5 A Day ~ For Mind As Well As Body

The NHS has added a 5 A Day for your mind to the now fairly well understood theory about 5 A Day fruit and veg. I am not sure when this was introduced to the general wellbeing lexicon, but I rather like it.


The origins of the 5 A Day fruit and veg campaign are a bit unclear. Some argue it all started in the orange- growing fields of California but Ken Kizer was director of the US State Department for Health Services back then . He says that it wasn’t a case, as some have claimed, of fruit and vegetable growers looking for new markets, but a mutually beneficial venture for industry and public health policy.

“It didn’t originate from the agricultural community. It just so happens that when we reached out to them and pointed out this would help them, they got onboard and became enthusiastic partners.”

In the UK there is evidence it was mentioned as far back as the 1980s.

Whatever the history, in 2003 the World Health Organisation launched a worldwide campaign to promote the importance of having 400g of fruit and veg per day which could prevent cardiovascular disease, some cancers and stroke. Since then, many countries have marketed the idea; Australia have adopted a 2&5 policy (2 portions of fruit + 5 of veg which sounds eminently sensible); Canada, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and Norway are all in on it.

Does it work? Well it works at Bee HQ and does seem to have entered the minds of the generation who were at school when it was first heavily promoted in schools here in the UK. Of course it is a target – the campaign in Australia is called “Go For 2 & 5″  and in NZ they add a ‘+’ into the equation (5 + A Day) showing an impressive optimism.

Naturally fruit and veg producers have got in on the marketing act, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. However I think the jury is out as to whether it works.

The government’s former chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, says he thinks it has been partially successful so far.

The middle classes did listen, and the supermarkets listened and they tend to respond to the middle class consumer particularly.

I think it’s been less successful in reaching the disadvantaged communities where those levels of fruit and vegetables were already low.

So now we have a 5 A day for mental health:


Be Active

Keep learning

Give To Others

Be Mindful

five ways to wellbeing

Food for thought. I like it ~ will it work? Let’s see

Annie Bee x

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Gardening For Health

Hello all

After a month or so away from my blog, here I am, in the middle of winter, writing about gardening! Mind you, with El Niño giving us the mildest of autumns in the UK (not to mention very wet), the gardening calendar is slightly confused. Here in the ‘burbs, we have blossom out, sodden lawns and a smattering of snow. Nature will cope, although there are bound to be knock-on effects during the next few seasons.

I have gardened here for 15 years; when we moved in, it was, in effect, a blank slate. A few shrubs, a couple of roses, a grotty path leading to a half-collapsed shed, and rat-infested compost heaps, allowed us to landscape and plant (with help of course) the garden we wanted. I have learnt many things over the years:

  1. Looking from the house and wondering where to start to get a grip on problems is not going to solve anything: get your boots and gardening gloves on, grab some tools and get to work.
  2. If you do need help, ask. Don’t let the garden go: it will not sort itself out. As Rudyard Kipling said, “Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade”.
  3. Don’t keep plants which are wrong for the conditions or are in the wrong place. Move them, give them away or compost them. A garden is a dynamic beast.
  4. First and foremost, take care of the soil.
  5. If you have the space and can afford it, get a greenhouse. Growing from seed (which can of course be done in the house) takes gardening to a whole new level.

” A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust” ~ Gertrude Jekyll.

It is good for the body and soul. Therapeutic gardening is an old concept; hospitals have a long history of providing gardens for patients and in recent times there has been research to show that horticulture offers many benefits. One of the best known gardening charities in the UK is Thrive, which started in 1978. They use gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people living with disabilities or ill health, or who are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable. Benefits include

  • Better physical health through exercise and learning how to use or strengthen muscles to improve mobility
  • Improved mental health through a sense of purpose and achievement
  • The opportunity to connect with others – reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion
  • Acquiring new skills to improve the chances of finding employment
  • Just feeling better for being outside, in touch with nature and in the ‘great outdoors’

Who needs a gym membership when there is a garden to get stuck into? If you don’t have a garden: volunteer in one, or help a neighbour, look into guerrilla gardening, read some gardening books, dream about spring sowing.

Ultimate greenhouse

On what has been billed ‘Blue Monday’ (apparently today is the most depressing day of the year) you could do worse than to get out into a garden, be mindful of the beauty, listen to the birds and get moving.

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Annie Bee x

Is It Time To Get On The Mindfulness Bus?


When various funding bodies in the UK decide to spend £6.4m on research into whether mindfulness might have a positive impact on school children, it is time to see what effect it can have on me.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years, mindfulness will be a word you are familiar with. Newspapers, magazines, blogs, social media and cool, hip people are all across this seemingly new phenomenon. In fact, it is not new at all, being based on an essential element of Buddhist practice thousands of years old, but was popularised in 1994 with a book which is now called “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation For Everyday Life” written by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The NHS say mindfulness can help improve your mental wellbeing and plenty of current research appears to show mindfulness has positive effects.

So what is it? The no-nonsense Dr Dillner, who does a series of helpful health articles in The Guardian (Dr Dillner ) explains it thus:

Mindfulness works by promoting living in the moment – focusing on and, if possible, enjoying what you are doing now, rather than worrying about anything in the future.


Here in the UK, one of the most popular exponents of mindfulness is Andy Puddicombe. He left Uni in the middle of a Sports Science degree to head to Asia to become a monk (as you do). At 22 he found himself studying meditation full-time, journeying from monastery to monastery in countries including Nepal, India, Burma, Thailand, Australia and Russia. He launched his company, Headspace, in 2010 and has since written 3 books. His Ted Talk video is worth a look: Ted Talk

I don’t wish to over-simplify the subject, but here is a very brief outline on what I have gleaned so far.

There are 3 main components to the Headspace mindfulness proposition:

  • how to approach the technique
  • how to practice it
  • learning to integrate the techniques into everyday life

In Andy Puddicombe’s words, the book I have read (“Get Some Headspace)” is essentially

….. about training in awareness and understanding how and why you think and feel the way you do and getting a healthy sense of perspective in the process. Mindfulness means to be present, in the moment, undistracted. It implies resting the mind in its natural state of awareness, which is free of any bias or judgement. Headspace describes an underlying sense of peace, a feeling of fulfilment or unshakeable contentment, no matter what emotion might be in play at that time.

mindfulness stonesSo far, so zen.

There are plenty of claims for the benefits: improved memory, better attention span, more compassionate behaviour, helping depression, improving sleep. The research into school children (Mindfulness Research For Teenagers ) will take a total of 7 years. Sessions will include a practice known as “thought buses”, where children are encouraged to think of their thoughts as buses that they can choose to board or let pass by.

The research into whether it helps me will be rather quicker (though it is very anti-mindfulness to hurry these things) and I will report back in a month or two. Not boarding negative thought buses does sound very appealing though.

I intend using the  Headspace App which, in the first instance, calls for just 10 minutes of practice per day. However there is also a website which has plenty of free exercises you can download if you don’t want to pay for an app: Free Mindfulness Project.


Talking of new things to try, have you heard of ‘plopping’? That will be my next social experiment ~ I will let you know how I get on with that too.

Let me know if you practice mindfulness. I would love to hear what effect it has had on your wellbeing.

Annie Bee x

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