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Walking towards wellness – Festival of winter walks

Every season has its own unique beauty and joy – but it’s almost too tempting to snuggle up indoors during the winter and only enjoy the weather from the warm side of the window.

That’s why The Ramblers (formerly The Ramblers’ Association but now trendily abbreviated and with a funky logo) is bringing back its Festival of Winter Walks, in a bid to get us all to lace up our boots and head out, whatever the weather.

The festival runs from Friday 21 December to Sunday 6 January and includes group walks (pop over to the website, link above) for details – or go it alone on one of the 2,750 walking routes listed on the site.

Still need encouragement to get your hat and gloves on and get outside? Here’s a run down of my top five benefits of walking.

1. It’s brilliant for your brain

A King’s College London study suggested fitter legs are linked to a fitter brain, as we get older. The study of twins found that simply walking more can improve brain function in later years.

2. It helps heart disease and osteoporosis

Not seen sunlight for days? Vitamin D levels can plummet during winter so get out and soak up the sunshine vitamin whenever possible. It will not only boost your energy, it maintains a healthy heart and strong bones.

3. You’ll live longer

A Cambridge University study suggested a daily 20 minute walk could reduce the risk of early death. It found twice as many deaths may be due to lack of exercise than obesity.

4. It’s as good as running

In fact, it might be better. US researchers found that running reduced the risk of heart disease by 4.5% while walking reduced it by 9.3%. High blood pressure and high cholesterol risks were also lowered by more than running and diabetes risk was reduced equally by running and walking.

5. It may help lift depression

Exercise improves self-esteem, mood and sleep quality and reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. Physically active people have up to a 30% reduced risk of becoming depressed and staying active helps those who are depressed recover.

And so long as it’s not too damp to make the most of your outside time you can also indulge in a healthy dose of forest bathing!

Wishing you calmness



Photo by Sebastian Pichler on Unsplash

Rise & Shine Yoga for Shelter charity fundraiser

This is a special ‘Rise & Shine’ yoga with all profits going towards Shelter; this charity do great work all year round and especially so during the winter and festive season providing a hot meal, warm clothing and friendly company to those in need.

Cost: £15 per person

Please note: Pre book your mat with Joe as limited numbers. Yoga passess not valid.

If you’d like to book your yoga place please let Joe know ASAP on 07799 145548 or at
Once the session is over why not join us for a warm herbal tea & festive nibble? 

Can’t make the session? Feel free to make a donation in the golden pig of gratitude.

Wishing you calmness

Joe 🙂

Hug it out – seven reasons a cuddle does you good

I’m a big fan of hugging, whatever the weather. And whatever the day of the week, time of day, time of the month, mood…

Celebratory hugs, friendship hugs, intimate hugs… bring them all on!

But there’s something about the onset of winter that makes us want to snuggle into a lovely warm cuddle.

There’s more to it than you might think, too. Here are seven reasons simply winding our arms around each other is amazing for our health.

  1. Hugs sometimes speak louder than words

Words are powerful but sometimes physical contact can actually say more than even the most well-chosen vocabulary.

It’s a primal thing: we develop our sense of touch before all others. We all know that babies and children need to be hugged and held often – and sometimes grown ups need that too.

Hugging helps to build trust between people – as long as they’re both happy to cuddle up, of course.

In our digital age, we’re more connected than ever but this isn’t always reflected physically. Remember to give your friends and family a good squeeze when you see them – it’s more important than a ‘like’ on social media.

2. Hugs boost oxytocin

Oxytocin is one hormone we all want more of! It rises when we hug people, or even sit close together and, particularly in women, reduces our blood pressure.

Oxytocin is known as the ‘bonding hormone’ and it’s particularly important in parent-child and romantic partner relationships. It’s linked to feelings of happiness and reducing loneliness and anger.

Even outside your closest family, hugs help social bonding and feelings of belonging.

3. Hugs increase serotonin

It’s another feel-good hormone: hold that hug for a long time and scientists have spotted an increase in serotonin levels – the ‘happy hormone’.

4. Hugs strengthen immunity

Presumably as long as you don’t breathe germs over each other!

It’s believed that hugs boost the immune system, thanks to the stress-reducing effects which can actually reduce your chances of catching a cold – or at least suffer less severe symptoms, according to a 2014 study.

5. Hugs make you more confident and successful

Being hugged is wrapped up with feeling good about yourself. This comes from the earliest days when your family hugged you as a newborn baby. By linking to those happy feelings, cuddles make you feel better about yourself.

But it’s not just your family that can boost that self-esteem and success. The New York Times reported on a study by Michael W. Kraus, Cassy Huang and Dr. Keltner, scientists at Berkeley, which discovered that the teams most successful in the National Basketball Association were those who hugged each other the most.

