Mental Health and the outdoors

After suffering with depression and anxiety since my late teens, I’ve tried so many things to help. But I’ve always found the tips given to me to help with my mental health, are easily achieved by getting outside more.

So I thought I’d share the top 10 tips given to and explain how getting outside helps achieve these

 

1.

Avoid alcohol, smoking and drugs

Drinking and smoking aren't things which we always associate with withdrawal symptoms, but they can cause some which impact on your mental health. When you've had a few drinks you can feel more depressed and anxious the next day, and it can be harder to concentrate. Excessive drinking for prolonged periods can leave you with a thiamine deficiency. Thiamine is important for our brain function and a deficiency can lead to severe memory problems, motor (coordination) problems, confusion and eye problems.  If you smoke, between cigarettes your body and brain go into withdrawal which makes you irritable and anxious.

Other drugs will often leave you in withdrawal and can often cause very low moods and anxiety. More severe effects of drugs include paranoia and delusions. There is some research that suggests drug use is related to developing mental disorders like schizophrenia.

Getting outside on adventures, takes you away from the places you can get these.  Also I find when I’m out on trips I’m not thinking about these, though I do like a beer at the end of trip 

2

Get plenty of sunlight

Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a really important vitamin for our bodies and our brains. It helps our brains to release chemicals which improve our mood, like endorphins and serotonin. Try to go out in the sun when you can, but make sure you keep your skin and eyes safe. 30 minutes to two hours a day of sunlight is ideal

Getting outside exposes you to all sorts of weather, but most importantly you get all the sunlight you need  

3

Manage stress

Stress is often unavoidable, but knowing what triggers your stress and knowing how to cope is key in maintaining good mental health. Try to manage your responsibilities and worries by making a list or a schedule of when you can resolve each issue. Often if you break down your worries and stresses and write them down, you realise that they are manageable. Try to avoid burying your head in the sand, and tackle problems face on. If you find you are having trouble sleeping, or are waking up thinking about all of the things that are stressing you out, write them down and reassure yourself that you can deal with them in the morning.

Getting outside I find I forgot about my worries, relax and come back no longer stressed 

4

Activity and exercise

Activity and exercise are essential in maintaining good mental health. Being active not only gives you a sense of achievement, but it boosts the chemicals in your brain that help put you in a good mood. Exercising can help eliminate low mood, anxiety, stress and feeling tired and lazy.

You don't need to run a marathon or play 90 minutes of football; a short walk or some another gentle activity might do the trick.

Getting Outside doesn’t have to be riding 900miles on a trike. I do all sorts 

5

Do something you enjoy

Try to make time for doing the fun things you enjoy. If you like going for a walk, painting or a specific TV show, try to set aside time to enjoy yourself. If we don't spend any time doing things we enjoy, we can become irritable and unhappy.

Getting Outside is what I enjoy, so for the last 5 years I’ve made a career doing what I love. Making me a much healthier person  

6

Connect with others and be sociable

Make an effort to maintain good relationships and talk to people whenever you get the chance. Having friends is important not just for your self-esteem, but also for providing support when you're not feeling too great. Research has found that talking to others for just ten minutes can improve memory and test scores!

Getting Outside always haves you meeting new people, when I’m leading groups for a day or for a month long expedition. Or even when I’m out walking I’ll stop and chat to other walkers 

7

Do things for others

Helping others isn't just good for the people you're helping; it's good for you too. Helping someone can help with your self-esteem and make you feel good about your place in the world. Feeling as though you're part of a community is a really important part of your mental health.

Getting Outside has you helping others on trips. With cooking, setting up tents and other tasks.

8

Eat well

Eating well isn't just important for our bodies, but it's also important for our minds. Certain mineral deficiencies, such as iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies, can give us a low mood. Try to eat a balanced diet. If you find you're a particularly stressed or anxious person, you should try limiting or cutting out caffeine as this can make you feel jittery and anxious.

Getting outside has us all eating more fruit and nuts then ever, drinking so much more water and improving our diets. Even dehydrated meals have improved to be much more of a balanced diet. 

9

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is really important for our physical and mental health. Sleep helps to regulate the chemicals in our brain that transmit information. These chemicals are important in managing our moods and emotions. If we don't get enough sleep, we can start to feel depressed or anxious.

