Recently, the team at mark-making* embarked on an epic 13-mile hike along the Cotswold Way, raising awareness and money for mental health charity, CALM.
It was a chance to step away from our screens, and enjoy each other’s company in stunning surrounds. A true breath of fresh air!
Along the way, we set ourselves a creative challenge – to answer the question: What does ‘’Tis the season to be Kind to your Mind’ mean to each of us?
Check out our responses below and take a moment to think about how you can be kind to your own mind this Christmas.
Seems a little strange to be talking about the power of the great outdoors on a cold and dreich November evening, but here I am. I’ve always been pretty open about my struggles with mental health and although I feel like I’m in a much better place it can often feel like well, today, overcast to say the least.
But how do I overcome this and what does ’Tis the season to be kind to your mind look like to me? It means giving myself the chance to stop, take a moment, to listen, to talk and to care for myself and the ones I love the most. For me that means pulling on the wellies, donning the waterproofs, squeezing my head into a red bobble hat with an Asterix stitched into the front, but most importantly lugging around a carrier to hold a certain young William.
Whatever your plans for Christmas please check in on those around you. You might just be the ray of sunshine they’ve been looking for.
The relationship between art and mental health has been well established. It helps combat stress and pain by releasing the feel-good hormones. It transforms you into a more positive, happy person.
I find it very relaxing. I enjoy painting because it is one of the few things I am good at and can be proud of. I have been painting since I left Art College in the 90s and have always loved it. It certainly helped me during lockdown.
So why did I paint this? My social media feeds are packed with artists. I’ve seen plenty of mushrooms, so I thought I’d give it a go. There weren’t many on our walk, but this character stood out. I’ve tried to produce an accurate painting using gouache (opaque watercolour).
Art is good for you, whoever. You are. The people who get the most out of art are the ones who make them.
A place to…
Everyone needs a place.
A place to think, to feel, or just to breathe. A place to say hello to loved ones passed, and goodbye to current troubles.
A place by the sea, on a park bench, or a fire-side chair, your place can be anywhere. Indoors or outdoors, rain or shine, happy or sad, it’s a place that’s yours, and to sometimes share.
Like a best friend, your place will always be there for you. It will never ask where you’ve been, only how you are doing.
It’s somewhere to walk, to run, to read, or just to sit. Somewhere to make memories, plans, friends or sometimes, to make amends.
Find your place, and visit it often.
We did it, in glorious sunshine! How lucky were we all? This is my happy place, walking in the countryside, rain or shine, in great company. I was often at the back, marvelling in the delights of my surroundings. Sights, smells, animals, trees, berries, grass, mud, stones and the harmony of it all, breathing it all in. I physically ached the following day, but my mind was rested and restored. Just marvellous.
A Walk with Deer Friends
Not only was this a chance to support a thoroughly worthy cause, it was also my opportunity to get to know my new mm* colleagues. And it proved a fantastic day.
The trek was set against the backdrop of a glaring winter sun which – given that it was flanked on both sides by days of squalling rain – seemed to me like pure magic.
I resolved to capture this magic as a snow globe which represents the friendship, kindness and togetherness that the walk epitomised.
It was a day where new friendships were born and old ones were celebrated. Along the way, we also came across a host of animal amigos. And from equine to bovine, duck to deer, each one seemed touched by the mm* magic.
Well done team mm*. And continue to be kind to your minds.
One day, 33,091 steps
Christmas for a lot of us can be very stressful. This year mark making decided to change the norm and concentrate on mental well-being by taking part in the Lost Hours Walk in support of the Campaign Against Living Miserably.
As one of the mark making team I jumped at the chance to participate, for me walking has been my way of finding some inner calm. The past few years have been quite challenging so in 2019 I embarked on my challenge to walk at least 10,000 steps per day. Walking allows me to clear my head, enjoy my surroundings and break my sat-at-my-desk all-day routine.
Our Lost Hours Walk along 13 glorious miles of the Cotswold Way from Wood Stanton to Chipping Campden was not an easy walk as we faced two challenging climbs, Shenberrow hill and Broadway Tower both climbs of 1.25 miles. Hills have always been my nemesis and I would like to thank the rest of the mm team for their encouragement and support. The walk took us about 6 hours and at the end of the day I was amazed that I had walked 33,091 steps. Definitely my best-recorded walk and the one that took me to a total of 5 million steps since I began in 2019.
Christmas can be the time of year when things get a bit heavy – there’s the expectations of buying gifts and making sure that you’ve seen all of your relatives dotted all over the country. All of this whilst coupled with a really busy end of working year can mean a bit of an imbalance in terms of what needs to be done and what’s realistic.