6. Hugs reduce stress and make you more relaxed

We’ve already touched on this but it’s also worth noting that hugging relaxes muscles and reduces tension in the body.

An Amsterdam University study found that touch is valuable in reducing anxiety in people with low self-esteem – even hugging a teddy bear can help! Reassuring if you don’t always have someone around to snuggle.

Cuddles also lower our heart rates – and reduce levels of stress hormone cortisol.

7. Hugs help you live in the moment

The middle of a big hug is a great place to forget about everything else and just cherish the moment. Those physical responses we’ve touched on mean our breathing slows and we’re brought to focus on the moment.

Convinced? Good. Now enjoy your next hug!

Wishing you calmness Joe 🙂

Photo by Shalom Mwenesi on Uns

Make fear your friend

Hallowe’en, horror films, scare events, Day of the Dead, gigantic roller coasters… there’s a reason we’re transfixed by fear.

In terms of evolution, it makes sense to keep things we’re scared of right in front of us, where we can keep an eye on them.

Perhaps that’s why we have an innate fascination with scary experiences. And that’s great while fear stays in its place – but when it bursts out and affects our lives, we may need some tips on cutting it down to size.


Fear is an illusion

As Lao Tzu said:

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

Dr Camen Harra, writing in the Huffington Post agrees that fear is an illusion.

“We… bring fear to life, many times without need. I’ve seen plenty of clients who were so afraid of losing their marriage that they couldn’t see there was nothing wrong with it to begin with”.

“But they needed to validate their irrational fears and did so by exaggerating already-existing issues in their relationship. In their case, their fears ignited needless doubts, false conclusions and empty arguments with their partner. They began to cause external problems driven by internal fears. Then, their marriage really did begin to display the issues they had feared all along.”


What is fear for?

Fear, of course, keeps our wildest impulses in order. It stops us stepping off tall buildings and walking into the middle of busy roads.

As a basic safety mechanism, fear is one of our most innate instincts. Modern life, though, blurs the boundaries between healthy wariness and unnecessary knee-jerk reactions that come from our inner chimp.

That can leave us in a constant state of fight or flight, eventually leading to chronic anxiety.

When fear gets in the way

Fear can also make us freeze, holding us back and stopping us from achieving our goals, while our rational brain battles with those fear feelings.

There are various ways of dealing with fear, depending on how it affects you and your own preferences.

Here are a few suggestions:


  1. Face your fear

Working out that you’re afraid – and what you’re afraid of – can hold the key to beating the fear. Challenge those feelings, face them head on and ask yourself if your fears are real or imagined.

Try asking yourself what’s the worst that can happen. It might be worth chatting this through with a friend. Sometimes we place irrational beliefs around a situation and saying them out loud – or writing them down – can cut them down to size.


2. Embrace change

Change in itself can scare people because it takes you out of your comfort zone. But change is sometimes necessary – if it’s moving you towards your ultimate goal.

Chunk your goals down into easy, achievable steps and they’ll feel much less daunting. All you have to do is tackle them one at a time.


3. Remember to relax

Constant stress and pressure can lead to long term fear. Slow down, relax and take time out of your busy schedule for calming activities such as mindfulness or yoga. Not only will you feel calmer, you’ll be more effective too.

If you’re literally shaking with fear, take yourself out of the stressful situation, place the palm of your hand on your stomach, focus on your breathing and remember you have a choice of how you react to any situation.

Another technique is to close your eyes and picture yourself in a safe and relaxing place – perhaps laying on a tropical beach, curled up in your own bed or revisiting a happy childhood memory.


4. Believe in you

Much fear comes from low self-esteem. Work on your self-worth and you’ll feel the fear melt away. Nobody is perfect – stop trying to be. Real life is messy and full of changes.

Remember: whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right!

If you need any help and want to explore working together then just let me know.

Wishing you calmness

Joe 🙂


Autumn inspiration

I recently attended a Scaravelli-inspired Yoga workshop with Bill Wood and heard him read the quote below. I thought it was so beautiful. It’s a gentle reminder for us all to accept and appreciate all of our bodies, to acknowledge all of ourselves and accept that what we are and to make the most of each moment.

With the Autumn equinox just passed it’s also an ideal time to consider oour dreams and goals and to take steady steps towards making them a reality over the coming season.

Enjoy and fee free to share and remember to cherish you body! Joe 🙂

The human body, at peace with itself,

Is more precious than the rarest gem.

Cherish your body – it is yours this time only.

The human form is won with difficulty; it is easy to lose.

All worldly things are brief, like lightning in the sky;

This life you must know as the tiny splash of a raindrop;

A thing of beauty that disappears even as it comes into being.

Therefore set your goal; make use of every day and night to achieve it.

Tsongkhapa (1357-1419)