Blue Monday: Survival Guide

How to get through the lowest day of the year 

This coming Monday (January 20th) marks the annual date observed by some as Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year.
The term was first coined back in 2005 by a holiday company called Sky Travel. In a now famous press release, the company claimed that they had calculated the most depressing date of the year using an equation.

Sky Travel took many factors into consideration while determining the date of Blue Monday. Firstly, they looked at weather conditions around this time of year where rain, wind and snow were in abundance.

They then considered the level of debt which had likely accumulated by people over the festive period. It was also found that around the third Monday of January was when most New Year’s resolutions failed. Additionally they also looked into low levels of motivation, time spent sleeping, hours of sunlight and stress levels.

Generally reported as falling on the third Monday of January each year, Blue Monday has become a date dreaded by many.
All is not lost however, you don’t have to spend Blue Monday barricaded in your room eating tub after tub of peanut butter Häagen-Dazs.

We have here 6 ways you can beat Blue Monday and dreary winter months ahead!

Survival Tip #1 – Brave the Weather

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I know it looks horrible out there. But spending even 20 minutes outside each day can provide you with some amazing health benefits.

Studies have shown that getting yourself outside (especially during the winter) can boost your immune system, improve your focus, lessen anxiety, help you sleep better and even increase your self-esteem.

So this Blue Monday, rain or shine, why not arrange to go a nice walk in the local park or if you’re feeling brave, go a good long hike with a friend.

Survival Tip #2 – Socialise

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Humans are sociable creatures who crave regular interaction with other humans. Even the most introverted individual could not survive without a little communication with other people.

And social interaction is good for us. According to psychology, being social is an integral part of human nature. Our own nervous systems actually expect us to have others around us and when we go without, it puts a large amount of stress on our bodies.

Nobody likes to feel lonely, but it can be difficult around this time of year with increased workloads, lack of funds and adverse weather conditions to ensure that we are getting enough social interaction.

Don’t spend Blue Monday alone if you can help it, call up a friend that you haven’t seen in a

while and pick up where you left off.

Survival Tip #3 – Get Active

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If you are not fond of exercise, it may seem a little counter intuitive to spend Blue Monday doing something you hate. However, it may be just what you need to boost morale and improve your own self-image.

Through exercise, your energy levels are increased making you more alert and boosting your immunity. There has also been a link found between regular exercise and improved mental health. Want to increase your confidence and reduce your stress levels? Getting active may be the way to go.

Joining a gym is a great way to keep fit but it can be a little costly.

If you would like to get active this Blue Monday without spending too much, why not join a local running group?

Survival Tip #4 – Try a New Diet

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After all those Christmas dinners, selection boxes and bottles of Baileys, now is the perfect time to try and new diet and improve your health!

You don’t need to try anything too intense. Introducing more fresh fruit and vegetables into your diet can be very beneficial. While reducing the amount of red meat you consume lowers your risk of heart disease and is good for the environment.

Due to lack of sunlight, this time of year it can be very difficult to get the crucial vitamins and minerals that we need. By eating foods rich in vitamins C and D, you can help boost your immune system.

This Blue Monday why not follow our easy recipe and make your own Vitamin Booster!

 

Survival Tip #5 – Clean Your Space

Credit: Flickr

Studies have shown that a cluttered space can equal a cluttered mind. We all have our own space and no matter how small, it can seem daunting to think about tidying it.

It is especially common to lose track of tidiness after the rush of Christmas and New Year, however cleaning your space may reduce your stress levels and make you feel more contented to work at home.

Our advice would be to start small and take your time. You don’t need to rush and you can take breaks in between. If cleaning your space means tidying several rooms then don’t stress yourself by taking it all on at once, start in one corner of a room and progress from there.

If your mind is feeling a little muddled this Blue Monday, try tidying your space and see if your headspace feels tidier too.

Survival Tip #6 – Have a Cheap Day Out

Credit: Flickr

The festive period can be very hard on our bank accounts. One big source of unhappiness around this time of year is lack of money. It is very depressing having to turn down fun activities because of money problems, however, there are lots of ways in which you can enjoy yourself without a lot of money.

