Minuteful of Mindfulness (Mountains)

Let the beautiful mountain scenery of Glencoe Scotland bring you stillness and calm.

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Cat Therapy

darcy-mind1Today 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health issues.  Depression and Anxiety are two of the commonly known conditions.  I’ve spent many months finding out the best way to deal with stress and anxiety as it can cause us to stop living life to the full.  There are commonly agreed ways of dealing with anxiety and depression.  I’ve found that getting out the house helps.

I’ve tried Going to yoga and sports classes with some walking each day.  Practising meditation each day is also a useful method of reducing stress.  The benefits are not instant but over time they start to manifest.

I decided that I wanted to do some voluntary work with my local cat shelter and offered to do some photography, to help their cats find new homes.  I find this work very rewarding and when I see these homeless cats, they make my problems seem totally insignificant in comparison.

As well as photographing the cats I decided that I’d also like to visit them and give them some attention.  I find this incredibly therapeutic – it’s almost magic the effect the cats have on me.  I leave the cat shelter after only an hour feeling much better.  I actually believe they will help improve my wellbeing.  Cats are great teachers, they teach me what life is about and to appreciate being alive – something I often forget.

So if you are someone suffering from anxiety or depression perhaps you might consider helping out at your local cat or dog shelter and see the benefits you’ll experience of getting involved.

Drysuits vs Semi Dry Suits

me angus wide2 - Version 2As a keen member of Perth SubAqua club I have spent most of my 23 dives to date in the cold Scottish Lochs on the west coast.  I have dived in Ballachulish, Loch Fyne, Skye, Oban, and Ullapool which is one of the top dive sites in the world (sea horses can be seen here.)

For the first year my diving was hampered due to starting off my training using what’s called a Drysuit that was several sizes too big.  The drysuit doesn’t let water in, so the diver stays dry(er) however, if the suit is too big it can fill with air pockets which cause the diver to shoot up to the surface – this can be dangerous by causing the ‘bends’ condition where nitrogen forms bubbles in the blood stream.

My diving started to improve when I had the opportunity to purchase one of my club member’s Scubapro Novascotia Semi Dry suit.  At the time I didn’t even know what a semi dry suit was, however the first time I tried it at the Farne Islands last September (2015) I saw a dramatic difference in my ability to stay under the water.

Semi Dry suits let water in much like a Wet suit does, however the semi dry keeps that water in via the seals on the neck, wrists and ankles.  This allows the body to heat up the water to retain a liquid layer of insulation.

The advantages of the semi dry are that it’s cheaper to buy than a drysuit.  The semi dry clings to your body, eliminating air pockets.  It’s also simpler to dive with as there’s no chest valve to inflate – you can only inflate your BCD / stab jacket – so less technical bits to worry about.

The disadvantages – WARNING – semi dry suits are not designed for diving in the Scottish Winter months!  Due to my passion for diving I have used the Novascotia in temperatures down as low as 7 degrees centigrade.  The feeling is quite unpleasant and often I am shivering, so that after 30 minutes, I don’t want to be in the water.  I think I am one of the few club members that still dives with a semi dry.  I later was given a handy tip from one of the more experienced club members and discovered that wearing a wool jumper underneath helps a little, to retain some warmth in a semi dry.

The other disadvantage of the semi dry is that it’s made of neoprene which tends to tear more easily on rocks.  The new Novascotia 7.5mm suit has much more protection on the knees than my older 6.5mm version.  However saying that, Scubapro kit is award winning, so it’s a very good standard of  dive suit.  Semi drys are much more suited to water temperatures of 12 degrees or above, as I discovered in the warmer Farne Islands dive.  If you’re not cold you’re going to enjoy the dive more.  No matter how hard you try, if you start shivering the dive becomes a chore and that’s a shame.

Here’s an excellent  video review by Jeff Goodman on the new N0vascotia 7.5mm Semi Dry Suit

 

Maintenance:  after a dive I can spend up to over an hour and a half rinsing and cleaning my diving kit.  I invested in a bottle of McNett suit shampoo which I use to wash over the Novascotia, my Stab Jacket and well, pretty much most of my kit.  I realised that I spend the same amount of time cleaning my diving kit as I did cleaning my motorbike.  (I decided to get rid of the bike as I much prefer my diving.)  It’s worth it though, to keep your kit nice and clean after being in the sea lochs.

It takes approximately 4 to 5 days for my semi dry to dry out, so at least in theory, I could use my suit every Sunday if I wanted to.  Last Sunday myself and two colleagues from the club set off from Perth to Furnace quarry near Inveraray on the Scottish west coast.  We always dive on the west as the water is usually warmer and calmer, getting some of that gulf stream flowing in.

This was my second dive at Furnace quarry – the first time was in December last year and I remember it was so cold that I was shivering when I still had my clothes and coat on!  This dive is a cold and dark one, although there’s enough visibility at 24 metres to see some Wolf fish that look like mini sharks.  One of our colleagues had a problem with his chest valve leaking so he was out the water before getting in.  It was then that I realised the advantage of the semi dry.

