Do you know what is happening in March?

‘Exercise not only changes your body, it changes your mind, your attitude and your mood’.

Oft quoted (but never with a source!) this phrase sums up the ethos of University Mental Health Day which falls next week on Thursday 2nd March.  The links between mind and body have been known for generations, but all too often we forget about how important it is to keep active when stress levels rise, and deadlines creep ever closer.  It can feel much easier to hunker down with supplies of Red Bull, chocolate and takeaways to get through the piles of work, rather than to waste/spend time going for a run, an exercise class, or even just a walk around the lake.  However, the benefits of physical activity for keeping adrenaline and cortisol levels in check definitely makes up for the loss of thirty minutes study-time – and let’s face it, most of us probably spend that much time on social media every day!

If you would like some inspiration on how to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine, or even be convinced about the mind-body links and the way that exercise can also promote mental well-being, keep your eye out for all of the activities that Student Wellbeing, the SportsPark and RUSU are organising over the first week of March.  This link is a great first port of call:

Over the next week, if you do anything active, why not take a photo and upload it to the University’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages using the hashtag #UoRGetActive – there is a £50 Blackwells voucher for 1st prize, as well as a month’s free membership at the SportsPark and 2 x £20 Unique Fruits vouchers which can be spent at the weekly fruit and vegetable market in ThreeSixty.  (T&C apply).

As part of our awareness raising campaign, we are also really thrilled to be able to host “knockout” guest speaker and sporting legend Frank Bruno MBE on Wednesday 1 March.  Frank Bruno will be here to talk about his own well-documented struggle with mental illness and how sport has helped him through difficult times.

If you would like to meet Frank in person, get a cheeky Selfie with him, or build up a sweat for a good cause in our charity SuperCircuits, put WEDNESDAY 1st March in your diary.  Frank will be leading Super Circuits at the SportsPark from 1-2pm, and then will be heading on over to the Van Emden Lecture theatre in HUMSS from 2-3pm to engage in a lively discussion hosted by two Film & Theatre students, with an opportunity for questions from the floor.  Both events do need registering for, so please either visit the SportsPark website:  or follow the links on the Essentials pages.

Photo Copyright Getty Images

“Know what I mean, ‘Arry?”

How long did you keep your New Year resolution?

spring crocus

New Year is a time for resolutions – but how are you doing with keeping them?

Did you make a New Year resolution this year?  How are you doing with keeping it?  Not good?  Don’t worry – you aren’t alone!  While 75% of people manage to keep resolutions through the entire first week of January, in the longer term the numbers fall off alarmingly!

New Year Resolutions started many years ago.  In ancient times, the Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts – both good resolutions to make –  while the Romans made promises to the god ‘Janus’ after whom the month of January is named.  In the past, I too have made well intentioned resolutions at the start of a New Year.  Like many people I have had great ambitions to make changes to my life.  In a survey of the top 10 New Year Resolutions undertaken by an American university, Resolutions ranged from the more obvious – lose weight, getting organised, spending less and saving more  to  the slightly less usual such as ‘helping others in achieving their dreams’.

So what constitutes a good New Year’s resolution?  It’s all about trying to break bad habits and this is bound to be difficult isn’t it?  Perhaps the problem is that most people try to set too many resolutions or alternatively make ones which they are unlikely to achieve.


now you’re back for the spring term, new year resolutions might feel harder to keep

It might be that now you are back for the spring term, you are finding it hard to keep your own New Year resolutions – but don’t give up just yet.  Research shows that people in their 20’s are far better at achieving their resolution each year than people over the age of 50.  Possibly the problem is more to do with the difficult changes you are trying to make?   Perhaps you could do with a few tips to help you keep going?

