to address the absence of touch. According to psychologist Paul Gilbert who is an expert in the field of compassion there are a couple of simple things we can do to replicate this. It may sound unbelievable but did you know that if you give yourself a hug, the same chemicals are released in your body and mind and you feel the same warmth and comfort that comes from hugging another person?

Likewise, if you put your hands together- one on top of the other- and press firmly on the left hand side of your chest, around where your heart is located (be careful not to press too hard however) you will feel safe and loved, as if you were in close proximity to another.

Dr Kristin Neff is another world-renowned researcher, author and advocate of the importance of self-compassion. Her theory can be presented in three different ways.

1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgement

Instead of frustration, self-criticism or stress- all bound to cause us pain- we can let in the idea that life can be difficult and we can be good enough.

2. Common humanity vs. Isolation

When we accept shared human experience- that others suffer and feel inadequate the same as us- then we can overcome feelings of isolation.

3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification

If we are careful not to label feelings like ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ and accepting that all feelings are valid then we begin to restore balance. As Dr Neff says ‘We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.’

(Source :


7 ways to find joy this winter

7 ways to find Joy in Winter 

Winter is approaching and at the Wellbeing College we realise it’s not always everyone’s favourite time of year. If you find it tough, we have rounded up seven ideas for getting the best out of winter, to give you some inspiration.  

When asked about their favourites things to do in winter, this is what our team said:

1. Enjoy your home comforts

Lynn’s winter is all about cosy home comforts:

“I love hot chocolate with marshmallows, hot milk, warm fluffy bed socks, pyjamas, hot water bottles, extra pet cuddles, a real fire and crackling logs, the scent of cinnamon and gingerbread” 

- Lynn, Wellbeing College Administrator

How about a bubble bath with some essential oils? Learn more on our Aromatherapy course

2. Get creative 

Kirsty makes the most of winter indoors by:

“accepting the change of season, including the cooler wetter weather, the shorter days – and my inclination to spend more time indoors. This means I enjoy creative things like cooking and soap making and I like sharing what I’ve made with family and friends.”

- Kirsty, Wellbeing College Personal Tutor

Fancy getting creative? Join us for some Christmas Crafts

3. Go a bit wild 

Jo, like many others during the winter months, likes to spend time snuggling in front of the stove with candles burning, but it’s wild swimming that improves her mental health more than anything else:

"Although I am not at the stage of wearing only my swimming costume, I still feel invigorated and energised once accustomed to the cold! As a bonus I have met others in the local area I would not otherwise have chanced upon. Although we may never be close friends, sharing the experience feels very bonding for that time; never more so than when we spied a large grey seal curiously watching us; and when two dogs happily joined the swimming party.”  

- Jo, Wellbeing College Personal Tutor

If outdoor swimming feels a bit too adventurous, just go for a walk!

As our volunteer Avril says: “I like to go out for a walk even if it’s for 10-15 minutes before 2pm to get sunlight. I never know who I might meet and perhaps start up a wee conversation with.” 

4. Slow down and reflect

Annette likes the slower pace of winter:

“In winter I give myself permission to slow down and ‘hibernate’. Whilst I love a walk on a crisp winter day, I also love to grab the blankets and hot water bottle and curl up with a good book or a film. Sometimes I do a crossword or some mindful colouring in.

I find it’s a good time to slow down and reflect on the year that has gone and make positive plans for the future – as well as drink lots of hot tea!” 

- Annette, Wellbeing College Personal Tutor

Take time to reflect this winter with our range of online courses that you can study in your own time 

5. Look out for Nature

Jacquie loves spending time in nature:

“I love walking or cycling on a really cold winter’s day. I find the sharp cold air biting into my skin exhilarating; it makes me feel so alive and alert. And looking at the dramatic shape of the trees without their summer plumage always fires up my imagination.

Winter is the best season for bird watching from the comfort of my living room window. I put out a veritable feast for the birds on my apple tree and sit all comfy cosy watching all the different birds and some squirrels that visit the tree. Their behaviour makes me laugh out loud. Yesterday a squirrel dropped an apple on a pigeon’s head. Best laugh in ages!” 

- Jacquie, Wellbeing College Volunteer

Click here for more natural wellbeing tips

6. Take care 

Rachael makes time to look after herself:

“For me winter signals a reminder to take care and to pay attention to myself. Perhaps it’s because of the visible changes; darker days, feeling colder, chapped lips, dry hands and a desire to eat everything in sight, that I am reminded to look after myself.

Looking after myself means paying attention to my body (listening when it says you don’t need another mince pie!) taking time to do the things I enjoy and most of all remembering my own limits and that it’s okay to say ‘no’.” 

- Rachael, Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Manger

7. Eat well and stay in touch

Avril takes time to nourish herself whilst also keeping in touch:

“During winter I like to eat well. Homemade chicken soup is a speciality, but I also love baking (don’t eat it all like me!) and making chutney and jam. I also like crafts like knitting, crochet and making embroidered Christmas cards.

Keeping in touch with friends/family is also important to me; whether via zoom or by phone or meeting up in a coffee shop if not possible at home.”

- Avril, Wellbeing College Volunteer

Would you like to stay In Touch this winter? Please let us know what courses you would like to see us provide in the New Year by completing this short poll.

Online courses FAQs

Whilst the Wellbeing College team continues to work from home we wanted to give you a little update about what that means for you and what you can expect from us over the coming months. We thought some Questions and Answers might be a useful way to let you know more.

Will you be delivering courses or appointments in person soon?

Your safety remains our number one priority, and we won’t do anything that puts you, our staff or volunteers at risk. We are continually reviewing the possibilities around our courses, appointments and hubs and will keep you up to date with the latest developments. For now though, our courses will be delivered online either via bookable live sessions using Zoom or via our pre-recorded self-study sessions which are available on our website. Our Personal Tutor appointments will continue to be offered via telephone and email.

I’m not sure about joining a course online, is it really for me?

It’s completely natural to feel a little unsure, especially if it’s something you’ve not tried before. If you are worried about joining online or not sure how this will work for you, our Personal Tutors are here to answer any questions you might have or to discuss any of your concerns. Give us a call or drop us an email.

How long are the courses? Is there be a break?

Our live courses will vary in the number of weeks they are delivered for. Some courses are just one session over one week, whereas others are six sessions spread over six weeks.
However, all sessions tend to be either 1.5 hours or 2 hours in length.  You will be able to find out how many weeks the course will run for and the duration of the sessions in the course description on our website.  We aim for 10-15 minutes breaks half-way through each session however, we encourage you to move around as much as you can out with this time too.  Our self-study courses range from 10 to 30 minutes and you can pause whenever you need to for a break.

What are the differences between a self-study course and a live course?

