Expedition

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 

 

  

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  

Cambodia and Laos pt 1

The summer expedition

I am lucky enough to spend a lot of time in South East Asia, so I love it when I get to take a group to this fantastic part of the world.

Before Departure

This summer it was an all girl school from London, who had a bad run in with a previous male leader. So at the start I was pretty nervous about meeting the teachers and group.

But I had nothing to worry about, the group and the teachers were fantastic. The previous leader had some pretty dated views, which is annoying in this day and age. The group were quick to realise this and requested a new leader to take them, so I stepped up.

Flying Out

I had just retired my old trusty Osprey bag of 14yrs for a brand new one, setting me back nearly £200. Meeting the group in the airport on the morning to help them check in, I checked in my bag with them.

We then had a flight delay, which meant our connection from Bangkok to Cambodia was going to be a close call! It is the first time I have had to run for a flight, luckily I had a team of fast 16yr olds to sprint to the gate.

On arrival in Cambodia, we collected all the bags…except one! My new bag had decided to stay on in Thailand, and probably popped down Koh San Road to party.

Cambodia

Our first day in Cambodia we were advised to stay inside due to government protests, which you can understand looking at the recent history of this beautiful country.

These protests were in the build up to the election, with the potential to turn violent. So the first day was spent locked in the hostel watching the World Cup. But thats when my party going bag decided to turn up.

I left the group inside and headed towards the airport, to collect the now named ‘cursed bag’. Grabbing a local Tut Tut driver from near by the hostel, with his multi coloured cab I headed off. Straight towards a angry mob, straight out of the movies! Armed with sticks, banners and things on fire, blocking the road ahead of me. Me and my Tut Tut driver both froze then looked at each other, with the eyes which I can only explain as ‘oh fuck’ eyes. We stopped the tut tut, turned it around and hid down an alley for an hour.

But I got my bag back! So all was good.

What we got up to

The sights of Cambodia, are very emotional. After what happened in the 70s in that country, it is great to see the country booming. The people are so happy and friendly.

The Killing Fields

I am very interested in history, so I was keen to go. The group did not know what went on during the 70s, so it was interesting to see how they responded to the place millions were killed.


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