Tag Archives: mental health

Music key to mental health in old age

Maintaining our mental health with music

As a qualified musician, as well as writing this blog about mental health, I was very interested to read recently about a Scottish study that suggests playing a musical instrument can have lifelong mental health benefits — including staving off dementia.

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University compared the mental agility of musicians and non-musicians aged between 60 and 88 in memory and spatial reasoning tests. Those who played an instrument completed tasks up to 25% more quickly.

Professor Alan Gow, who led the study, published in scientific journal Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, said it “highlighted that learning and playing a musical instrument may be associated with cognitive differences in older age, and supports musical activity as a potentially cognitively protective lifestyle factor”.

I have written many times about the simple things that we can do that can have a lasting impact on our mental health, and learning or playing an instrument can also bring a lot of joy. But maybe talk to your neighbours before you start playing the drums…
Chris Hunt ACII is qualified in rehabilitation, Pilates, meditation, personal training, NLP, and Thai Massage. Contact Chris here or for more information about simple and free wellness advice click on www.pilatesevo.com

Let’s talk about depression… Part 1: Is it real?

ImageLet’s talk about depression

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So Let’s talk about depression. One of my aims for this blog is not to write all pretty and happy articles, but to try to talk about real issues however uncomfortable or taboo they are. I am a consultant and fitness professional, so I am not an expert on all the topics I talk about, but what I say comes from my heart.

So, the “season to be jolly” is fading fast. But the sad fact is that this time of year is also a desperate time for many people. I wrote recently about dementia (see my blog “I lost my father, don’t lose yours”) and how it is still for many people a taboo subject, whilst for many other it is totally misunderstood. The same could be said about depression, so let’s try to blow the lid on that as well.

It’s been reported recently that as many as three quarters of a million young people in the UK may feel that they have nothing to live for. A study for the Prince’s Trust charity says almost a third of long-term unemployed young people have contemplated taking their own lives.

The Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index was based on interviews with 2,161 16 to 25-year-olds. The report found 9% of all respondents agreed with the statement: “I have nothing to live for” and said if 9% of all youngsters felt the same, it would equate to some 751,230 young people feeling they had nothing to live for. The research found that long-term unemployed young people were more than twice as likely as their peers to have been prescribed anti-depressants.  One in three (32%) had contemplated suicide, while one in four (24%) had self-harmed. The report found 40% of jobless young people had faced symptoms of mental illness, including suicidal thoughts, feelings of self-loathing and panic attacks, as a direct result of unemployment. Three quarters of long-term unemployed young people (72%) did not have someone to confide in, the study found.

I talked from personal experience about dementia having lost my father to the disease. I can also talk from some personal experience of depression, as I have several family members and friends who have in the past suffered from this debilitating illness.

Image

Let’s talk about depression and talking
First and most important, no one should be ashamed or embarrassed to be talking about depression. If you think worse of anyone who has or is suffering from depression, then with respect this really is your problem, and you should definitely read on! If you still think that depression is just an excuse to stay in bed and be lazy, a pathetic reason to feel sorry for yourself and wallow in self-pity, and that people who say they have depression should “man-up”, pull themselves together and stop feeling sorry for themselves, then again, please read this blog. It might make you begin to realise that you are totally wrong. In fact hopelessly wrong.

I do have sympathy for people who do not understand depression because it is difficult to empathise with something you have never suffered from. I mean, how can it be a real illness when you cannot see it? So let’s get one thing clear from the start. It is an illness. A real, bonafide illness that can be clinically proven. At its worst, it is as totally debilitating as any physical illness, making what most people consider a “normal” life impossible.

The worst thing you can say to someone suffering from depression is to “pull themselves together”, “stop being so pathetic”, “stand up for yourself”, “snap out of it”, and many other nuggets of similar ignorance that I have heard in the past. Why is this such a bad approach? It’s simple if you stop to think. Most people who are depressed already feel useless and hopeless. For you to point out and confirm that fact to them only reinforces their negative self-belief. It makes them feel even more inadequate because they know they are incapable of doing any of those things for them self however much they want to.

The roots of depression are varied, and it’s not my intention here to go into details as to causes. What I want to do is get people talking and thinking. And to stress that people suffering from depression need your support, not your judgement or criticism. It’s not easy not to judge, not to have a holier than thou attitude. In fact I think it’s the mark of a real man who does not judge, who can offer a hand of support and understanding.

