Mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological and social well-being, and can bear an unfathomable impact on not only your day-to-day but also your physical health, too. Poor mental health can be debilitating, as the stresses, anxieties, as well as countless other issues it can stir, can cause even what could be deemed as the smallest of things, the most daunting tasks.
The survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing in England found one in six people aged 16 and over experience symptoms of common mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety.
Travelling while suffering with these anxieties can make the whole trip much harder than it would usually be. But after three lockdowns and endless Covid-compounded restrictions in Britain forcing the nation to recluse, many are naturally feeling overwhelmed now restrictions have lifted.
As Mental Health Awareness Week kick starts on May 9, Express.co.uk spoke to experts to find out some good ways to help those suffering from travel anxiety to make trips much more bearable.
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Bring some paper with you on your travels
Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding and apart from the enjoyment of exploring the creative possibilities, it has been shown to promote relaxation and creative thinking.
Origami Party London told Express.co.uk: “The ancient practice helps the brain to quieten and facilitates a calmer emotional state. As with other mindfulness practices, doing origami encourages living in the moment, thereby helping to lessen the effects of stress or anxiety.
“Origami is a fantastic ‘gateway’ to meditation as it puts you ‘back into your body’ whilst still engaging, and stimulating, your hands and brain.”
A simple piece of paper can provide an accessible means of introducing a meditative practice to everyday life that you can genuinely enjoy.
The Origami Party London experts said: “Travelling can be a stressful time, so take a step back and let off some steam by picking up a piece of paper and practising different folds.
From Amazon to Waterstones and Etsy, you can pick up origami kits from a number of places that come with good paper and instructions.
Knit your way through the journey
Knitting is a particularly good activity to calm the mind and boost mental health as it offers improved mental focus and concentration – as well as a great sense of achievement.
Wool Winders told Express.co.uk: “[Knitting] enhances your dexterity, coordination and motor skills and improves problem-solving skills.
“In fact, a study conducted by Love Knitting discovered that the health benefits of knitting include lowered blood pressure, distraction from chronic pain, reduced anxiety, and slowed the onset of dementia. “
“Knitting is renowned for promoting social connections which in turn is helping to beat the recent loneliness crisis.”
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme focuses on loneliness, as many have suffered monumentally from this through the pandemic.
Wool Winders continued: “During the pandemic lockdowns, many turned to crafting and getting to know other knitters – we guarantee there are some already in your social circles.
“Knitting is something calm to get on with in the midst of the stress of travelling, but remember to keep it simple If you struggle with distractions.
“Take an easy project without too much detail or pattern instruction for your journey. You’ll be able to relax and focus on your task even more!”
Consider disconnecting from social media and pick up a book
Social media can be a great method to connect with people, switch off, and entertain yourself. However, prolonged time spent on these apps can be detrimental to mental health.
Online fitness and mind coach James Middleton said: “Large amounts of time spent on social media can lead to a decrease in mood, due to the constant comparing to other people and self-judgement as a result.
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While travelling, Mr Middleton said: “Try to limit the amount of time you spend on social media platforms and instead practice mindful activities such as reading a book.”
Practice mindfulness and live ‘in the now’
Mindfulness is an incredibly powerful tool when used in the right way.
Mr Middleton said: “So much of our lives are spent rushing around but also re-living what’s happened or thinking about the future.
“But if you can practice and focus on being as present as possible and living ‘in the now’, you will feel more control of what you’re doing and your thoughts.
“Learning to always bring your attention back to the present moment can massively improve your mood and overall happiness.”
Mental health charity Mind provides some excellent mindfulness tips to help you practice, here.
Take a trip on the LNER Wellness Train
London North Eastern Railway (LNER) found two-thirds of Britons (66 percent) believe it’s important to take time while travelling to switch off from “everyday noise” and to focus on their mental health, and over half of these Britons (53 percent) name rail as the most relaxing mode of transport.
If you’re hoping to ease yourself back into travel, a long train journey could be a good prescription, and if you need one with motivational activities to keep you going, the LNER Wellness Train could be a good option.
The LNER Wellness Train is a dedicated service to mindfulness and well-being and offers unique experiences to explore crafts, mindfulness and wellbeing in each carriage of the train.
Mr Middleton told Express.co.uk: “The idea behind the LNER Wellness Train is just this.
“We all know travelling can be a stressful time for everyone whether it be train, plane or car and so taking the time to focus on something else such as origami or knitting – proven anxiety relievers – can help for a smoother and more relaxing journey.”
Kate McFerran, director of communications at LNER said: “Our research shows there is a well-established link between wellbeing and train travel.
“Our teams often share some of the creative activities they see our customers getting up to, whether that’s knitting a scarf, writing, enjoying some games onboard or doing some mindful colouring.
“Experience shows us there is a huge amount of enjoyment to be found in making the most of a journey when travelling by train.
“It’s about so much more than just getting to your destination, but making the most of a relaxing environment to indulge in activities that enhance your sense of wellbeing.
“We hope the Wellness Train provides inspiration for train travellers by demonstrating some of the activities that can be easily and conveniently enjoyed onboard.”
Customers can purchase tickets here, with experiences starting from £50.
Mr Middleton said: “For anyone starting their own wellbeing journey, remember to enjoy the process.
“Don’t focus too much on the end goal and instead pour your efforts into being one percent better every day. Little goals that are within reach will motivate you to keep going.”