Some wonderful ideas for a cheap day out include, a trip to a museum or art gallery, a walk around your local botanical garden or a day out at the park.

Get yourself out of the house on Blue Monday and go enjoy some low-cost fun!

Whatever you decide to do this Blue Monday, please remember that it’s okay not to feel okay all of the time and there are always people you can speak to if you need a little support. Call Samaritans at any time on 116 123.

New Year, New You? Why 19% of us are likely to have given up on our New Year’s resolution by today

January 17 has been coined “Ditch your New Year’s resolution” day after studies showed it is the day people are most likely to have given up their January 1 self-improvement vow.

Most people tend to look towards improving themselves in traditional ways. These include working on their health and fitness along with saving money and reading more books.

So why do we still set New Year’s resolutions for ourselves year-in, year-out despite only a small amount of people sticking to them? A recent survey has revealed that only 19% of Britons are successful at keeping their resolutions.

If you have given up on your resolutions already then you are clearly not alone. We all have good intentions but these never seem to last very long.

EN4News spoke to psychological therapist Sara Huibregtse Van Loon to find out more about why we give up so easily and what the reasons for that are.

She says people make these goals with the knowledge that they might not actually succeed.

“It seems that that date [today] was set to give people a way out of their resolutions should they want it.”

When asked why people give up on their resolutions, Sara explained that people tend to pin too much hope on succeeding that they forget how challenging it is to actually do so:

“Long-term thinking requires a lot of discipline… we tend to underestimate task difficultly whilst over-estimating our ability to succeed at tasks.”

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(Infographic: Laura McCulloch)

Background and age can have an effect on how likely certain people are to succeed with their resolutions.

“Individual differences in personality, circumstances and life experiences are likely to play a large role,” Sara said.

However, it is important to note that there was no background information that Sara could give us to expand this further.

For Sara, it’s important that people set realistic goals that they are willing to physically work towards. She went onto explain that resolutions are often more superficial based:

“Resolutions, as opposed to other goals, tend to be focused towards achieving an ideal version of the self and with so much pressure on the resolution to create improvements in the way the person sees themselves, others and the world, the resolution even if stuck to, usually cannot live up to that – therefore, people can drop them quite easily.”

But how does failing impact upon our mental health? For some people, failure can take its toll on their mental wellbeing as they tend to take this failure to heart:

“We can easily fall prey to cognitive distortions or ‘thinking traps’ such as all-or-nothing thinking which is where, e.g. my resolution might be to switch to a plant-based diet, but then I eat some cheese and think – ‘that’s it – I’ve ruined it now, I may as well give up.’”

Latest controversy in ‘cruelty-free makeup’ adds to growing confusion around the ethics of beauty products

The UK spends over £3.2 billion on cosmetics every year. Cruelty-free makeup is one of the biggest areas of growth in the industry, with over 1300 brands being cruelty-free. Surely more and more brands making the effort to be more ethical can only be a good thing?

Cruelty-free makeup, in basic terms, is makeup that does not test on animals. When it’s said like that is sounds pretty simple, yet issues surrounding it makes it more complicated.

Depending on who you ask, people have different opinions on what classes as cruelty-free. Some brands like “Urban Decay” are cruelty-free, but the company that owns them – the parent company, “L’oreal”, is not. Some people believe that because of this “Urban Decay” is not cruelty-free, while others will argue it is as the brand does not test on animals.

The latest controversy involves cruelty-free makeup giant, Charlotte Tilbury, whose sales have reached £100 million, has been found to have “pop-up shops” in China. This is an issue because China the one country in the world where animal testing is mandatory.

The company has found a loophole, where they can showcase their products in beauty stores, but the customers can not purchase them in-store, they have to do so from an overseas website. This causes an issue because the products may still be tested on animals as testers, and makeup application is done in-store, which may happen if the Chinese authorities receive complaints on the products.