Being kind to my mind is all about taking a step back from all of that and focussing on what matters most. Spending time with my family at home or being out for walks and being around nature. The mm* walk was a great example of taking that step back and embracing the great outdoors which we have around us. I take those moments to just pause and reflect on the day(s) events and remember to breathe. Seeing my dog, Indi, running around like an absolute loon without a care in the world reminds me to just enjoy the small moments in life and to remember that the stresses of Christmas will very quickly be gone and past.
I’ve always had an anxious mind, I worry about everything and let my mind run down all types of avenues. A few years ago, a very good friend of mine – witnessing said spiral – said to me, “What does worrying achieve? What can you do about it?”, it was a few simple words but they made the difference. When my mind starts to spiral, I stop. Breathe. And think “What can I do about this?”. If nothing then it tells me my worrying won’t achieve anything and as the old adage goes “what will be, will be”, and if I can do something about it then I can act instead of worrying. So that’s what T’is the season to be kind to yourself means to me, take the direct route, don’t spiral, breathe!
While my fellow mark-makers* were out conquering the Cotswolds, my trek took a slightly different path… For me, it wasn’t so much a #LostHoursWalk – but gained hours with my Mum, amid the stunning scenery of the Jurassic Coast.
Bracketed by days of lashing rain, we were met with glorious sunshine as we walked over sand and stones, up hills and across cliffs. Although I now live in Oxfordshire, Lyme Regis, and my family, will always be “home” for me – so our walk was a comforting mix of the familiar, and a
delightful discovery of the previously unexplored (and the long forgotten).
Although our bodies were protesting by the end, I’m so glad we had the chance to spend the day rambling together (in more ways than one), and I look forward to doing so again…
An amazing day for a great cause.
The stresses of everyday life can cause your thoughts, cares, worries and problems to become entangled into one big messy knot – much like the Christmas tree lights everyone is trying desperately to untangle at this time of year. So for me, The Lost Hours Walk – and any walk in the great outdoors for that matter – is a perfect chance to unravel the jumble that is my brain. It was a chance to straighten out my priorities and create a neat and ordered understanding of everything in my mind. After a good walk (usually with a four-legged friend in tow), the sky is a little clearer and those worries I had are now nothing more than bridges I’ll never need to cross.
What does ’Tis the season to be kind to your mind mean to me?
Despite what the TV advertisements would have us think, it’s normal to feel more than usually anxious and despondent at this time of year. For me personally Christmas hasn’t been the same since the passing of my dad in 1997. Yep, that’s right – for over 25 years my Christmas has been defined by who is missing from the table on Christmas Day.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. My advice on how to be kind to your mind this Christmas is in the acceptance of your ‘normal’ and to not compare that to a perfect illusion created by social media and TV ads. To make the most of the people you share your time with, whether you’re related to them or not – as it’s often these people that turn out to have the best impact on our lives and wellbeing.
Summed up perfectly by Billy Mack to his manager Joe in Love Actually:
“It’s a terrible mistake, Chubs, but you turn out to be the love of my life. And to be honest, despite all my complaining, we have had a wonderful life.”
Despite being book-ended by weeks of gloomy weather, the day of our Lost Hours Walk heralded the most glorious Autumnal sunshine. As the sun split through the leaves it reminded me of the Japanese art known as Kintsugi – where broken objects are repaired with gold lacquer. These objects are then treasured and embraced for being more beautiful than before thanks to (not despite) their ‘imperfections’.
Maybe we should all embrace our imperfections, whatever they may be, and see them as our own golden lacquer; highlighting our life story. Imperfections should be gifts to work with, not shames to be hidden.
Be it gazing at shafts of golden sunshine through colourful Autumn leaves, marvelling at glittering golden lacquer or enjoying a golden cuppa with a friend, please be kind to your mind this Christmas.
To quote Leonard Cohen, “there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”.
What does ’Tis the season to be kind to your mind mean to you?
As well as being full of fun and frivolity, Christmas can be an overwhelming time for many – and I’m no exception. The pressure to spend and enjoy time with loved ones, make the grade with perfectly selected gifts, decorate the house so that it meets sufficient standards of sparkliness, play hostess with the mostest to neighbours and friends, and attend school performances, fayres, and fundraising events – all while maintaining focus and energy at the end of a busy work year (phew!) – means the level of expectation often feels higher than what is realistically (and healthily) possible.
This is where being kind to your mind comes in and my inspiration is my daughter Ruby. For me, she represents all that’s good about Christmas. Her excitement bordering on hysteria, her considered preparations for Santa, her more-is-more approach to… well, almost everything, and her unquestioning belief that you can buy a magical elf from Amazon! Christmas and the joy of children go hand in hand. And when I put Ruby before anything else – particularly my own or others’ expectations of me – my mind rests much more happily.
The beautiful thing about walking, is that it takes you to the places you want to go.