Our live courses are just that, they’re live. Just like our in-person courses, they are delivered in real time, led by the Wellbeing College Team with a group of students all attending together but instead of in person things are done online via Zoom. Live courses will give the opportunity for group discussion as well as individual reflection and will often involve either a presentation format or a resource led discussion e.g. a discussion around a TED talk on a particular topic.

Our self-study courses, are pre-recorded by one of the Wellbeing College Tutors or an external tutor and can be accessed online via our website whenever you want. These courses are designed so that you can work through them at your own pace. You can pause, rewind, and repeat the content as much as you like or even come back to it at a later date if you prefer.

Are there any benefits to attending a course online?

Definitely! Going online, although it’s something new, it certainly has some hidden benefits; the weather doesn’t matter – come rain or shine our online courses won’t see any disruption and you don’t need to worry about a sudden downpour as you step off the bus! You can also attend from somewhere that’s comfortable to you, in your own home perhaps. Not only can this feel a little safer and might save time, there is a high chance your seats are comfier too! And finally, if you don’t feel confident speaking out at first during a live session, there are different ways to interact online that might feel more comfortable, for example using the chat box functions and reaction buttons.  So, although it’s a bit different there are certainly some added bonuses to attending a course online and we hope to see you there soon.

How safe are the online courses? What personal information is shared?

We’ll work with you to keep you safe online when you join any of our live online courses.  We have instigated a number of measures to ensure everyone joining is kept as safe as we can. Some of these include;

  • We will only share the joining instructions with those booked onto the course.
  • We will lock the Zoom meeting after everyone has joined.
  • We will only admit someone into the room if they are on the register.
  • We encourage you to join using your first name and last initial.
  • We recommend that you only share information with the group that you are comfortable with.
  • Any information you share with us will be handled in line with our Privacy Policy.

We have developed some guidance around this area which will be shared with anyone who books a course and will work with you to feel confident, safe and secure whilst attending.
Our self-study courses are accessed via our secure website and do not require you to share any personal details to access these.

Don’t see the answer to your question?

Drop us an email or give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer any remaining questions you might have.


Men's health

Little did I realise what an intriguing (not to say alarming) journey I was signing up for when I agreed to share my thoughts for this month's In Touch around men’s health.  What could be more straightforward? After all, I am a male.  I have good health.  I work for Health in Mind, where we are committed to promoting positive health and wellbeing.  So far, so good.

Beyond this, it all got a bit more complicated. Before I got too far into planning what I wanted to say, I quickly found myself in online articles advocating the benefits for men’s health of everything from paleo/primal lifestyle to nutrient deficiency remedies and moisturising.  Who knew? 

I cast no aspersions on any of these but mention them merely to illustrate that knowing exactly what men should — and should not — be doing for their own health is not always easy. There is a lot of information to ponder over, not enough time in the day, and a lot of advice out there that can be more confusing than it is helpful.  Most importantly in relation to men’s health, what suits me might not be the same as you. It all sounds pretty basic when you spell it out like that, but we know it is never that easy to put into practice, and particularly for men who may be less likely to speak to someone close to them or to seek professional help. 

So when we think about responding to men’s health needs (and particularly their mental health) we are probably looking at trying many different ways to achieve the same end. The core of that will doubtless always include elements of talking, socialising and sharing, taking up something new or challenging, exercise, getting out and about, creativity and mental stimulation.  Anything we can do to support and encourage this in ourselves and with each other will build not just men’s health but the wellbeing of the wider community too.

Martin Oxley, Deputy Chief Executive, Health-in Mind


Lara Armitage, of At Birkhill House crafting centre near Earlston, shares some ideas of how to de-stress away from devices. 

Not all activity is sport- or exercise-based. 'Being active' includes keeping your mind active - something that can prove difficult in these trying times. It's very easy to get sucked in by the television or iPad or game console, only to realise that the day has passed you by. Although you may feel as though your brain has been active, device-based activity is actually incredibly draining on your mind and mental health. I would like to suggest a simple technique for engaging your mind, which also brings a sense of calm and serenity and is a healthy alternative to all the screens around us. This is the technique of mandala art.

The word 'mandala' means 'circles' in Sanskrit. These patterns are considered to be sacred symbols and are used for meditation, prayer and healing. Making mandalas has been shown to boost the immune system, reduce stress and pain, lower blood pressure, promote sleep and ease depression.

Making mandalas at home is as easy as picking up a piece of paper and a pen. You can draw the outline of your own mandala, beginning with a central circle, filling in different sections of the circle with different patterns and then colouring in the sections. There is an excellent YouTube video posted by Vijayta Sharma called 'how to draw MANDALA ART for beginners'. There are also lots of other videos and examples on YouTube and Pinterest. All you have to do is search 'mandalas' or 'mandala art'.

If you find the process of creating a mandala from scratch daunting, you can also download free mandala colouring pages from a variety of sites. These are mandala outlines that are already made up for you to colour. A couple of sites to try are  and Monday Mandala

Or you can make object mandalas. These are interesting because you can make them anywhere, with anything - like these pictures, where people have used shoes and snacks. My husband's favourite snack is pistachio nuts and our daughter has been using the shells to create a mandala for her wall. She glues them onto a circular piece of board one by one as he makes his way through his next bag and is looking forward to the day when she has a finished piece of art, ready for hanging. 

The beauty of object mandalas is that they can also be constructed out of doors so that you can enjoy the fresh air whilst creating a stone or flower petal piece of art. I love the transitory nature of these. It is sad when they break down over time but it is a reflection of how time moves on through the seasons. And you can always just start again to create something fresh and new.

Being active, some ideas

Be Active - Some Ideas

A few ideas to start thinking about increasing or starting activity.  Becoming more active doesn’t need to involve lots of expense, time or equipment.. The key is finding something you enjoy.  Why not try out a few different activities first and find out which is the best fit for you?  Maybe you could revisit activities you enjoyed in the past?  How about skipping? All you need is a piece of rope or buy a skipping rope.

Try the BBC’s skipping challenge to get you started.

You could dust down your bike and head out for a bike run on the currently emptier Borders roads or to one of many local areas which have cycle routes you can follow. The Scottish Borders has a wealth of scenic routes, ranging from 5 to 200 miles. Check them out here 


Yoga is suitable for all ability levels. It combines a series of poses with breathing, and is good for building strength, flexibility and balance.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese art that builds strength, flexibility and balance through slow and controlled movements.

Pilates focuses on stretching and strengthening the whole body to improve balance, muscle strength, flexibility and posture. 

If you're looking for something less energetic, the NHS website offers a variety of more gentle forms of activity including: 

Sitting Exercises
Strength Exercises
Balance Exercises
Flexibility Exercises

You might consider being more active around the house – cooking, housework and walking while you're on the phone can help keep you mobile. 