The temperature was COLD!  Eight degrees and after 15 minutes I was shivering and wanting to just get to the surface, however, I persevered to the end and felt much better after completing the dive safely with my dive buddy.  I often check the water temperature online and I think the sea temperature has now gone up by one degrees since the winter.

I look forward to the day when I will be able to go to Malta to dive in the warm water, just wearing my Scubapro Everflex wet suit.  Meantime, I will persevere and look forward to updating you with another blog on my next dive – and more often too!

For more information on semi dry suits available check out Simplyscuba’s website.

Mindfulness

path1.jpgMindfulness is the new buzz word on everyone’s lips, but what is it exactly?  Well it’s a series of techniques used to help keep us in the present moment and these practises have been know about for thousands of years by Buddhist monks.

Mindfulness is a great way to de-stress your life, especially if you suffer from anxiety and depression.  ‘Mindfulness on the Go‘ by Padraig O’Morain was recommended to me and I am now working my way through the exercises.  It’s a great book for people who are busy and would like to practise Mindfulness but just don’t have time.

The average human has 70 000 thoughts a day.  I know that most of mine are about the past, fantasies and possible negative future situations.

One exercise involves spending only 20 seconds concentrating on breathing in and out of your nostrils.  The idea is to focus on your breathing rather than the thousands of thoughts being processed by your brain every day.

There are now classes in Mindfulness and you’ll be able to find some tutorials on Youtube too.  So when I’m next photographing or filming, I will be doing it ‘mindfully.’  I have already noticed a huge difference in my own stress levels after trying some mindfulness meditations for a couple of weeks.

I especially like going for walks by Loch Leven and walking ‘Mindfully’ focussing on the present moment, the feeling of the soles of my feet against the ground and trying not to let thoughts wander in.  It’s almost impossible to stop thoughts but the whole point of mindfulness is that it’s a training to allow you to be aware of your thoughts and that they are separate from the real ‘you.’

Mindfulness on the Go will be available from some public libraries.

Community Spirit

When I first moved to Kinross last year, I had the immediate impression that this was a place where I could be a Community Worker, perhaps a place where I could contribute to the local business economy.  Kinross is a thriving town with regeneration of the old town centre currently being carried out.  The old library and council offices are being renovated into luxury retirement flats and perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the old high school building (which is an eye sore) gets converted to serve the  much needed housing crisis demand.

My first thoughts were to create an Animation Workshop, but this will require funding which will require a fair bit of my time which I don’t have just now.  Since graduating from the University of Highlands & Islands this year, I have now started developing my media business.  The new flyers and cards have arrived and I have been delighted to discover that Kinross has a very glossy looking newsletter which is more of a magazine and this is accompanied by a sister website run by the Kinross Business Partnership Association.where local business’s can advertise for free – yes free.  I have yet to come across other towns that offer so much help to local small business’s.

I now have my wee ad online and I hope in the not too distant future I will be working with clients in Kinross as well as my clients in other parts of Fife, Falkirk and the Lothians.  My hope is that I’ll be able to help local business grow through the use of increased Visual Communications platforms that they may not have even considered or been aware of.

The local website is kinross.cc

Back to Skool

After recently graduating from the University of Highlands & Islands I was in a positive mood, feeling a rare confidence I have not felt in such a long time.  I had thought about applying for jobs and did manage to get one interview – however, I decided that after much internal debating for weeks, that the way forward for me was to stick with being self employed.  I wanted to work only 16 hours a week and earn a respectable income.  Easier said than done.

However, I am finding to my delight that I currently do 16 hours a week working for two clients, in the here and now.  I would not be able to cope with taking on any more work.  For hundreds of years, it has been in the collective consciousness that a successful person is the one who works hard and long hours – I disagree completely – to me the successful person works less hours for more money and has more time to spend with friends and family.  I am finding that I really enjoy helping people solve their Communications and Information Technology problems so it’s more of a fun challenge than working.

Perhaps I can only claim this after having just spent almost 3 years in full time education, studying subjects and courses I would not really feel comfortable studying, sometimes feeling a bit out of my comfort zone.  I’ve studied Metallurgy Theory, dark room photography theory and Art & Design Concepts – all subjects I’d rather not delve into too deeply.  However I feel that this time has not been wasted – in fact, these subjects I believe, have activated part of my brain that’s been dormant for decades – that part that allows you to grasp a problem and find a solution almost immediately.

I feel like I am living with an extra new dimension to life that I’ve been searching for.  So, for anyone reading this who may be ‘stuck in a rut’ of some sort – perhaps they could consider going back to school, and learning new subjects – even if the subjects seem irrelevant or unnecessary.  Full time courses and night / day classes should start in your local area round about September, and your local council will most likely put a flyer or news pamphlet through the door with information about courses.  I think for me, I’d like to try an evening class in Gaelic or Italian – but this time only a leisure class – my full-time studies are finally over!