Getting outside exposes us to sunlight, exercise and fresh air. All of these help us get a better night sleep. Especially when you’ve cycled 3 marathons a day for 14 days, you can sleep everywhere  

10

Ask for help

One of the most important ways to keep yourself mentally healthy is to recognise when you're not feeling good, and to know when to ask for help. There's no shame in asking someone for support if you're feeling low or stressed. Everyone goes through patches where they don't feel as good as they should. You can try speaking to your friends or family, or a GP 

Getting outside people tend to open up more, chat about their issues and problems a lot more openly.  Then go home with a weight lifted 

 

  

5 Things I learned on my Lejog Adventure

On every adventure or trip you find things out about yourself and the places you visit. Here are the 5 things I learned

1 Hostels

I remember the fun of staying in Hostels when I was 20. Lots of drinking and partying with a cheap bed. Now in my 30s, I have realised I made a mistake in staying in hostels again. I found myself sat like a Clint Eastwood character looking grumpy as one young man tried to impress some girls by playing a guitar and singing Oasis badly!

2 Food

I found out that for £2 I can buy a lot of bread, I also found out a lot of bread can clog you up! So quickly switched onto Summit to eat ration packs.

3 Directions

When ever I have been away around the world, I have found asking locals about paths and roads is a great navigation tool. This was not the case in Wigan, when I asked a local in a Spar shop. Who ended up sending me down a lane which had more in common with the Everglades in Florida then it did a road. Luckily after an hour of struggle I bumped into a farmer, who after a fit of laughter sent me back on the right path.

4 Sport car drivers

Having always been a fan of sports cars, but with zero intention of ever buying one. My opinion on the drivers of these cars has always been that they have to much money then sense. Now my opinion is that they also have anger issues. I have never seen the middle finger stuck out of show many windows before, as well as the classic wanker sign. Also they can not wait to overtake you, passing you on blind corners with double white lines, only to meet a car coming the other way. This action of their own impatiences usually results in me either having an angry fist waved at me or something shouted out the window

5 Toilets

I am well seasoned at pooping in the woods, but pooping at the side of the A9 is a completely different skill! Trying to find somewhere to go, in an area with a busy main road and zero cover makes this impossible. So hunting down a toilet became a skill set similar to Liam Neeson in Taken hunting down his kidnapped daughter. You will do anything to get to one! Sitting outside a Sainsburys waiting for it to open just to use its flushing chair of paradise. Also finding churches with toilets was a literal god send! Though I did end up feeling guilty and leaving a hefty donation….

Cumbria to John o'Groats

The final push

Crossing the boarder into Scotland was a huge morale booster. Having cycled to Scotland I felt like the finish was insight that day, though there was still another week to go.

Picking up a cycle path known as route 1, I was in paradise. This super smooth bit of tarmac was amazing, traffic free and rarely with another person in sight. This helped me make up time and go late into the night, as previously I had been scared that my Hi-Vis flag and vest and 4 lights may not been spotted by the endless amount of white Range Rover drivers I encountered.

I stayed some interesting locations whilst in Scotland. A night in a creepy litter filled wood near Loch Leven. If I had carried on for a mile, I would have found a trail which led to an amazing view point. With a shelter and artwork, with zero traffic going past.

Then a hostel in inverness was interesting, the Hostel offered a range of over 100 craft beers! Sadly after 140km I never got to sample any of the 100, as soon as I sat on my small single bed I passed out. Waking up at 7am the next day

The last memorable place was my last night, I was making my way up the A9. I was eating into the last couple hundred Km and my knee started to twinge. So I looked for a BnB for the night, but right next to me this building had a sign in the window saying ‘Rooms from £15’. It looked like an abandoned hotel, I tried the door which was open! To be greeted by a nice lady, who seem shocked to see me and even more confused when I asked for a room. She showed me up to the small but cosy bedroom, then warned me that a young crowd come into the bar on a Friday and they can be a little loud. I thought nothing of this, thinking it would just be loud talking. I was so wrong….. Heavy trance music was making my bed shake, I kept hearing the music turn down as the land lady told them off, just to hear shouting and then banging on my floor. The next morning she told that it had a big drug scene and she wished the younger lot would just drink.

That night was the last night, and that morning I made the ambitious push of over 120km in the worst wind of the trip to John o’Groats. The last 20miles, was probably the hardest thing in my life. My body had decided it had enough, my muscles were throbbing and my fingers and feet numb. Several big hills had me pulling over at the top and think about maybe giving up. Carrying on I found myself chatting to myself, or swearing at myself to keep going. Then when I spotted the end, I thought to hold back tears. Then my friend Connor who I had not seen in person for nearly seven years appeared. I was so tired and confused I could barely speak. He took my bags of me for the last 5miles. I then got lost in John o’Groats nearly heading to the lighthouse.