Charlotte Tilbury’s PR team was contacted for comment, but EN4 News is still waiting for a response.

The controversy ties into a bigger issue, which is the lack of transparency in the cruelty-free makeup industry. Many makeup brands try to avoid the question or try to trick people into thinking that brands don’t test on animals when they do.

On top of the increasing list of cruelty-free products, vegan makeup is on the rise. Vegan makeup means there are no animal-derived products in the make-up, lipstick is commonly made with beeswax, for example, but a vegan lipstick would be an animal-friendly alternative. However a brand can be vegan, yet still test on animals.

Photo Credit: Elise Kennedy

Cruelty-free brands can be identified but a rabbit logo that internationally is known as a cruelty-free logo, some brands use unofficial rabbit logos which can confuse consumers into thinking that the product is cruelty-free when it is not. This does not mean that if a brand does not have a rabbit logo on its products, it is not cruelty-free.

To help this there are websites such as Leaping Bunny which have full lists of makeup brands that have been officially verified as cruelty-free.

See below for a list of some of the many brands which are cruelty-free:

Photo Credit: Elise Kennedy

Vegan Winter Festival to be held In Glasgow this weekend

The Glasgow Vegan Winter Festival will be bringing 50 stalls of Vegan food and products to Glasgow Trade Halls this weekend.

The festival, hosted by VegfestUK, will be hosting cookery demos, world food caterers and inspirational talks from 10:30am until 4:30pm on the 23rd and 24th of November.

Entry is £3 per day, although VIP tickets are also on offer for £15 if you pre-book, which includes a goody bag of products, samples, and discounts. All ages are welcome to the event as they will also be running children’s activities throughout the day with under 16s getting free entry.

Vegfest has been hosting events across the UK for two decades. Since its fruition in Bristol in 2003, and with the rise of popularity of people choosing to live a more compassionate lifestyle, they have hosted over 40 events in cities such as Glasgow and London.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

They have also helped inspire other events, with most major cities hosting their own vegan festivals throughout the year, including a vegan camp out in Nottingham over the summer.

Whether you are vegan or keen to learn more, The Glasgow Vegan Winter Festival is a perfect day out for all. They will be showcasing the very best vegan foods and products including clothing, skincare, and jewellery from independent companies plus an array of entertainment and activities planned throughout both days.

Not only will the festival be promoting the vegan lifestyle and compassion for animals, it will also be taking a close look at the health and environmental aspects. In addition, the festival aims to reduce food waste and will be providing hot and cold meals to the homeless at the end of the event.

HOW TO MAKE BANGING MEAT-FREE CHICKEN FAJITAS

Do you love to eat meat but want to avoid adverse health effects and impact on the environment? Why not try our recipe for MEAT-FREE chicken fajitas! Follow the instructions down below or give our video a watch!

AIMEE’S MEAT FREE CHICKEN FAJITA RECIPE:

Serves 4+

You will need:

1 bag of Quorn Chicken Nuggets
1 onion, finely sliced
3 peppers, sliced

For the marinade:

1 tsp of paprika
1 tsp of coriander
1 tsp of cumin
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil

½ lime, juiced

To serve

8 medium tortillas
1 bag of spinach
1 tub of guacamole
1 tub of sour cream

To cook:

1. Once preheated, place the Quorn chicken in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
2. Chop 3 peppers and one large onion.
3. Crush or finely chop 1 clove of garlic.
4. Add the garlic and 2 tbsp of olive oil and mix.
5. Fry the peppers and the onion on medium heat until brown.
6. Add the seasoning mix and stir continuously.
7. Add the ‘chicken’ and stir until coated.
8. Place a handful of spinach in the middle of a large tortilla.
9. Spoon on the ‘chicken’, peppers and onion.
10. Add guacamole or sour cream if you wish.
11. Fold the tortilla and enjoy!

TIPS TO STAY HEALTHY ON A BUDGET

Credit: Aditya Birla Capital Ltd

As Christmas time looms and office parties and mince pies become part of our routines, our health dips a little.