Let’s talk about depression and exercise
As a fitness professional and creator of PilatesEVO, a mind and body system, I cannot stress enough the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise to help deal with many mental and physical issues. As my dementia article pointed out, there is a proven link that what’s good for your body is also good for your brain. By exercising regularly and eating healthily, many people can really improve their physical and mental condition. But this is not always the only answer, sometimes people need professional help.

My experience of depression was one of the reasons that led me to discover meditation and make it an integral part of PilatesEVO. I thoroughly recommend this to everyone whether you are suffering from depression or not. It doesn’t require hours of sitting in the lotus position either. 20 minutes a day is a good start.  As the saying goes, if you do not have enough time to do 20 minutes meditation, then no problem, do 30 minutes. :)

If you know someone who is suffering from depression, don’t judge or offer them advice. They don’t need that and it doesn’t help. They need your understanding and support. Question is, can you give them only that?

In tomorrow’s blog I will give you some ways to deal with negative thoughts, and ways to try to stay positive. So, see you tomorrow.

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Dementia. I lost my father, don’t lose yours

www.chrishuntwellness.com

This is a very personal and difficult blog for me to write, but one that I really want to share with you all. No pictures, just my honest, heart-felt story.

Dementia, even in 2013, is still a dirty word to many people and misunderstood by many others. It “remains one of the last bastions of stigma and fear when it comes to illness” as the UK health secretary very succinctly put it. This week in the UK press there has been a lot of headlines about it as David Cameron headed a G8 conference on the subject on Wednesday the 11th December. The result of this was that the G8 pledged that they would find a cure by 2025, treating it in the same was as HIV/Aids and cancer

My story is a typical one, nothing special when dealing with this terrible disease. My father started showing symptoms a few years ago. The usual forgetfulness and unusual behaviour. The disease soon progressed to the point where he didn’t recognise me. This thought still makes me cry to this day. If you want to understand what dementia can do, try imagining one of your parents looking at you like a stranger, and worse with mistrust and even fear in their eyes. I witnessed my father not only lose his mental capacity, but also his dignity. The care he received from one of the UK’s so-called leading healthcare providers was a disgrace and only made the whole situation worse. The night my father passed away, I had a horrible dream. I woke up with a sick feeling in my stomach to find that I had slept through a call from the hospital telling me I should get to his bedside immediately as he wouldn’t make it through the night. I will regret missing that call for the rest of my life, but maybe it saved me the pain of seeing him pass away. I can instead remember saying good night to him the night before and kissing him on his forehead as he was in a peaceful, drug-induced sleep.

Labelled the 21st Century Plague, dementia is going to become part of more and more people’s lives. About 800,000 people in Britain currently suffer from it, and this figure is predicted to double by 2050, with cases around the world projected to triple to 135 million by the same date. Currently, there is no cure with health services only able to try to help people live with their disease rather than cure it. This makes it all the more important to reduce the risks of developing it in the first place. Research is increasingly showing that five key components of healthy lifestyle can ward off a range of conditions including heart disease, diabetes and dementia. A recent 35 year study found more evidence to confirm this. So what are the five key components?

1) Regular exercise
2) Eating fruit and vegetables
3) Staying slim
4) Light drinking
5) Not smoking

So not rocket science then, and something that everyone can do. As Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society said “we have known for some time that what is good for your heart is also good for your head….. healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia”.

I still cry when I think back to what happened to my father. Whilst the world’s leading countries have finally woken up to this global issue (some cynics might say their attitude has been clarified by the threat of enormous costs associated with treating sufferers), by taking five simple steps, we can all help to reduce the risk of my story becoming your story, or your children’s story. Trust me, however difficult you might think those five steps are, the alternative could be ultimately worse.

Here are some links to recent articles I have written about the connection between mental and physical health, and about depression. New studies are confirming the links every week.

http://thechrishuntblog.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/exercise-is-only-one-part-of-total-fitness/

http://thechrishuntblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/bradley-cooper-mental-health-exercise/

http://thechrishuntblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/lets-talk-about-depression-part-1-is-it-real/

http://thechrishuntblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/depression-part-2-positive-thinking/