I asked some of the Student Wellbeing staff if they had any helpful ideas for achieving positive change after the break.  I asked them to base their advice on the types of issues which they talk about with students coming in for Counselling and Wellbeing appointments.  Here are a few of their suggestions which you might like to try out:

  • Be modest in your ambitions – don’t set yourself unrealistic targets such as going to the gym three times a week if you’ve never set foot in one before! This is going to be disappointing if you can’t follow through.  Think instead about more realistic targets such as walking to town more often rather than catching the bus, using the stairs in the Oracle Shopping Centre rather than the escalator.

    why not try walking into town rather than taking the bus!

    why not try walking into town rather than taking the bus!

  • If you are struggling to keep going on your own, perhaps ask a mate to join with you – for example exercising together, stopping smoking together – it’s much easier to keep resolutions if they’re shared.
  • And if the resolution is falling by the wayside and you are starting to feel negative…one way of focusing on positive changes is to make a conscious effort to acknowledge the positive in your life every day. It’s very easy to reflect on negatives e.g. I should have gone to the gym, I shouldn’t have eaten all that pizza, why didn’t I say ‘no’?  Focus on what you can do next time to keep you going.  Try again.  Experiment by allocating a bit of time every day to notice positive things eg. it didn’t rain today, I had an alcohol-free day, my bank balance is looking healthy for a change!

All the best for the coming year and good luck with any resolutions you might have made.


Cultivating Positivity for the new academic year

Here we are, a new term, a fresh start. So how can we make the most of this opportunity, to feel fit, happy, healthy and productive for this academic year?students at a cafe

Cultivating a Feel-good Mindset

Everything we think, say and do creates a feedback loop of positivity or negativity in our lives. Try using positive language when you speak to others and even with the thoughts in your head. Feel thankful for the smallest of lovely things, a funny message from a friend, the ducks swimming on the lake, if we notice the good things along the way we can add to our list of ‘Gratitudes’ for the day, increasing positivity.

feel thankful for the smallest of lovely things...... the ducks swimming on the lake

feel thankful for the smallest of lovely things…… the ducks swimming on the lake

Positive Action

Any small action can make a difference. Ask for help, seek wise advice, do 20 minutes of your academic work, or 20 minutes of exercise. Focus on what you can do today and let go of things you can’t fix. All these actions will help to reduce stress.

Avoid ‘The Voice of Futility’

We all have a critic in our head that can sabotage our peace of mind and even our motivation to do things. Remind yourself that this is just a negative thought, it’s not a fact. Notice any small good thing as evidence against it. Whether you’ve managed to speak to a new potential friend, gone for a walk in the fresh air, or spent half an hour in the Library starting that new assignment, these are reasons to celebrate how you’re proactively contributing to the positivity in your life.

Creativity: your BFF

If you’re faced with an issue or a problem that’s difficult to resolve, try using your creativity to come up with a different way of finding a solution. Draw a mind-map or write a pros and cons list, distract yourself with a creative activity like drawing, photography or music for a short time, then return to the issue with a clear and open mind.

Mind your body

Your physical health is vital – so take some exercise that you enjoy

Your physical health is vital in your quest to feel positive and happy in your life. So brush up on your cooking skills and try some delicious, healthy, balanced meals. Drink plenty of water. Take some exercise that you enjoy, whether it’s walking, a team sport or a dance class. A good night’s sleep can be a challenge at Uni, but a healthy routine is the foundation of your mental and physical health.

The tools work if we use them, so have a go and enjoy your year.

Eat well to ‘Boost your Brainpower’

At this time of year when you are studying hard, your good intentions to eat healthily can often slide way down your list of priorities. It’s all too easy to get into the habit of drinking coffee or high sugar drinks and ordering take-away pizza, because you don’t want to waste time on food preparation. However research shows that good regular nutrition is all part of a successful study plan because it enables you to perform at your best.

try to eat a piece of fruit every day to boost your brain power

try to eat a piece of fruit every day to boost your brain power

We’ve all heard about the benefits of starting the day with a good nutritious breakfast, however this is very often the meal that is skipped due to time constraints. It is so vital to start the day with some protein, calcium, fibre, fruit or vegetables, which might sound difficult, but is actually very easy. For example, a bowl of cereal with milk and a piece of fruit would do the trick or a piece of toast with peanut butter and a banana. Alternatively if you are short on time, try a cereal bar, a glass of milk and an apple or whiz up a smoothie in a blender (see recipe below), these can be eaten ‘on the go’ and are full of nutrients to kick start your body and mind.