Despite the impending present costs, keeping healthy – mentally and physically is still important.

Here are some tips for keeping in shape for a little cost.

THE WINTER LOOK BOOK

In our winter look book it’s all about layering; keeping warm and looking cool. Check it out below.

 

The weather is taking a turn and the time has come to update your wardrobe for the new season. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to do to perfect that winter look.

LAYER UP

Its getting to that point where one jumper just won’t cut it. Try to find combinations where you can wear more than one warm layer.

FIND THAT COAT

A winter wardrobe is built around a good coat. Try to find that coat that can be dressed up during the week and dressed down at the weekend. The right accessories can take a coat from office appropriate to party ready.

GET CREATIVE

Don’t be afraid t get creative and try to find new combinations to give the same old clothes a new leash of life. There might be some neglected pieces in your wardrobe that end up back in the regular rotation when you find a new way to wear them.

Will Instagram’s ban on self-harm images be enough to protect vulnerable users?

Earlier this week, Instagram announced that they were extending the ban of self-harm content to drawing and cartoons.

This follows their pledge in February to remove all graphic self-harm images from the website. This pledge was on the back of Instagram reviewing how safe they have kept their site for the community of vulnerable users.

Only a month before, the suicide of 14-year-old Molly Russell came to light. After Molly took her own life in 2017, her parents found she had viewed self-harm and suicide related content on her Instagram account. This could suggest her death was potentially influenced by viewing this content.

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Has Molly’s story changed social media? Find out tonight at 10pm on BBC news and online

A post shared by Molly Rose Foundation (@mollyrosefoundation) on

Poor mental health among young people is incredibly high. In a survey conducted by National Statistics UK in 2018, suicide in young males aged between 10-24 years old had risen to 9 deaths per 100,000 males in 2018. Moreover 3.3 young females per 100,000 lost their lives in 2018.

Also, according to MentalHealth.org, 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year. In further statistics, 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14; with 75% established by age 24.

In July 2019 it was recorded that, 37.2% of Instagram users were aged 13-24 years old. This means there is a large community of Instagram users can be considered vulnerable and at risk.

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Molly has not been the only person potentially influenced by self-harm content on Instagram. In January this year, 16-year-old Libby spoke to the BBC about being ‘hooked’ on ‘viewing’ and ‘posting’ self-harm content on Instagram when she was 12-years-old. She recalled sharing “pictures of her fresh cuts” to an audience of 8,000 followers.

Her dad Ian recalled comments underneath Libby’s posts saying: “You shouldn’t have done it this way, you should have done it like that. Don’t do it here, do it there because there’s more blood.”

It is frightening to think that other Instagram users, who are potentially in a vulnerable position themselves, were encouraging Libby to self-harm and put herself at risk.

What’s more frightening is that when the family attempted to report the posts, Instagram responded that the pictures did not breach the community standards.

“The standard reply of such content not infringing the platforms’ community guidelines is still too often received when complaints are made.”

Ian Russell, the father of Molly, founded the ‘Molly Rose Foundation’ after her death. The foundation’s aim is suicide prevention with a focus on young people under the age of 25. They seek to help those suffering from mental illness by giving advice and connecting them with help.

Ian Russell believes a short-term solution is for social media websites to put more focus in reviewing reported content: “I think it is vital for platforms to respond more effectively to their customers’ requests to remove any harmful content found as the standard reply of such content not infringing the platforms’ community guidelines is still too often received when complaints are made.”

Nine months on, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, announced how they will implement the removal of harmful drawings and memes: “We will no longer allow fictional depictions of self-harm or suicide on Instagram, such as drawings or memes or content from films or comics that use graphic imagery.”

“Accounts sharing this type of content will also not be recommended in search or in our discovery surfaces, like ‘Explore’.

However, from searching the Facebook owned app this week, it is clear there is still self-harm related content all over Instagram When searching the #selfharm tag and filtering the search to ‘accounts’ a number of accounts with triggering content pops up.

