"What a fantastic morning...loved it sooo much. Met some very nice people.
It was a sunny saturday morning in Ballycastle, as we pulled into the driveway.
Ireland is a place I have travelled to many times to visit family and friends, but this time the purpose of my visit was a little different.
As we stepped out of the car, the brisk autumn air quickly reminded us not to be fooled by the bright sun and gorgeous view, it was bloody cold. Mark Donald, the founder of the iAM Project, hopped out of the car and made his way to the gym. We had work to do.
I've known Mark Donald since I was around 13 years old. We first met at school, and have been like family ever since. Mark set up the iAM Project after his mother Mary Donald died at the age of 55 years old. She had suffered with depression all her life, and a cocktail of medications over the years had led to a secondary condition which ended her life short.
We had all watched Mary deteriorate over her final years, and it impacted us all deeply. Mark faced his own mental health struggles after the death of his mother, and wanted to help others who had also been affected by mental health issues. As someone who had always appreciated the benefits of exercise all his life, and its importance to wellbeing, Mark set up The iAM Project.
When a group of strangers come together for the same purpose it is an amazing thing!
Briege Hamilton, the owner of The Shed Gym in Ballycastle had donated her premises, and catering was supplied by Sean-Jean Bradley of the Diamond Bistro, who put on a nutritious spread funded by the iAM Project.
The purpose of the event was to get create the right environment where people who currently have, or may have struggled with mental health in the past, can get active, and experience the benefits of exercise, reconnect with others in a group environment, and importantly have fun doing it.
Far too often, when it comes to mental health, the focus is on self-care and the individual, and this is absolutely important, but what we often forget is the importance of community care and human interaction.
Boxing has always been my first love, and growing up through my own troubles, the boxing club was like a second family to me. Boxing provided me with structure, discipline, support, fun, taught me a new skill, how to defend myself and how to build resilience. It was this aspect of the sport that I wanted to share with everyone.
The session consisted of my signature warm up (which quickly escalated in to giggles and laughter), and then we got down to the fundamentals of footwork. Participants learned how to move and the lost art of ring craft (why we move, and the different ranges).
The group were then shown the basic shots and some simple combinations which they could practice together and picked up pretty quickly. As they became more skilled and relaxed, their playfulness came through, which was a joy for me to witness as a Coach.
The emphasis was on quality not quantity. Learning good habits, and gaining confidence in executing them helped to make it fun and engaging. It was clear the participants gained a lot from it.
The iAM Project is set to grow from strength to strength in 2020. I'm looking forward to supporting Mark Donald in bringing a variety of projects to London and the surrounding areas, while is gains momentum in Ireland.
Show your support, become a part of the iAM circle.
" All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you truly are.
According to the Mental Health Foundation Depression is the predominant mental health problem world wide. Globally it was the second cause of years lived with a disability, and in 26 countries it was the primary driver of disability.
So what about the UK? Well, 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16+ showed symptoms of anxiety or depression (22.5% were females and males 16.8%).
The Mental Health Foundation also reports that 43.4% of adults think that they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives, yet the 2016 report states that 36.3% of those who self-identified as having a mental health condition have never been diagnosed by a professional.
Now this fascinated me. Why is that the case? Is it because that we are blind to the symptoms and signs of depression, and not recognising it in ourselves or others when it arises? Is it that we are ashamed to seek help? Perhaps we lack confidence that the help actually offered can alleviate our symptoms.
The truth is I don't know for sure, but what I can tell you with complete confidence is that there is a growing body of evidence showing us ways to help alleviate depression, and some clear signs that we can all look out for.
A Definition of Depression & Symptoms
Depression is a clinical medical mood disorder that impacts the way you feel, think and act. This can persist for weeks, months or years.
Some forms of depression can develop under specific circumstances, or present slightly different symptoms. Here are a few of the different types of depression
While some of the forms of depression mentioned above are conditions in their own right, lets explore the individual nature of each form.
Persistent depressive disorder
A depressed mood that lasts for at least two years or more. This form of depression is often characterised by major depression with periods of less severe symptoms.
Not to be confused with the "Baby blues" that women can experience after birth. Women with postpartum depression can experience full blown depression during pregnancy as well as after the birth.