Try out Strength and Flex, a 5-week exercise plan to increase strength and flexibility for beginners. It is in podcast form and doesn’t require any equipment If you're not sure what activities you'd like, find out which sport or activity you're best suited to using the BBC's 'Which sport are you made for?' tool.


Walking is the easiest way to increase your activity levels. There are lots of different possible walking routes in the Borders. Take a look here, perhaps there's one near you?

Burn some calories by heavy gardening – including pushing, bending, squatting, carrying, digging and shovelling – this can provide a good workout too!

Check out this short film to find out more about the benefits of gardening, some of them might surprise you!

Like to take the strain out of gardening? Have a look at Trellis’s guide which might help. 

Take up running – if you're just starting out, try the popular Couch to 5K running plan.

Finally why not try your hand at flying a kite? A great fun way to get active outdoors. Click here for some top tips! 




Our Campaign to Connect

One of the 5 ways to Wellbeing is 'Connect'. Connecting with others has a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing and is a great way to remind ourselves that we're important and valued by others.

With the rise of the internet, everything has increasingly been moving online, including the way we communicate with each other. Now more than ever, we have the ability to keep connected with those around us. Sadly, now more than ever people are reporting that they feel more lonely and lack real connections.

What is loneliness?

We can all feel lonely from time to time, and feeling lonely is not always the same as being alone. Loneliness has been said to be the feeling that we get when our need for meaningful and rewarding social contact and relationships isn’t being met, and it can have a real negative impact on our mental health.

What you can do

We want everyone to use the simple act of sending a postcard to build connections and remind others that you are there and are thinking about them.

It’s moving conversations away from sending a quick text without much thought, to one in which we slow down and take the time to connect with each other in a meaningful way. The campaign has building relationships and connections at its heart.

We challenge you to make a connection with someone in your community. Whether you decide to write to a friend, your family, colleagues or neighbours, you can take the time to say ‘hello’ by downloading and printing off our postcard here.

We’d love to see what you’ve been sending or receiving, so tag us on social media channels and use the hashtag #WritingToSayHello.

Online exercise

Online exercise by Kirsty Bremner

For some years now I have been a participant in exercise classes across the Borders. I’ve tried my hand at Insanity, Zumba, Cardio Core, fitness Pilates, yoga and Piyo. Due to where I live, fairly centrally, I feel lucky to have had a wide choice of providers and venues. That is until now.
Staying at home has meant my regular classes have had to migrate to online platforms. Instead of travelling to venues and being in the class in person, I am in my own living room logging into Zoom three times a week.

I really like not having to make a journey by car to venues, this means I can get ready and log in just before the class is due to start.  I really like the way the instructors facilitate- they talk us through how a particular movement is to be done and I can also watch the screen to see how I should be doing it.
I really like the encouragement from the instructors- “Good job everyone!” “You’ve got this!” which motivates me to keep going even when my muscles are screaming out for me to stop!

I really like the buzz I get from looking after my body, my mind feels more relaxed too and I always sleep much better following a class.  However, it really is just not the same as being physically in a room along with other people participating- my own living room isn’t quite the same gym space that I’ve been used to in the past.

I miss the pre class chats- mostly small talk- a chance to connect with friendly like-minded people who have become my friends. I miss the opportunity to have personal guidance from the instructors- in a physical class they often come round and help with poses and movements. Part of me does wonder… are you sure this is right?

I miss the ease of simply arriving at the venue with the immediacy of being in a group of others whilst paying attention to the instructor explaining as we go along.  At times there have been technical hitches and difficulties logging into Zoom with passwords and meeting ID’s.

Due to the intricacies of music licencing for public use, the classes generally are done without the usual music- I realise this is an aspect of the regular classes I enjoy greatly- without it, it doesn’t feel like a complete class!

I feel guilty for having to ask my family to leave the room so that I can do the class- they do have other rooms they can go to but it’s still not ideal, but I have to remember, my needs are important too.

The last one is not really much of a complaint but can feel disruptive- my dog sometimes comes over while I am in the middle of a move that involves lying on my mat on the floor, usually giving me a lick and trying to cheekily steal my yoga band! Hopefully other people are on speaker view only so they will miss witnessing my embarrassment!

Despite all of these inconveniences, I would not give up my exercise classes- you just have to brush off the negatives and remind yourself of all the benefits like those I’ve talked about at the start of this blog.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in helping your mind and body feel better- why not check out Live Borders Live; perhaps there is something out there for you too!


Learning in midlife

Learning in midlife - by Lynn Bellis

Learning in midlife – who knew it was so much fun?

When I left University aged 21, I thought that was the end of my formal education and off to work I went.  Never thinking that at the age of 50, I would be back at college again.  I have to say that studying as a mature student (well I’m not sure about the mature bit, older certainly, but not grown up perhaps), is more rewarding and enjoyable the second time around.

My studies are part-time, so I am still able to work.  I appreciate the process of learning much more this time than I did when I was younger.  I think I took it for granted when I was in my teens.  Now doing research into a new subject is not as daunting as I thought, in fact, I am really enjoying it.

I was unsure if I would be able to write essays again, but it is a bit like riding a bicycle, once learnt never forgotten.  My brain is still capable of taking in new information and I was not expecting studying again to be so much fun.  I thoroughly recommend anyone to keep learning because I am finding that an active and challenged brain is very good for you.

The practice of kindness

The practice of kindness - by Annette Murray

This week, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, I was due to teach yoga for the Wellbeing College around the original theme of ‘sleep’. Obviously, a lot has changed since then and we are instead focussing on kindness. Well yoga teaches nothing if not flexibility – and it has a lot to say about kindness. I encourage you to embrace your version of it - whether you practise yoga or not.

Most people are introduced to yoga through the physical practice of asana (the postures) at a yoga class. Many students, realising yoga benefits not just the body but the mind and emotions, inevitably discover the wider wisdom and teachings of yoga.

Between 1200 and 2000 years ago, the known teachings and practices of yoga were collated by an ancient yogi called Patanjali in a text known as the Yoga Sutras. Among these teachings are the Eight Limbs of Yoga, a set of eight practices that guide the student along the yogic path towards personal growth and ultimately, greater peace of mind.

First, do no harm

The Yamas (or restraints) are the first of these practices. Ahimsa, meaning non-harming or non-violence, is the first Yama. As the yoga teacher and author Eddie Stern explains:
“On a deeper level [ahimsa] means there is an absence of harm within us; there is no inclination for it in us, no chance that we would cause harm to someone.”  
The suggestion in the Yoga Sutras is that someone in whom this level of kindness is fully embodied, will bring peace to anyone in their presence. 
It’s a lovely thought isn’t it?

But an ideal such as this can feel out of reach for most of us, especially when we are eeriencing stress, fear, anxiety, or other states which may lead us to harm others. Whilst most of us can refrain from obvious acts of physical violence, more often we harm others unconsciously and unintentionally through our words and behaviour, because we ourselves are in pain.