Whilst the pledge is a step in the right direction, Ian Russell is sceptical whether Instagram will follow through: “I think this is an important step forward and sets a lead that other platforms, who up until now have remained almost silent on this issue, to follow. However, it is very hard, from outside the tech corporations, to judge just how committed to the removal of harmful content Instagram really is.”

The biggest step Instagram has taken so far, is hiding posts that are categorized under the ‘#suicide’ tag. When you search the Instagram tag, it appears there are 8.4 million posts, but the results are concealed and instead, a ‘Get Support’ option appears.

This directs you to Instagram’s ‘Can We Help’ section of the website that gives you the opportunity to talk to someone or access information that other people have found supportive.

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Instagram claims that they have removed 834,000 pieces of content between April and June, with 77% being unreported by users. However, there are 95 million photos and videos shared on Instagram per day. Therefore, over the three-month period, Instagram only discovered an average of just over 9000 posts with dangerous content per day. This leaves room for millions of self-harm content being undiscovered by Instagram.

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 The only way that Instagram can find the dangerous content is through the posts being reported or the images being tagged with suicide related terms. Therefore, it is likely a lot of harmful content is being missed.

Ian Russell feels that Instagram’s current algorithm will not allow much improvement in protecting vulnerable users: “It is likely that sizeable improvements will only be made if the platforms’ algorithms are adapted to provide better protection and stop the dangerous spread of harmful content, it would be more beneficial if any development in this area is freely shared to ensure as widespread benefit as possible.”

 The risk to the wider body of users, including those who are vulnerable, should be balanced against any benefit this content may bring to other communities.”

Instagram says it will not remove all content relating to suicide due to some being recovery stories which can be a form of support for some users. However, what might count as support to some, might trigger other vulnerable users.

Whilst Ian Russell thinks all users should be considered, he feels that vulnerable users should have the focus to ensure they are protected: “The risk to the wider body of users, including those who are vulnerable, should be balanced against any benefit this content may bring to other communities.”

Ian Russell believes a synergy between tech companies, academics and charities will be the best solution to helping vulnerable users: “I think the tech companies should more openly work together with academics and charities in this field, to ensure as much as possible is being done and it is co-ordinated across the whole industry.”

With Instagram making a conscious effort to protect vulnerable users, there is hope that other social media platforms will follow in form and create a safe community for young people at risk.

Read more from lifestyle here: 

The scariest thing about Halloween is the waste!

Scottish islands among the happiest places to live in the UK

The scariest thing about Halloween is the waste!

The amount of plastic and pumpkin waste set to be produced this year is forming a very dark cloud over the Halloween festivities.

Environmental groups are warning people not to buy Halloween costumes this year and instead, make their own. This is due to the amount of plastic wasted produced every year.

There is also an alarming amount of pumpkin waste set to be recorded as around 10 million are grown each year, 95% of which end up carved into ghoulish faces. Of these 10 million, more than 8 million, the equivalent of 18,000 tonnes of edible flesh, will be discarded.

An estimated 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste is also projected this year, the equivalent of 83 million plastic bottles, as most Halloween costumes are made from Polyester, an oil-based plastic.

An investigation launched by HubBub, an environmental group that create fun and playful new ways to reduce waste and help save money, looked further into Halloween than most people to give advice on how we can enjoy the time of year, as well as help save the environment.

As a result, they have encouraged people to stay clear of buying new costumes and instead either make their own, or re-use ones from previous years, sparking a debate amongst shop owners and retailers. As for pumpkin waste, they have encouraged to keep leftover flesh to cook with in meals such as soup and pumpkin pie.

On the Hubbub website, there is a guide to eating, storingand disposing of pumpkins in a bid to reduce the amount of waste this year, with the majority of households throwing out the finished product, whereas there is a lot to be done with the leftovers.

I spoke to local costume shop worker, Zak Riding, from ‘Aha Ha Ha’ in the Grassmarket, about how the plea to boycott Halloween costumes will effect local Edinburgh shops and whether it will solve the waste problem:

“Anything that goes in the news generally effects small businesses over big ones. We’re usually the hardest hit as it’s easier to combat the smaller problems, over the bigger ones.”