Extreme sadness, exhaustion, and anxiety that these women experience, mean that they are unable to adequately care for not only the child, but themselves, on an emotional level, as well as ADL's (Activities of Daily Living).
This is when a person has depression accompanied by a form of psychosis. Whether this is a false fixed belief (delusion) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations). The themes of the delusions or hallucinations work to support the depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
A form of depression linked to the winter months, lack of sunlight, and reduction in vitamin D uptake. This form of depression lifts during the spring and summer months, and increased vitamin D uptake. During the winter months, social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain are often typical.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Similar to PMS but differing in severity. It occurs 1 - 2 weeks prior to the start of a period and causes severe depression, irritability, panic attacks, mood swings, food cravings or binge eating, joint pain and inflammation. There are a host of other symptoms, which usually subside 2 - 3 days after a period starts.
While a medical condition in it's own right, Bipolar is characterised by periods of low moods (which meet the criteria for depression) often labelled Bipolar Depression. The difference being that a person with Bipolar also experiences a euphoric state or irritable moods. While this is not an exhaustive list of differences, it gives you an insight.
Clinical Considerations & Medical Management
Genetic and epigenetic factors can play a significant role, with modfications of genes interacting with each other and environmental factors to increase the potential for depression.
Then there is neurotransmitter synthesis. Two families of neurotransmitters that play an integral role
Insufficient intake (or excessive excretion) of amino acids, B Vitamins, Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin C can lead to a functional neurotransmitter deficiency.
The Gut-Brain Axis - beneficial gut bacteria metabolise glutamate into GABA, and influence serotonin signalling among other things.
Guilia Ender's book, GUT is worth checking out if you want to learn more, and practical things you can do to improve gut health.
The hyper-secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands is common in the depressed state, and can lead to corticosteriod receptor signalling being impaired, impacting depression and adrenal fatigue.
Get the basics right - reduce stimulants and sugar intake, this includes alcohol, caffeine (and smoking)
Increase wholefood intake - increase your vegetables and your fruit intake (think 5/7 a day as your base level). Get adequate protein intake, the dietary reference intake (DRI) is a minimal of 0.8g of protein, however this can be inadequate if you are physically active, or ill and in a state of repair. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommend 1.4 - 2.0g per kg of bodyweight per day for exercising individuals.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids - Have been shown to potentially decrease the symptoms of depression, this could be through regulation of inflammation and cell membrane function . Vegan sources of omega 3 fatty acids include algae oil.
Probiotics - particular strands such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium metabolise glutamate into GABA and influence serotonin signalling . Serotonin is a chemical which contributes to a sense of wellbeing and happiness.
Zinc & Vitamin D - Have been shown to support neural growth in the brain, and significantly lower symptoms of depression . Supplementing with Vitamin D in the winter months, when exposure to sunlight is inadequate can prove beneficial. Food Sources of zinc include,
5 - HTP - is required so serotonin synthesis (your wellbeing and happiness chemical).
B Vitamins - are cofactors for nerutotransmitter synthesis and can reduce the risk of depression. Neruotransmitters are essentially chemicals that allow nerves and different parts of your brain to communicate effectively. This is not an exhaustive list, but food sources include,
Exercise has been shown to improve depression and mood 
Getting quality, consistent restful sleep has also been shown to improve mood. I'm sure you've noticed how irritable, short tempered or fatigued you feel when you don't get enough sleep.
Seeing a therapist or support group can also be useful. There are also mental health charities and organisations such as Mind, or The iAM Project which can assist you in different ways.
If you need to, get in touch with your doctor who may be able to point you in the direction of services you can use. Sometimes medication can be either a short term or long term solution to manage symptoms depending on your situation - there is no shame in that.
Getting out in nature has also been shown to be effective for reducing depression. The growing research field known as ecotherapy, has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature, and reduced stress, anxiety and depression 
I've personally found keeping a journal helps me to dump all the thoughts from my mind onto a page, so that my mind becomes less cluttered, I use the Mood Cards which I think are a great tool for writing, or even just sharing what's going on for you.
As challenging as it can be at times, and as much as we want to be alone, human contact can also help us. Our social, living or relationship situation can all impact our ability to manage our depression. Making small changes, over time can have a powerful impact.