How then are we to practise ahimsa as we deal with the challenges of everyday life? For me, the key lies in the word “practise”.

Patience and practise

A yoga class is not mere exercise, it is a practice in observing ourselves. Whenever we become aware of difficulties on the yoga mat, we have an opportunity to bring compassion and curiosity to those difficulties. In other words - we can practise kindness towards ourselves.

For example, ahimsa asks that we be kind towards our body – not over stretching or causing ourselves pain as we hold a posture, not pushing our body beyond its natural limits. In my experience, a tight muscle will yield sooner to gentle encouragement than it will to force.

If we can learn such care towards the body, so too can we extend this to the mind and emotions. Can we learn to notice difficult thoughts and feelings that arise for us and treat  them with compassion? If being kind to ourselves feels too hard, or something we don’t deserve, can we try, at least, to not add to our suffering and simply observe without judgement?

If you have attended a yoga class, you may have noticed the state of harmony and balance it can bring about. Perhaps you have experienced this in other ways, after a long walk in nature or time spent on your favourite hobby?

When our nervous system is calmed, we can more easily access clearer, creative states of mind. Our perspective becomes wider and we can respond to ourselves and others with greater kindness and compassion. We may not be able to rid ourselves completely of harmful thoughts and feelings, but we can learn, with patience and practise, to notice them as they arise and choose a kind response consciously. 

What kindness is in you? 

Whilst the perception of any contemplative practice, like yoga or meditation, is that it helps us “go within”, I believe their purpose is to allow what is within to come out. And what is within is undoubtedly kind. Why else would we be moved by the stranger who gives us a lovely smile, or lets us ahead of them in the queue, the sincere “Are you okay?” from a friend, the cup of tea that appears without us asking for it?

Kindness is not just a universal principle that connects us, but also one that is uniquely expressed by every individual.  A practice like yoga - or any activity that helps us relax and tap into our joy and creativity - is vital, because through it we learn to express ourselves. The things we love to do - or how we do them - often reveal the ways in which we can best help others.

Perhaps you love to cook or are great at organising things; maybe you’re a good listener or great with finances? Perhaps you have a great sense of humour, or people say you have a lovely, calming voice? You may love creating art or music?
I love words and have helped others at times with a simple letter or card, sent during a difficult time – but they wouldn’t thank me for cooking them a casserole! My kindness to myself often lies in writing down how I feel – and in knowing I can’t help everyone in every way, so I embrace what comes naturally.  When you see suffering in yourself or others, how might your kindness express itself through the things you love? Perhaps it’s in ways you have not yet thought about.

We place so much emphasis on self-care at the Wellbeing College because it is only in practising being kind to ourselves that we learn how to be kind to others. Ancient yogis understood this too, which is why ahimsa is fundamental to the practice. Start with yourself, have compassion for your pain and as you learn how to be kind to yourself, let your kindness be seen by others. That way we will all move closer to a world full of ahimsa.

“One Simple Thing – A New Look at the Science of Yoga and How It Can Transform Your Life, by Eddie Stern


Sleep in mind

Sleep in mind - by Jacquie Lamont and Jo Highet

During this time of uncertainty when routines are different and our thirst for information may be greater than ever - it can be very tempting to stay up later reading on our phones, tablets or laptops- it  is likely that more people’s sleep will be impacted. Below is a blog written by one of Health in Mind’s volunteers, Jacquie, generously sharing her own experience and learning as a result of insomnia.

Sleep is vital for our wellbeing and general health, but for the most part when we sleep well we take a good night’s sleep for granted. However, when you start to struggle you realise how important sleep is and how difficult the daytime can be. I learned this recently when I struggled with chronic insomnia for over a year. My problems first started when I came off migranine medication after 6 years.I had just got my sleep routine back on track when I developed kidney stones and my sleep was further disrupted with all the pain and problems that that caused. 

I am now sleeping well, getting between 7 and 8 hours a night routinely. That’s not to say I don’t still have the occasional blip but I now know what to do to get myself back on track. So I would like to share with you a little of what I have learned during this experience.
Getting good quality sleep is important for both our physical and mental health. It can also improve productivity and overall quality of life.

We know how important it is for babies and toddlers to have a good bedtime routine to help them get to sleep and this doesn’t end as we get older. Everyone, can benefit from practicing good sleep habits and you don’t need to have a sleep problem to benefit from implementing a few changes. Good sleep habits are known as sleep hygiene,I have put together a short guide on sleep hygiene which I hope helps.

What is sleep hygiene?
The term “sleep hygiene” refers to a series of healthy sleep habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. These habits are the cornerstone of a good night’s sleep. 

They include your behaviour during the day, and especially before bedtime, as your routine or lack of it, can have a big impact on your sleep either promoting a healthy night’s sleep or contributing to sleeplessness. Even a few slight adjustments can, in some cases, mean the difference between sound sleep and a restless night.

If you have difficulty sleeping or want to improve your sleep, try out some of these healthy sleep habits.

Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
That means going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even at weekends or during holidays. This can be challenging especially at the moment when many of us are at home due to the restriction imposed on us by the coronavirus.  

Get some exposure to day light. 
Exposure to sunlight during the day, as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. 

Try not to nap during the day
By napping during the day you are reducing your sleep drive and making it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep all night. However, if you must nap try to make it no more than 30 minutes.

Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.                                                                       An adult between the ages of 18 to 64 is said to need 7 to 9 hours sleep a night. Those older than 64 many need less but only slightly, 7 to 8 hours a night

Avoid going to bed if you are not sleepy.
You want to teach your body that bed means sleep
If you don’t fall asleep after 30 minutes, get out of bed.
Don’t lie in bed tossing and turning it just leads to anxiety about falling asleep. It is better to get up do something relaxing and try again when you feel sleepy. Worrying about sleep makes the whole process of getting some shut eye that much harder.

Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
A regular nightly routine helps the body recognize that it is bedtime. This could include taking warm shower or bath, reading a book, or light stretches. When possible, try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and simulating activities before attempting to sleep. Do something relaxing and non-stimulating to let your mind relax. It could be meditating, reading, (a book or magazine – no screens) or listening to relaxing music or an audio book. 

Use your bed only for sleep and sex only.
Again this is to allow you to associate bed with sleep only. So don’t be tempted to watch TV, read your emails or check your phone.

Make your bedroom as comfortable and as quiet and relaxing as possible.                                                          Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature. I am sure it goes without saying that your mattress and pillows should be comfortable. The bedroom should be cool, between 60 and 67 degrees. As our body gets ready for sleep our body naturally cools down, so a cool temperature helps with this natural process. Bright light from lamps, cell phone and TV screens can make it difficult to fall asleep, so turn them off or adjust them when possible. Red light displays on digital alarm clocks are more sleep friendly than green. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, and "white noise" apps. Keep a window open if you can, and a fan may be helpful in the summer when the weather is hot.

Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
This helps our body to make melatonin the body natural sleep inducing hormone.

Turn off electronic devices at least one hour before bed.
The blue light from our devices can interrupt our natural sleep pattern and it is a good idea to have less stimulation and allow your mind quieten down.

Avoid having a large meal too close to bedtime.
If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack. It is best to have your main meal at least 3 hours before bed. Heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, fruits, and soft drinks can trigger abdominal discomfort. When this occurs close to bedtime, it can lead to painful heartburn and indigestion that disrupts sleep.

Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve night time sleep quality.  For the best night’s sleep, most people should avoid exercising too close to bedtime.

Avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can have long half-life. Remember caffeine is not only found in tea and coffee but in some soft drinks and chocolate too.  

Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
While alcohol is well-known to help you fall asleep faster, too much close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol often causing multiple awakenings and/or difficulty getting back to sleep.   

Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
If you find your night’s sleep disrupted by visits to the loo try reducing your fluids in the evening or setting a time when you have your last drink for the night.

You don’t need to try all of these at once, perhaps pick one or two that feel achievable and give them a try.

On a personal note I found taking a high dose probiotic and inulin really made a huge difference to my sleep. I discovered this pretty much by accident as I developed bad IBS symptoms after taking a number of courses of antibiotics for infections caused by kidney stones. Antibiotics are well known to knock out your gut friendly bacteria and the relationship between gut health and overall health is just really beginning to be understood. There is a strong gut brain connection and the gut is often referred to as the second brain.

If you want to know more about using Inulin have a look at the Truth about Sleep by Dr Michael Mosely.

Although lack of sleep can have a huge impact on our lives there are things we can put in place to help. It is very individual and the reasons for our lack of sleep can be wide ranging.

If you would like to read more you can do so here:


Sleep Foundation


By Kirsty Bremner

Do you have lots of feelings buzzing around your head?

Would you like to make sense of them?

Are you wanting to understand yourself a bit more?

Are you curious about connecting with what’s going on in
your mind?

If so, writing a journal might be something for you.

What you write in a journal can give you clues to your needs, maybe even what you would like for your future.

What you write can reveal your preferences, your tendencies and even what you are really like.

You can experiment freely with ideas about your relationships, job, friendships, interests and habits

Here are a couple of links to articles about the benefits to mental health of journaling which you might find useful and interesting.


The Telegraph

Happy journaling!

How I learned to be a genius in a few short weeks

by Annette Murray

As someone with an active mind, it’s good for me to channel my mental energy into solving a problem or two. I’m always happy to be distracted by a puzzle, quiz or game of some sort. Whilst it’s nice to win, it’s equally important to have a fun distraction and learn something new along the way.

I’m a fan of the odd crossword. My general knowledge is pretty average so, I must confess, I probably spend more time than I ought to peeking at the answers! Even more so if the crossword is cryptic. 

I have long since been in awe of people who can solve cryptic crosswords. I have a couple of family members who are nearly always to be found tackling one whenever I visit. Their commitment is such they can take weeks pondering over a single puzzle – their dedication invariably rewarded by that sweetest of “a-ha” moments when the answer finally pops into their head! 

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to understand the first clue…… 

Mission impossible?

Yes, like the contestants on University Challenge, people who can solve cryptic crosswords are simply geniuses. Mental giants with minds far superior to my own and those of the average person. No, my brain just does not work like that. Or so I thought……

That’s when I discovered the book “How to Solve Cryptic Crosswords” by Kevin Skinner. I probably stumbled across it browsing the shelves of Waterstones or such like. As if often the case with books, it seemed to tap into a latent desire of mine just waiting to be released – in this case, I apparently had a burning ambition to solve all clues cryptic.

I can recall now the surge of excitement as I flicked through the first pages of Mr Skinner’s guide, spurred on by the lines: “Contrary to popular belief, one does not have to be exceptionally intelligent to understand and enjoy them..…”

Surely this was promising too much?

With the encouragement and reassurance of a parent teaching a baby to take its first steps, the author guided me to a better understanding of the cryptic concept. The word means (‘obscure’ or ‘secret’ apparently – that much I knew!). 

Like Miss Marple on the trail of her prime suspect, I was determined to infiltrate the plotting mind of the cryptic crossword setter, bent on thwarting me. With each chapter came the steady revelation of a new type of clue and the eager opportunity to practice solving it. 

Day by day, answer by answer, my sense of confidence and anticipation grew. Soon, I became adept at spotting the signs: deciphering the Anagram from the Double Straight, the numbers that really mean letters, the words hidden in words……  

It wasn’t all as easy as ABC though. Those Homophones (words that sound like other words) really made my heard hurt. But I persevered and at last, the mystery was solved! Within days I had completed my first full cryptic crossword - without looking up the answers! 

Mission accomplished

Yes, it’s official. I too am a genius.

Well, maybe not (I confess, I might have peeked at a solution or two). But it does describe the scale of satisfaction I felt achieving something I genuinely thought was beyond me. It cemented my belief that with some patience, determination and a helpful guide, I can learn most things.  

Like all of us, I need the right amount of challenge to stay motived (too much I feel overwhelmed and disheartened, too little then I’m bored). I also need to know when to seek help from someone who has learned more than me. Kevin Skinner and his book in this case.

Above all, when learning something that doesn’t come naturally to me, I resist all temptation to compare myself to others. Unlike my family, I’ll be sticking to beginners’ crosswords for now, but I have given myself a pat on the back for my progress, nonetheless. 

In any case, when I focus on enjoying learning for the sake of learning itself, I find the results I want come all the faster. Perhaps you have noticed that too?

Now you may not be into crosswords but I’m willing to bet a subscription to Puzzler that there is something you’ve always wanted to learn, or are at least intrigued about how people do it?

I wonder, what steps you can take to follow that curiosity today?

In the meantime, can you solve this clue: What one does with too much sun and potatoes

Drop us an email with your answers and we'll let you know if you're right!

(Here’s the link to Kevin Skinner’s book, just in case……)

Learning through books

Learning through books - by Kirsty Bremner

There is much evidence to suggest that if we keep learning then our mental health and emotional wellbeing will benefit. Often having a sense of purpose and feeling that we are keeping our brain active can be part of this.
Books can bring us so much enrichment - there is nothing quite like getting absorbed in an exciting plot to keep us busy and bring us pleasure.
The following themes were adapted from the article:

This appeared in the original Wellbeing College course ‘Read your way to Wellbeing.’

Why read books?

To expose yourself to new ideas

For self development

To increase your understanding of a topic

Because reading can help prepare you to take action

Because reading is a way to connect with the experience of others

To boost your imagination and creativity

Experiment and find what works for you!