“We tend to attract people who have a high income, as opposed to families with four kids, so it doesn’t affect these people as much – it hits the poorest the hardest.”

Most small local businesses rely on this time of year to make a profit as Zak says “Halloween is the thing that keeps us going.”

When asked about the materials used to make their costumes, Zak admitted most are made from Polyester as there’s no getting around the problem, “our costumes are 95% polyester, but most of the time people buy one a year, the same as parents buying kids a new school uniform every year which is also made from polyester.”

“Once the bigger problems such as renewable energy and reusable cups are solved then maybe replacing the polyester in our costumes with cotton can be looked at – I don’t think boycotting Halloween costumes is the way forward.”

Zak also said that none of the left-over costumes in his shop are thrown away, “We keep everything for next year and recycle what we can, such as the plastic and cardboard packaging.”

This begs the question; what will you be doing with your leftover costume and pumpkin waste this year? check out our article from last week with exciting pumpkin recipes!

Here are some ideas for what to do with your pumpkin waste:

Read more from lifestyle here:

Scottish islands among the happiest places to live in the UK

Will Instagram’s ban on self-harm images be enough to protect vulnerable users?

 

Scottish islands among the happiest places to live in the UK

Scottish Island Inforgraphic

Infographic by: Laura McCulloch

Despite suffering severe weather and being cut off from the mainland, Scottish islands have been reported as the happiest places to live in the UK, according to new data released by the Office for National Statistics.

The annual ‘personal well-being in the UK’ report asks people to rank their happiness, anxiety and life satisfaction of where they live.

The highest rated areas included the Western Isles, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands. These locations all reported consistently high ratings of personal well-being since March 2012.

Shetland recorded particularly high levels of happiness over the past seven years.

Twenty Year old, Jacob Eunson explains why Shetland will always be his home:

“The scenery here is fantastic and the people are extremely nice. Unless something was to drastically change, Shetland will always be my home,” said Jacob.

He explained that safety and community were key reasons as to why he finds contentment on this remote island.

“It’s such a safe place, I never have to worry about where I’m going. We don’t experience knife crime or issues that are faced in the cities, so it’s nice not having to watch my back.”

“Shetland also has a strong connection between the younger and older generations. Since it’s an Isle we all depend on each other. Young people get involved to help keep the community and economy going,” added Jacob.

Shetland

Views of Shetland

518 miles South West from Shetland sits the untouched corner of the inner Hebrides. The Isle of Jura is where Amy Dunnachie grew up, before moving to the mainland to study silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art. After graduating, Amy said goodbye to her life in the city and returned to the coastline she calls home.

“I always knew I wanted to come back to Jura at some point. The community spirit here is phenomenal. People are very passionate and proud to be living here and I for one am proud to say it is where I belong”.

isle of jura

The Isle of Jura is a close community

Currently working as a community development and youth development officer, Amy works between the Isle of Isla and Isle of Jura. Her work has allowed her to appreciate the importance of community on an island where only 200 permanent residents live.

8.2% of Jura’s population is made up of 16 – 29 year olds. According to Amy the peaceful, friendly atmosphere is preventing the younger generation from moving elsewhere.

“One of the best things about living on an island with a small community is that you are friends with everyone no matter what their age; I have friends aged from 16 – 94. A lot of people here have a great sense of humour and our thriving social calendar helps connect everyone on the Island.”

To read more on the 2019 UK well-being report follow the link below:

https://michaellaffey.co.uk/oct-2019-ons-report-personal-well-being-in-the-uk/

If visiting Shetland or the Isle of Jura is on your bucket list, follow the links below for more information: 

https://www.shetland.org/live/live-here

https://www.shetland.org/live

https://www.thechaoticscot.com/isle-of-jura/

https://isleofjura.scot/isle-of-jura-tour/

Read more lifestyle here:

The scariest thing about Halloween is the waste!

Will Instagram’s ban on self-harm images be enough to protect vulnerable users?

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