It is also worth knowing that certain foods are ‘Stress-busters’ and can help to boost your resilience. These include: Zinc which is found in lean meat, eggs, yoghurt, cheese, whole wheat, popcorn, nuts and seeds; Vitamin C which is found in all fruit and vegetables; B Vitamins found in Whole-grains, Marmite, yoghurt, beans and avocado; and Magnesium found in dark leafy vegetables, grapefruit, sweetcorn, nuts and seeds, raisins, carrots and tomatoes.

dark green veg such as spinach and kale are full of  magnesium and vitamin C

dark green veg such as Swiss chard, spinach and kale are full of magnesium and vitamin C

By incorporating these nutritious foods into your diet, you will be not only feel more energetic and able to focus, but will be boosting your brain power and mental health.

So, why not challenge yourself to make eating more healthily part of your study plan for 2016, if you start now you will give yourself the best chance to feel motivated and energised for the rest of this academic year and for the upcoming exams in the summer… Go on it’s worth a try!


Breakfast Smoothie

Serves 1

1 banana – cut into 4 pieces

Frozen berries – 1 handful

Pineapple (tinned) – 2 dessert spoonsful

Water – 1 small cup

Plain Yoghurt – 2 dessert spoonsful


Put all of the above and blitz till smooth, then drink and enjoy!

January’s Promises to Self!

January the 1st is, for the Western World, the beginning of a New Year and an opportunity to review events and achievements from the past year and to plan how we would like this year to go. How many of us have made promises to ourselves in the past only to find that we were not able to keep them for very long at all! This is called “being human” so we have all done this at some point.

Returning to University, lectures, seminars and deadlines can feel a bit harder in winter due to the well- known tendency to Hibernate like bears or dormice during the colder, darker weeks of the Christmas break.  Here are some ideas to help get your motivation up and running again:

Mindful Decluttering
A tidy space to live and study in helps you to focus more effectively and once it’s done you will use far less time on looking for lost things and having distracting thoughts about needing to tidy up. Perhaps your living space could do with a bit of rearranging so that you have clear study and living areas? The Chinese art of Feng Sui teaches us that you can increase positive harmonious effects by having clear energy paths in our environment thus decluttering the mind at the same time.

working in a tidy living space can make a real difference

working in a tidy living space can make a real difference

Study Habits
We can all get into some pretty stuck habits sometimes and this can apply to studying too. Do you have some study habits that need a bit of a shake up? Things like leaving writing up until the last minute? Or maybe you have that habit of trying to study throughout the night and then feeling exhausted for days afterwards? Would a change of scenery help the creative process, maybe finding a different place to study will give you a different outlook?

Healthy Eating
The winter period, previously referred to as Hibernation, can be a time when it’s tempting to eat more unhealthy foods such as snacks, cake and chocolates. Each food we eat has a different effect on our mind as well as body and so trying to switch back to brain foods such as oily fish, whole grain rice and breads and fruits such as blueberries and blackberries can help you feel mentally and physically energised. Maybe agree with some flatmates that you will cook interesting and healthy meals together a couple of times a week?


Too much or too little? Maybe you have always wanted to join a particular club or group but something has got in the way or held you back, perhaps now could be a good opportunity to give it a go. You will never know if it’s for you if you don’t give it a try. Or perhaps you have the opposite problem, being easily derailed from essential tasks by the lure of the night out! Easily done we know. Perhaps this term is the time to be selective in the options you take up. You might enjoy the events even more if you know you have done all the other things you need to as well.

Just some suggestions for promises to Self, no one has to know unless you want them too ! Spring is approaching, the days will get longer and all hibernators can emerge refreshed and energised for the new year !New Term Promises to self picture