Identify with the experience depicted

Escape into a different world for a while

Learn new factual information

Remember, what works for one person, might not be right for you. It’s about trying, sharing what you have found and comes down to personal taste.

The following books are suggested because they can help your wellbeing in the ways I have just mentioned.

1. The Recovery Letters

Various contributors. Themes of resilience and recovery
In 2012, The Recovery Letters was launched to host a series of letters online written by people recovering from depression, addressed to those currently affected by a mental health condition.
Addressed to ‘Dear You’, the inspirational and heartfelt letters provided hope and support to those experiencing depression and were testament that recovery was possible.

2. Stressed, Unstressed: Classic Poems to Ease the Mind

3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

4. Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

7. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy

8. Sane new World by Ruby Wax

9. Sunbathing in the Rain by Gwyneth Lewis

10. Heaven on Earth: 101 Happy Poems, edited by Wendy Cope

11. The Lido by Libby Page

Finally, there is the very popular Books on Prescription scheme in the Scottish Borders. It aims to help people who may be experiencing stress, anxiety, depression or other psychological problems.

You can access it here.

Reading books and being open to keep learning can bring us many things - to inform us, connect us with experiences of others, even to escape into a different world for a while.

Hopefully you’ll find some which inspire you and guide you to keep learning.

Happy reading!

Learning through podcasts

Learning through podcasts - by Kirsty Bremner

For the days when you find you can’t quite concentrate enough to pick up a book or even read a magazine article, podcasts can be a great resource. You can simply install an app on your smartphone or tablet and start exploring the extensive range of episodes on a range of subjects. Some people enjoy listening while they go out for a walk or run, others like to listen while they cook. Finding a time that works for you can be part of the fun! Pre-lockdown I would listen to a podcast when I was out and about in my car, often on long journeys around the Borders.

So, these are just a few of the podcasts that I have found myself enjoying. They vary in theme, tone and length but they all relate to positive mental health. Enjoy!

Mentally Yours

Hosted by Ellen Scott and Yvette Caster from 

Episode: Recovering Together (24 Mins)

An interview with the creator of a piece of gig theatre about psychosis. The central themes are friendship, consideration, and togetherness. The show being discussed is written in a lyrical, poetic style. I really enjoyed this podcast as it felt optimistic in tone despite a very serious subject, perhaps due to the fact that it was communicated through the medium of theatre.

Episode: Working Freelance (32 Mins)

The woman being interviewed describes having had anxiety from a young age and speaks openly about her experiences through different times in her life. She touches on things lik,e how on reflection she feels early intervention at age 11- when she started experiencing challenges - could have been really critical and transformational, instead of at 18.
It is apparent she has awareness of the way she compares herself to others - that there is a pattern of her feeling that the problems of others are far more serious and therefore more worthy of attention than hers. If I were to have one point of discomfort while listening it would be that I dislike her use of the phrase ‘mental illness.’ However, I appreciated her honesty and felt it was useful to hear her reflect on and wonder about her situation.

All in the Mind 

Programme presented by Claudia Hammond (broadcaster, author and psychology lecturer) exploring the limits and potential of the human mind

Episode: Pain and the Brain (28 Mins)

I found this quite technical - lots of scientific theory but themes which were explored were interesting and relevant to mental health - expectations, the placebo effect, the link between pleasure and pain. 

Episode: Tackling Mental Health Myths (27 Mins)

Claudia visits an art exhibition which tackles the myths around mental health. 

Episode: How can you feel less Lonely? 

I thought these were really accessible clips that are just brief enough to introduce themes and provoke thought on the subject of loneliness and how we can help ourselves to feel less lonely.

Short and simple ways of reaching out to others in order to feel less lonely. I thought it was a good introduction to the topic.

Life Cycle 

A Radio Scotland Podcast Presented by Endurance Athlete Lee Craigie

Episode: Hope (28 Mins)

I found the story of Jamie Andrew incredibly moving, compelling, inspiring... the flicker of hope that he feels was instrumental in his survival. Some philosophical discussion around the nature of hope with Father Roddy Johnstone I see as a comfort and offer of encouragement. 
This episode ends with Madeleine Black’s ideology- borrowed from another- that HOPE stands for Hold On Pain Ends

Feel Better, Live More 

By Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Episode 104: How Being Kind Helps Your Immune System, Reduces Stress and Changes Lives with Dr David Hamilton

Episode 97: How exercise changes your brain and reduces your risk of depression with Brendon Stubbs

These are simply a few of my own favourite podcasts that I have discovered recently. I like the variety not only in topic but also presenter, style and even length. Perhaps you can find some of your own.

I hope you will find as much enjoyment from podcasts as I do and that they will become another way for you to keep learning! 

Finding wellbeing amid Yorkshire fog

by Annette Murray 

Right now, when an aspect of nature is causing high levels of fear and uncertainty, I still find myself turning to nature to feel a sense of calm, connection and perspective.

Lately, I have found myself thinking about this very humble plant that used to grow in the fields next to the house where I grew up. It’s probably one of the most common plants in the UK, but you have probably never heard of it, nor ever stopped to look at it closely. It’s not obviously colourful or exotic, it doesn’t have a beautiful scent and unlike Wordsworth’s daffodils, I doubt anyone is ever going to write poems about it. But it’s something I really love - and it’s called Yorkshire Fog.

Unless you’re a farmer or, like me, someone with a past career caring for wildflower meadows, you might not know that Yorkshire Fog is a type of grass. Unlike the coarse, razor sharp blades of marram grass I remember from the sand dunes of my childhood; Yorkshire Fog is covered in tiny, downy hairs making it very soft to the touch, lending it another common name, velvet grass.

Like many grasses, it also flowers. When opening to the sun, the crowns of flowering spikelets are reminiscent of a field of oats. Each stem is like a plush chord of grey-green velvet, ornamented with soft purple tassels, tickly to the touch.

If you were to ask me what I first remember about being in nature, I would say the feel of Yorkshire Fog as I run it through my fingers. It’s a feeling so familiar and comforting to me that whenever I glimpse it, I instinctively touch it. Then there I am - in the sunshine, playing freely in the fields near my childhood home; and I’m smiling.

All that comfort from a simple blade of grass.

Like the touch of Yorkshire Fog, it’s our senses - what we see, hear, smell, feel or (with caution) taste when in nature - that can turn an ordinary stroll outdoors into a restorative escape. The cushion of moss that springs beneath my feet; the deep, rough ridges of tree bark; the scent of wild garlic; or the pattern on a pebble that catches my eye. Absorbing myself in my surroundings, I can forget my troubles, at least for a while.

Nature, with its ability to capture my attention, is a plentiful source of contentment and curiosity in my life - and also provides endless opportunities for connection.