I recently saw in a meme online that what people view as the causes of depression include,
You and I both know that this is just plain wrong. There are many factors from genetic, social, life circumstances, economic, cultural, and political systems that can lead to a person experiencing depression.
Depression is not personal failure, and there are things you can do to alleviate the symptoms. Remember that.
 Kraguljac et al. Efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids in mood disorders - a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychopharmacol Bull. 2009; 42 (3): 39-54.
 Foster, McVey Neufeld. Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends Neurosci. 2013; 36 (5): 305-12.
 Lai et al. The efficacy of zinc supplementation in depression: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. J Affect Disord. 2012; 136(1-2): e31-9.
Khoraminya et al. Therapeutic effects of vitamin D as adjunctive therapy to fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2013; 47 (3): 271-5.
 Lynette L. Craft, Ph.D. and Frank M. Perna, Ed.D., Ph.D., The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed,
 Harvard Health, July 2018, Sour mood getting you down Get Back To Nature: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature.
According to the Mental Health Foundation 2016 report, one third of all people with a mental health problems have sought no professional help at all.
By 2030 the Mental Health Network estimates that there will be 2 million more people in the UK with mental health problems. The stigma around mental health is slowly starting to loosen it's grip, but the fact remains that over the course of our lifetime, most of us will experience some form of mental health challenge (I know I certainly have). This is the norm, not the exception.
Access to services, from waiting periods, to financial costs, and often the type of help offered can stop people from seeking the help that they need. So when I learned about the iAM Project I was excited to be a part of something that makes a difference at grass-roots level.
The iAM Project has been up since July 2019, but it's been years in the making, and was established by my childhood friend Mark Donald. We've had some amazing times together over the past 27 years, and also some tough ones. We've faced our own challenges and have supported each other through them. You'll learn more about over time, to give you a better understanding of where we're coming from.
Physical activity has always played a key part in keeping us grounded. We know the benefits. The science is there to support it, and we wanted to share that with you, alongside the vast other mental hygiene tools and methods we've picked up over the years.
The iAM Project events have gotten off to a great start already, all of which are free to attend, but require booking. The feedback so far has been fantastic.
As an Ambassador I'll be delivering powerful information on how to support yourself when facing a mental health challenge, how to improve your quality of life, and also Coaching on exclusive iAM Projects which you can attend at no cost to you.
If you want to learn more, please do check out the website, then head on over to instagram and give them a follow.
Remember, better quality of life and good health is your birth right.
Your body. Your Mind. Your Rules.
Attachment to the outcome is what often makes people quit their journey. When faced with challenges, changing life circumstances, or a dip in commitment, with the fear of failure lurking ahead, they simply throw the towel in and give up. We then come up with a really good reason to justify our actions.
Listen, we've all done it at some point in our lives. You've done it, I've certainly done it in the past, until I learnt a better way.
Now what I am about to say will probably piss a lot of people off (and I'm ok with that).
The truth is that you can't control the outcome. So stop thinking you can.
Read that bit again.
Does that mean that you'll never achieve what you want? Am I saying that there is not point in having goals or even trying? Of course I'm not saying that, but here is what I am saying.
You can't always control the outcome, there are often far too many variables involved (from other peoples actions, to changing circumstances) but you can control your behaviour and thus influence the outcome, and thus making your desired outcome more probable. It's a concept I share with my coaching clients to help them achieve deep, consistent change. Let me give you an example.
What I want you to notice is that behaviour goals are specific action steps that you commit to take on a regular basis, that can lead to the outcome you want.
Keep this in mind, behaviour goals are small manageable tasks that are within your control. They are things that you can do right now, or in the near future. Most importantly they are things you can do consistently and regularly.
Below is a tool that you can use, it was inspired by a similar model by Precision Nutrition that I use with Nutrition Coaching clients to help them stay on track, and achieve success.
Jot this model down some where you will see it on a regular basis (maybe in your journal or diary).
In the first circle write down the outcome that you want to achieve, ask yourself "What is my desired goal?". Then in each of the circles write down 1 - 2 action steps that you will do to push you in the direction of your desired outcome. These are your behaviour goals. Notice how each circle feeds into the other, with your daily tasks connecting to your overall desired outcome.
Here are some top tips.
I'll leave you with this,
Cultivate only the habits that you are willing should master you.