Riding into the car park and upto the signpost I had seen so often in books or on Tv, brought on some strange emotions. Struggling to stand up, I had to lean against the signpost for my photo as I struggled to not cry.

Overall I really enjoyed seeing parts of the little island we live on, I would have never seen if I did not do this trip

Cornwall to Cumbria

I’m terrible at remembering to write down my trips, as I’m already 9days behind on this.

But here goes 

From leaving Lands End, in glorious sunshine I could not believe how nice the weather was. With the odd passer by stopping to ask what I was doing sat around on a strange looking recumbent trike. Something I had never ridden before. I would say I’m about to cycle the length of the UK to John o’groats in Scotland. I was actually just sat, worrying about if I could actually do this! Trying to find routes which avoid the A roads, which I’d soon experience!

Avoiding the A roads

Avoiding the A roads

I took mainly the little side roads from Penzance, to avoid the big A road. But I soon discovered the hills were killers. As I wrote about in my previous blog.

So I thought I need to get through these as quickly as possible, so I got my head down and hit the main road as soon as the traffic died down. Staying in hostels and camping allowed me to spend long hours on the road, clocking up big distances! I had originally planned on 70km a day, but with the determination to get the hills done as quick as possible, I found myself doing over 100km a day.

I was soon in Bristol, where I had arranged to stay with a friend. He greeted me with beers, snacks and a hot water bottle. We chatted until about midnight, though I was fallen alseep it was amazing catching up.

soaking at the YHA 

soaking at the YHA 

Leaving his flat, the weather was nice. This was about to change. As I decided to take the Severn Bridge, as I approached the hail started! Then as lorries headed over the bridge, I was swamped by a tidal wave of spray! Even in full waterproofs I was soaked. That night I had planned to camp, but as the day got late I started to get really cold. Though I tried to cycle faster to warm up, it wasn’t enough to dry. So I found a YHA! The first time I had used one. I got there late. A youth hostel which seemed to house to Elderly salesmen. These men didn’t know each other, though they chatted late into the night about VW golfs. They also went into any open door, I describe them as busy.

The moment I wanted to cry

The moment I wanted to cry

I woke up early to find snow on the road, the trike did not enjoy this. The back wheel kept losing traction of the road on the snowy hills.  And by the time I had got to Nuneaton (does any actually live here) I was soaked again. So I found a £20 hotel to attempt to dry my stuff once more. 

I had an interesting stay also in Wigan! A man, broke into tears when I told him what I was doing. I had no idea what to do, so the caring back pat came out.

But riding from Wigan to Kendal was one of the most fun, 120km along canal paths, country roads and the A9. In amazing sunshine, this day made me feel refreshed! My legs had stopped aching and my clothes had started to dry in the sun. I really enjoyed it, even if a local man in a spar shop sent me down a swamp track. Luckily I bumped into a farmer and his daughter, watching their neighbors farm on fire (suspicious) who then laughed at me and sent me back on the right track. Passing through Preston I passed a man on another recumbent trike, this is the second one I’ve ever seen! So stopped and chatted, he was telling me he can get up to 60mph! Then I spotted the two big batteries and told him mines just powered by me. He went into shock, ‘why are you doing this to yourself’ then started hunting for a hidden battery on the trike.

That night approaching Kendal, I had my closest near miss! As a Range Rover driver on his mobile only spotted the Hi Vis vest and flag and the flashing red lights last minute. Seeing him spot me and swerve in my mirror was terrifying! I was literally about to ditch the trike! It shook me up a bit!

The rest of the trip before then, I had been impressed with the drivers. Not so impressed though at the amount of litter thrown out of vehicles!

getting to Penrith on Sunday morning and realising I was doing so well. And knowing the fact my family only lived 45mins away. I decided to have a rest day that Monday and spent it at home drying my clothes FINALLY.

Scotland coming soon

Cornwall to Cumbria

I’m terrible at remembering to write down my trips, as I’m already 9days behind on this.

But here goes 

From leaving Lands End, in glorious sunshine I could not believe how nice the weather was. With the odd passer by stopping to ask what I was doing sat around on a strange looking recumbent trike. Something I had never ridden before. I would say I’m about to cycle the length of the UK to John o’groats in Scotland. I was actually just sat, worrying about if I could actually do this! Trying to find routes which avoid the A roads, which I’d soon experience!