For instance, my fondness for Yorkshire Fog led to me discover its charming nick-name -  “striped pyjamas” - owing to its distinctive purple and white striped roots; and “Lanatus” (part of the scientific name Holcus Lanatus) means “wooly”. Amusing facts like these I can’t help but share with others.

Yet I don’t need to talk about nature to feel a sense of belonging. Just watching it reminds me that I’m surrounded by life of all kinds and I feel instantly uplifted.

I know I’m not the only one who has fond memories of nature; or feels better for having spent time in it. It’s something many of us instinctively do to relax and unwind. Indeed, research has proven that spending time in nature can indeed make us feel healthier and happier

I imagine your own experiences are evidence enough.

At a time when a walk outside is one of the few freedoms we can still enjoy, I wonder what favourite memory of nature you will revisit? Or have yet to create?  Nature can be found in even the most urban of environments, if you’re paying attention.

I wonder, what can you see when you really look?

What can you feel?

What can you smell?

What can you hear?

What can you discover that you didn’t know before?

Who can you share it with?

Perhaps you can go on a scavenger hunt like the one suggested here:

Or decide before you go out what 5 things you are going to find e.g. a twig covered in moss, a spikey leaf, a spring blossom, an insect, a songbird.

Perhaps set yourself a challenge to learn the names of 5 plants; or how about learning some bird song? :

If going outside isn’t possible for you, there are still ways to connect with nature from inside your home. Here are some ideas:

If you have garden, spend time in it pottering or just sitting. Or perhaps put flowers where you can see them from a window.

Can you feed the birds or put out some water for them?

Can you day dream out of a window and see the clouds in the sky? What shapes are they making?

Do you have a house plant you can tend to? Try looking at it from different angles and notice what patterns you can see.

Perhaps you can open a window and hear bird song outside? Or why not listen to the RSPB’s Bird Song radio:

Save a picture of nature as wall paper  on your desk top or take a virtual tour of the National Parks in America from the comfort of your sofa:

Why not take a photo and tell us what you have found or share your tips? You can share them on our social media or by emailing us at

In this uncertain time, rest in the certainties that nature offers. Nature will always provide opportunities to engage our senses, awaken our curiosity and create fond memories.

And winter is always followed by Spring.

Togetherness in being apart

Togetherness in being apart – by Jo Highet

In the last few weeks, whilst being lucky enough to continue to work, albeit from home, I have become aware of things which I would not normally notice. This is perhaps due to not having to constantly rush around before the long commute to work, the dog walk at an early hour and fitting in many tasks before leaving the house. It has allowed me to have space to become aware of and connect to sounds which I normally don’t notice or I am too preoccupied to hear…

I am really enjoying birdsong - I am now tuning into garden birds songs-hedge and house sparrows, starling and wrens etc. I have also felt connected and heartened by their lives carrying on as normal - they are beginning to build nests, forage for food and prepare for their new families - as they always do-the cycle continues on regardless -they are probably wondering why the humans are around so much more!  Now there is so little noise from traffic and life has slowed down significantly I have noticed these pleasant sounds all around. The bird which seems to raise its voice above the others is the blackbird - one of the first of the dawn chorus and last to sing to us in the evening. 

I welcome the town clock striking the hour- there is something comfortingly familiar about it. I find myself connecting to and enjoying silence, whereas before I listened to the radio/watched tv a lot more often. It may be part of my own self-care that I choose not to watch/listen to the news too much and find solace in the quiet. As I listen at this moment in the house all I can hear is the slight roar of the stove, my dog’s gentle snoring - only intermittently interrupted by herring gulls on the nearby roof.

The other thing I find myself connecting to is how people around me at work and in the wider community have connected with, tuned in to their creative side in their response to their lives being somewhat different at the moment. This is wide ranging from groups involved in sewing protective masks for NHS staff, children painting rainbows on stones on signifying hope and distributing around local homes, artwork appearing in windows of many homes, colleagues are creating challenges to keep us all in touch, and there are many ways we are being encouraged to be creative online - we are even being given virtual access to museums, parks and galleries.

Finally - when on my daily dog walk I have noticed that although people are keeping to social distancing guidelines they being much friendlier - it’s as if we are all reaching out to connect with each other. This is so obvious on Thursday evenings when people in town, cities and settlements across the nation have a collective clap for the NHS and Key Workers across the country - there is a real sense of solidarity - our togetherness whilst being apart.  It is this I remind myself of each day as we live our lives differently just now.  I find it helpful to remind myself of how welcome connecting even in a small way with others is as we are living our lives slightly differently at the moment.

Connecting with myself and others

Connecting with myself and others by Lynn Bellis

I have noticed how much I enjoy my view of the world outside my window more and more each day, I live in a small village outside Kelso and I am next to a farm. Feeding time in the field opposite is lovely to watch. All the cows and calves running to get to the food first and the calves are adorable. Their legs are at that stage where they look like they don’t belong to their bodies properly.

I usually work in the office in Galashiels and my view there is not so pretty. It is a wall made up of corrugated iron and brickwork.  I tend to ignore it and look at my computer screen, that has the most beautiful screensaver of the natural world on it. Today it was Mount Fuji in Japan by the way, but my view of the fields right now is the real thing.

In the office, besides the dull view, it is mostly a lively, busy place with some moments of calm. It is the team that create the atmosphere in the office and it is a really, supportive one.  We are a small group and we look out for one another and at times, we find ways to laugh. That is what I miss most, the sound of shared laughter.

In recent weeks, we meet on video calls to check in with one another and to carry on with the business of the college. That goes someway to maintain our relationships and of course we use email and the telephone to keep in touch.

Working from home has its benefits, for example, I have more time for self-reflection, more thinking time and gazing at my lovely view. I have more time to enjoy the outdoors and walking by the river. This brings back lots of happy memories of walking with my dog. He is no longer with us unfortunately and I miss him but memories of him paddling in and drinking from this river also make me smile. On a clear day like today, the stones at the bottom look in touching distance.

However, as much as I would miss my beautiful view and the peacefulness of working from home, I miss the social interaction with the team, volunteers and students more.  So, when this period of lockdown is over and I head back to the office, I will be taking a screensaver of my view with me so I can have some part of home with me every day.

Taking notice

by Kirsty Bremner 

I'm delighted to be sharing with you my experiences of the last few weeks and what I have learned about myself by taking the time to notice.

Routine is something important and reassuring to me and yet has been unavoidably altered by what’s going on in the world right now.

I continue to work three days a week but now instead of commuting to the office I simply have to open my laptop and have my work mobile to hand. There are of course others in my home who are also adjusting to this new routine. Different is not necessarily difficult: this is what I have been telling myself.

I have come to notice that I am in fact more patient than I thought I was!

