The NHS have a great 'health tool', the Couch to 5K, a running plan to get you from sitting on your couch to running a 5k distance. Don't be intimidated by the 'r' word, in my own experience this happens when walking becomes faster walking which becomes 'jorking' (a mix of jogging and walking) which in turn becomes consistently jogging and ultimately ends in what we think of as running!
I would suggest checking out where you local Parkrun is and combining that with your Couch to 5k. Parkrun is a free 5k run in parks around the country on Saturday mornings. They are for people of all ages and all abilities and from my experience, I can assure you that ALL ages and ALL abilities do indeed show up there! The very old and the very young, parents jogging whilst pushing a pushchair, people running with their dog on a lead and never fear, there are people walking along, doing the best they can and everyone is encouraged, cheered on and simply enjoying being there :)
"A year from now you will wish you had started today"
I'll just interject at this point and say that Parkrun is also good if you stuggle with social anxiety or get a bit nervous meeting other people and doing things in a group etc. It is very casual and there is nothing required of you, you can turn up walk, jog, run the route and leave without having to engage in conversation other than a smile or a thankyou to whomever scans your barcode. Your barcode is something you print off when you register on the Parkrun website that allows you to have your time recorded. You use the same barcode every time and can use it at any Parkrun.
So, why not give Couch to 5K a go, or just sign up for Parkrun and go for a walk/jork/jog/run every Saturday morning with a friend or by yourself? Ease into, take it safely and slowly and above all keep it enjoyable! Just the act of getting outdoors regularly will boost your positivity, blow away the cobwebs and start you on a journey to a healthier, happier you! :)
To check out the NHS Couch to 5K plan click here
To find your local Parkrun click here
Going Vegan has helped my mental health. Fact. The effects were almost immediate. Within the first 2-4 weeks I was seeing differences. I was hooked. I hadn't even gone Vegan yet, I'd simply made a few tweaks to my diet to direct myself in that direction.
For more on what I had started to do, regarding diet, in those early stages, click here.
So, here are the top 5 benefits I experienced mentally through eating a Whole foods Plant-Based diet:
Note: it's important to eat a 'clean' vegan diet as opposed to a junk-food one! For my thoughts on the difference, click here!
1. More Energy
This one is a game changer. Eating a Vegan diet gave me more energy and in turn my mind, my brain, now has enough good fuel to function properly. It's easier for me to think clearer, my mind feel like it's running on a full charge rather than struggling on the minimum. The increase in energy also gave me more motivation to move more and incorporate exercise into my life which leads to point number two..
2. Increased Fitness
Increased energy leads to increased fitness, in my experience and being more active, getting more exercise can positively impact your mental health. A few months after beginning my transition to a vegan diet I felt so full of energy that I decided to go for a jog, something I hadn't done in ages! I was amazed by how much better I felt, I wasn't getting out of breath like I once would have, my body seemed to move better, everything felt like it was well oiled and running smoothly. This short little jog added to my growing belief that my dietary changes were having a far reaching affect!
3. Better Sleep
I had never suffered massively with insomnia but I would get restless nights, find it very hard to go to sleep, not sleep deeply or have vivid upsetting dreams. Since I've been vegan this has really changed. I'm getting better sleep, less dreams (or at least, less upsetting or disturbing ones) and I'm waking up feeling like I have actually slept. This, of course, massively helps my mental health in the day that follows.
4. The Future Got Brighter
I had been thinking very negatively about the future but quite simply, as these changes started to take place I started to see that the future had a lot more possibilities in it than I had been thinking. Suddenly I was thinking that things which had previously seemed out of my reach or impossible were in fact, coming closer and all I had to do was continue on this pathway to health and who knows where it might lead!
5. Much better overall health
Although I started this journey to see if it would help my health mentally, I could never have imagined the wealth of positive effects going vegan has had on my life in every aspect. Physically, mentally and spiritually. Every avenue has been benefited, not a stone has been left unturned. It is as if I have built myself a new body and a new life. My mind, body and soul now feel lighter, happier and on top of their game. I now understand them, I work WITH my body, I listen to it, I help it to do it's job in the way that best suits it. The flow I have now with mind, body and spirit is beautiful.