Avoiding the A roads

Avoiding the A roads

I took mainly the little side roads from Penzance, to avoid the big A road. But I soon discovered the hills were killers. As I wrote about in my previous blog.

So I thought I need to get through these as quickly as possible, so I got my head down and hit the main road as soon as the traffic died down. Staying in hostels and camping allowed me to spend long hours on the road, clocking up big distances! I had originally planned on 70km a day, but with the determination to get the hills done as quick as possible, I found myself doing over 100km a day.

I was soon in Bristol, where I had arranged to stay with a friend. He greeted me with beers, snacks and a hot water bottle. We chatted until about midnight, though I was fallen alseep it was amazing catching up.

soaking at the YHA 

soaking at the YHA 

Leaving his flat, the weather was nice. This was about to change. As I decided to take the Severn Bridge, as I approached the hail started! Then as lorries headed over the bridge, I was swamped by a tidal wave of spray! Even in full waterproofs I was soaked. That night I had planned to camp, but as the day got late I started to get really cold. Though I tried to cycle faster to warm up, it wasn’t enough to dry. So I found a YHA! The first time I had used one. I got there late. A youth hostel which seemed to house to Elderly salesmen. These men didn’t know each other, though they chatted late into the night about VW golfs. They also went into any open door, I describe them as busy.

The moment I wanted to cry

The moment I wanted to cry

I woke up early to find snow on the road, the trike did not enjoy this. The back wheel kept losing traction of the road on the snowy hills.  And by the time I had got to Nuneaton (does any actually live here) I was soaked again. So I found a £20 hotel to attempt to dry my stuff once more. 

I had an interesting stay also in Wigan! A man, broke into tears when I told him what I was doing. I had no idea what to do, so the caring back pat came out.

But riding from Wigan to Kendal was one of the most fun, 120km along canal paths, country roads and the A9. In amazing sunshine, this day made me feel refreshed! My legs had stopped aching and my clothes had started to dry in the sun. I really enjoyed it, even if a local man in a spar shop sent me down a swamp track. Luckily I bumped into a farmer and his daughter, watching their neighbors farm on fire (suspicious) who then laughed at me and sent me back on the right track. Passing through Preston I passed a man on another recumbent trike, this is the second one I’ve ever seen! So stopped and chatted, he was telling me he can get up to 60mph! Then I spotted the two big batteries and told him mines just powered by me. He went into shock, ‘why are you doing this to yourself’ then started hunting for a hidden battery on the trike.

That night approaching Kendal, I had my closest near miss! As a Range Rover driver on his mobile only spotted the Hi Vis vest and flag and the flashing red lights last minute. Seeing him spot me and swerve in my mirror was terrifying! I was literally about to ditch the trike! It shook me up a bit!

The rest of the trip before then, I had been impressed with the drivers. Not so impressed though at the amount of litter thrown out of vehicles!

getting to Penrith on Sunday morning and realising I was doing so well. And knowing the fact my family only lived 45mins away. I decided to have a rest day that Monday and spent it at home drying my clothes FINALLY.

Scotland coming soon

LeJog day 1

Waking up in Penzance in a 10 bed dorm, isn’t my preferred way to wake up. But it happened. I was here to meet my new friend for the next month, the recumbent trike. A trike where you are basically lying down flat.

Having never ridden one before I was pretty nervous as the team from the manufacturers came to watch the start, and my first go! Dreading braking it I stayed in one gear whilst they got all the photos they needed.  

Now I am riding for mental health, I’m not a big fan of collecting money of people, but raising awareness for this is something I believe strongly in. Especially when it comes to being outside to help this. 

so the aim is to show how much benefits to your mental health can be had by living a little more adventurous and outdoors. 

 

 

My first day was horrific! Hills and strong head winds hampered progress, but I still managed to smash an 80km day. Putting me 10km already ahead of schedule!  

I stayed in a hostel over night, as I was in a built up area and didn’t fancy spending the night under the stars behind some bins near Newquay! 

though I hate hostels, this one did not change that opinion. Full of youngesters drinking until 2am on a Sunday! Madness. And obviously even this hostel had a guitar playing nobhead, who murdered wonderwall and other oasis classics

 

but I’m rested and ready for day 2

Talking at the Destination Travel show

Destination Travel Show

 

I was lucky enough to be invited to talk at the Destination Travel Show in Manchester. At first there was a slight panic when it looked like I was going to be talking and being interviewed on stage whilst cooking! Now I can cook, but cook whilst trying to talk is a different matter! 