There have been technical glitches, moments of uncertainty, neverending requests for snacks and ‘what are we having for dinner?’ type questions. I have been asking myself what is more important in the heat of the moment and realising that rather than sticking to the rules rigidly harmony and happiness in the family are the things that right now matter the most.

It’s true that the person I have had to be most patient with, however, is me.

By slowing the pace right down, breaking tasks into small chunks and generally just taking every day as it comes I am noticing I am being kind to myself.

This is what will keep my spirits going for as long as it takes.

There are plenty of other things I have noticed over the last few weeks but one thing to have come into focus is my need for regular contact with others. I now feel extremely grateful to technology for allowing me to keep this going in new ways.  

"Know thyself"

Socrates once said – “Know thyself”

Knowing and connecting with yourself can allow you to understand and acknowledge the different aspects of yourself; your strengths and your weaknesses, your tolerances and your limitations, your passions and your fears, your thoughts and your feelings.

Right now these might be getting put to the test, you might be beginning to find something you once tolerated is no longer so easy or perhaps you’ve found a new strength in yourself and you’re managing to find new things to explore. However you’re feeling just now, taking the time to check in  with yourself and acknowledge you are having these experiences can be a powerful way to look after yourself.

Gretchen Rubin, Author wrote: "My first commandment is to “Be Gretchen”—yet it’s very hard to know myself. I get so distracted by the way I wish I were, or the way I assume I am, that I lose sight of what’s actually true."

Sometimes we can lose sight of ourselves and we can become overwhelmed by our own and others’ expectations of what we should be. Taking time to consider what our values, strengths and interests are can help us to reconnect with what really matters to us.

You and your mental health

What do we mean when we talk about mental health?

We all have mental health in the same way we all have physical health.

Our mental health, in common with our physical health, can fluctuate, everyone’s experience is unique. Most people feel down or stressed from time to time, it is part of life, and for most people, is short lived. For some it can be prolonged and a become more serious issue.

Although most people find it easy to discuss physical problems, talking about mental health issues can still feel like a real challenge.

Although lessening, the stigma attached to poor mental health remains.It is important for us, those around us and wider society to be as open as we can about mental health.

World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to have conversations about mental health, be inspired by other people’s experiences and invest in our own mental health
Introduction to World Mental Health Day 2020- Mental Health for All -Greater Investment -Greater Access

Since early 2020 our daily lives have changed a lot as a result of Covid 19. For people around the globe it has been a challenging time- we have adapted our lives in many ways as a response to the pandemic. Our health workers have had to care for others in extremely difficult circumstances and for others there is real fear about going to work in case of bringing COVID home.

For most of the population we have had to adapt to living our lives virtually with little close contact with others. For those already experiencing poor mental health and for those who are experiencing it for the first time- social isolation may figure now more than ever before.

There have also been huge economic consequences of the pandemic. Many staff have lost their jobs -as companies who have had no other choice trying to stay afloat -others have already had to close their doors permanently.

‘It is expected the need for mental health and psychosocial support will greatly increase in the coming months and years. It had been highlighted that investment in mental health programmes at national and international levels will be more important than ever. This is reflected in the theme for World Mental Health 2020 ‘Mental Health for All Greater Investment -Greater Access’

The World Mental Health Day campaign invites us all, ‘whether as individuals, as supporters of friends and families of those who may be struggling, as employers in supporting employees mental health, for governments to establish/scale up mental health programmes and as journalists, to explain what more can and must be done to make mental health care a reality for everyone.’

There are two events being held as part of World Mental Health Day:  United for Global Mental Health: The 24-hour March for Mental Health.

On 9 October, people from around the world will be encouraged to participate in a virtual march. A 24-hour livestream will feature people with lived experience, mental health leaders and influencers from the civil society groups already active in 19 countries through the Speak Your Mind campaign.

In addition, global partner organizations that are leading and coordinating work on mental health are organizing hour-long sessions on specific themes, including mental health and young people, mental health and older people, and mental health and the LGBTQ+ community. Confirmed partners include Human Rights Watch and Alzheimer’s Disease International.

The March will help increase awareness of mental health issues, break down stigma and bring about policy change. Members of the public will be urged to “add their voice” and join the March using online filters to be released in the lead-up to the event.

WHO: The Big Event for Mental Health

On World Mental Health Day, 10 October, the World Health Organization will, for the first time ever, host a global online advocacy event on mental health. At this event - the Big Event for Mental Health - WHO will showcase the work that its staff are doing around the world to reduce mental illness and the harmful use of alcohol and drugs.

World leaders and mental health experts will join the WHO Director-General to talk about their commitment to mental health and what more must be done. World-renowned musicians who have spoken out about the importance of mental health will talk about their motivation and perform. Sportsmen and women whose lives have been affected by mental ill health will share their experiences and how they have dealt with conditions such as depression and anxiety.
During the Event, a Special Prize for a mental health film, a newly-created category of WHO’s inaugural Health for All Film Festival, will be awarded

How can you get involved?
How can we all invest in our mental health?

World Mental Health Day encourages us to focus on our own mental health – and committing to one thing we can change to improve it
This could include
• Watching a TED talk on mental health for example,
• Having a conversation about mental health with friends or family (maybe mention events happening as part of WMH Day)
• Participating in one of the World Mental Health Day events mentioned above
• Signing up for a course at the Wellbeing College
• Considering a volunteering role with Re:discover at Health in Mind
• Helping out a friend or neighbour-e.g. mowing their lawn, checking in with them regularly
• Working out a healthier routine -it could be relating to increasing physical activity or eating more healthily
• Keeping a daily journal -gain some inspiration from our article
• Taking time out regularly, for example, have a relaxing bath/walk in nature

Investing in our mental health does not have to be complex, time consuming or costly. If we can change one small thing it can have a huge impact on our mood and our lives.  Here are some suggestions from our volunteers and staff about how we invest in our mental health

I invest in my mental health by
• switching off my mobile phone an hour before going to bed to encourage better sleep - Jo
• making things; knitting or jewellery - it gives me a focus.  I watch less television and make useful presents - Lynn
• by using an aromatherapy diffuser next to my bed connected to my Alexa to get to sleep - Avril
• participating in a couple of pilates classes online every week. This way I look after both my emotional and physical health and the breathing and gentle movements help me to feel more rested - Kirsty
• listening to podcasts for relaxing into sleep.  They are called Get Sleepy and Sleep whispers - Jacquie
• going for a walk or bike ride in nature as often as I can!  Annette
• mindful colouring in is a way for me to quiet my mind, feel relaxed and enjoy myself too. I feel a great sense of satisfaction and achievement when I complete a page. The finished creations can be a perfect gift for a loved one too or something to hang on a wall - Rachael

We invite you to share one thing with us.
How have you invested in your mental health?

Please email us on:

And finally a heads up -Mens Mental Health Awareness month is coming up in November – we will be “In Touch” with ways you can participate!