If any of this inspires you, please do give a plant-based diet a chance, you could have much to gain and nothing to lose by just giving it a go :)
I didn't go Vegan overnight, it was a slow but sustainable transition. Here I share with you the first 3 changes I made towards going Vegan. My main motivation was my mental health and overall wellbeing so my only rule was 'no restrictions, no rules, no stress'. I would simply try to eat more plants and less animal products and take it slowly but surely.
For 5 Ways Going Vegan Helped My Mental Health, click here
After 2-4 weeks of these three changes I was already feeling positive effects:
I was aiming for a diet low in fat, high in whole foods. Check out my post '3 ways to be a healthy vegan'
1. Fruit Smoothie for Breakfast
The very first thing I started doing in my move toward Veganism was making a smoothie each morning. I bought a cheap blender and I would blend grapes and bananas with a little water (you can also use a plant based milk if you wish), sometimes I'd use other berries instead of the grapes. It would be a large smoothie, maybe a litre or so. Beginning my day with fruit, and plenty of it, has a very positive effect on my physical and mental health.
2. Changing the portion size of plants vs animal products
I did not go vegan overnight, it took almost a year before I was eating a predominantly vegan diet. My plan was to go slowly but sustainably into the dietary change so I focused on eating MORE plants and LESS animal products. I would include meat and dairy in my meals still but the portion size would be very small in comparison to the amount of plant based products on my plate. I would also fill up on the plant based foods before eating the animal products which would result in a lesser amount being consumed. Little tweaks like this led to a sustainable vegan lifestyle and the animal products moved out of my diet almost without me noticing.
3. Eating More
I started eating more. I encouraged myself to eat when I was hungry and until I was full. I had never been a calorie counter or dieter, always feeling that I didn't have the willpower for that! I realised that I needed to fuel my body with lots of good, wholesome nutrition for it to be able to operate to the best of its ability. Forget about getting fat or being fat for the moment, this was about helping my body do the work it needed to do. If I gained some pounds, so be it. As it turned out I lost a stone over the following year or so, simply as a side effect!
Bonus tips.. Hydrate! Drink plenty of water, aim for at least 2 litres a day. Move! Even if it's just walking, get some movement in every day if possible. Exercise is great for the body and the mind.
This was my personal experience, maybe it will be of some help to others out there. I do hope so :)
Although a vegan diet is always a good ethical and environmental choice, simply just eating vegan does not mean you will reap the health benefits, of which there are indeed many! Today I want to share my top three tips on how to be a healthy vegan :)
Quite simply, there is vegan junk food. There are a lot of processed vegan foods and while these aren't all bad, as with any processed or junk-y foods it's always healthier to keep them to a minimum in your diet. You should also try to keep your diet low in fat and, as much as possible, oil free.
So here's my 3 top tips on how I helped myself become a healthy vegan:
1. Build Meals Around Whole Foods
Try to build your meals around whole foods. It sounds difficult when you're first beginning, it definitely did to me because I wasn't at all into cooking!! But once I realised that a meal could be a smoothie, or some rice with a tin of sweetcorn and mixed beans, or beans on toast with some salad leaves or.. the list goes on! You don't have to get fancy about this. And sure, by the frozen stuff and the conveniently packaged stuff but just try to keep it as close to nature as you can! You'll find that it gets easier the longer you do it :)
2. Keep It Simple
I cannot emphasise this enough! You don't have to suddenly start creating magic in the kitchen or using foods you've never heard of. Jacket potato and beans is vegan, beans on toast as I mentioned above, is vegan. Some tins of soup are vegan. Toasted sandwiches can be vegan if you just choose the right stuff to put in them. Potato wedges with ketchup! Rice and a mixed veg stir fry. Pasta with a tin of mixed beans and some salad... Think about what you normally eat and eliminate the meat and dairy from it. Again, try as much as possible to keep it whole foods, low fat and as unprocessed as possible. But cut yourself some slack in the beginning ;)
3. Eat Plenty!
Seriously, make sure you eat enough good, clean food and get yourself a decent breakfast in the morning. This will keep the cravings away. Cravings, most often for junky or high fat food, is simple your body's cry for nutrition so make sure your body is being consistently fuelled with enough good, clean foods and it will keep the cravings away!
So there we go, hope my own experience with this has helped you.
Remember: Keep it real, keep it simple and above all, enjoy your food! :)