I was on the Meet the Expert stage by the Times newspaper. With my slideshow and Britney Spears style headset I was ready to go. With tales of my adventures in Africa, Asia and Central America. 

A full audience had come along to hear listen. 

 

For those of you who don’t know I had an unpleasant encounter with a big cat, leaving a large scar on my back. Whilst telling this story to the audience, it was greeted with a large gasp when I described in detail the encounter.  I found this amazing!

The story of the muggings in Central America also went down well, this was the point I started to think this crowd enjoyed my suffering!  

Best question from the audience at the end was, when am I writing a book. I think maybe a coffee table book or a pop up book would be the best I can do. 

but over all, it was a great show. I recommend going along. The London show has a certain Levison Wood talking! 

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Me dressed as a member of Kings of Leon

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Quick note check (I was actually watching football) 

Somewhere in Belgium to Amsterdam

Somewhere in Belgium, to Amsterdam  

 

Leaving the comfort of our tent early in the morning, whilst the sun was still nowhere to be seen. We set of towards the city of Brugge, where we would only pass through.

With a bit of a head wind we cycled 40km before the sun had even rised. The aim to get over 100km that day. 

The night before we had some issues with the fact my pedal, had decided to drop off! So we managed to switch the pedal with the other bike which fitted perfectly. The threads which you screw the pedal into, had completely worn away, possibly from some sand getting in there. But we will never know, I put it down to my superhuman power! 

 

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We even tried to glue it! 

 

Now in the Netherlands, we were impressed with the quality of cycle routes! They were amazing, smooth tarmac or lovely cobbled lanes. This made getting in the distance easy. 

By early afternoon we had made it into the city of Amsterdam, where we intended to spend New Years Eve. And sadly where I had to leave my friend Tom to ride home. Now back to work for me, Expeditions to organise.  

Happy New Year  

London to somewhere in Belgium 🇧🇪

28th December  

After a struggle with myself mentally over the winter, I had been looking for a trip I could take a few days away from everything. On the morning of the 28th this trip came in a text message from my good mate, Tom. 

I have know Tom for nearly ten years now, after meeting whilst working as outdoor instructors in Norfolk.  we then headed out to Vietnam on an epic circumnavigation of the country.

All his text said was “mate, fancy biking somewhere for New Years?’ 

I replied with ‘I will grab a train this afternoon’. 

Tom met me at Dover to catch a ferry to France, our idea was to sleep on the ferry. 

we had no luck! 

 

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My no sleep face!

 

29th December  

 

getting our bike of the ferry with zero sleep was just the tip of the iceberg! 10mins into our 150km day Tom got his first puncture! 

fixing it in rapid time, 20mins later there was a loud bang. His tyre blowing out! At 5am with zero sleep, we weren’t in the best mood. But we did our best to patch it up. 

 

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Yay! 

 

We started to make good time and started to catch up with lost ground. Then we hit a town, sending google maps into melt down! After doing our second lap of Aldi, we realised something was not right here! It was taking us on random loops! 

so we went to plan B, head north and follower the coast. Then that familiar sound from the early house of the morning hit us in Belgium! Tom had his 3rd flat tyre, knowing we needed a new tyre we had to walk 10km out of our way to find the nearest open bike shop!  

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Tom looking broken! 

We got back on the road and made it to a town near the boarder of the Netherlands.....

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Adventure Sponsorships

One of the main questions I’m asked on social media or after talking events, is how much do I get sponsored or ‘how do I get sponsored’  

So I thought it easier if I wrote a little blog about it

Simple answer is you don’t, Unless you’re a name like Ben Fogle. Companies will not be willing to pay for your holidays.

Me and many others have all gone down the self funded route, even Levison Woods recent trip to the Middle East was self funded.

 

But is it worth it? 

 Do you really want to be sponsored? I know I don’t, I get a lot of offers from brands asking me to wear this or carry that. In return for pictures. 

But taking thousands of pictures of a branded Tshirt just gets tiring! And your followers just get sick of you endorsing this brand every five minutes. 

Then you have the added problem of all this free gear, which you’ve never worn or tested before!  

 JUST STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF 

Remember it is your adventure, do you really want to lose your adventure to a brand selling stuff?

I use my reliable kit I’ve had for years, my trusty boots and then pick up cheap clothes in the country. 

 

THINGS YOU SHOULD ENDORSE  

Campaigns! To get more people active!