Category Archives: lifeandstyle

Saint Patrick’s day – What’s it all about?

With the unpredictable fate of this year’s St. Patrick’s day parades, it’s a good moment to reflect on past years and what the 17th of March really means to many people. 


The 17th of March appears in everyone’s calendars as St. Patrick’s Day Bank Holiday. Whether they celebrate or not it’s known to be a widespread celebration. Yet, many are unaware of the history behind the date, and why it’s so significant to many across the world. 

Everyone knows that St Patrick’s day is a traditional Irish celebration. There are usually big parades, dances, marches and music in many major cities across the UK, Ireland and The United States. The focus of these celebrations is Irish culture. But what people don’t know is that this is actually an anniversary for the death of Saint Patrick. 

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Credit: History.com – The patron Saint Patrick was not Irish, but instead British

So who was Saint Patrick?

According to History.com, Saint Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland who started out as a slave. It’s said that he was born in Roman Britain and kidnapped at the age of 16 by Irish pirates. During this time, St. Patrick became hugely committed to Christianity, believing that the Irish should be Christians like him. 

Eventually Patrick broke free from enslavement and entered priesthood in France. After being ordained as a priest, he was sent to Ireland to spread Christianity in Ireland and support the Christian community. It’s believed that he died in circa 461 A.D.

His most recognisable work was the legend of St.Patrick where he used the now symbol of Ireland, the Shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. The three leaves represent the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

When was the first celebrated St. Patrick’s Day?

The first recorded Saint Patrick’s Day parade was in Florida, USA – not Ireland. It’s believed that it was held in 1601 in what is now St. Augustine and in a Spanish colony. Over a century after, in 1772, New York City saw homesick Irish soldiers march the streets to honour Saint Patrick. From there, the celebrations and marches only grew into what we know and see today. 

It’s unclear when the first celebrations were in England. According to numerous sources, there appeared to be debate over celebrating Saint Patrick alongside Saint George. However, parades have grown more prominent in the UK, with parades being held in London each year.

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Credit: Pintrest.com – Dublin is the number one place to be for St. Patrick’s Day

The first parade to be held in Ireland was in 1903, in Waterford. Since then, Dublin has been named as one of the best places to be on the 17th of March. Today, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin run over five days and nights, showcasing the best of Irish culture. However, due to the current health concerns, the traditional parades won’t be going ahead.

Dublin’s Saint Patrick Festival typically includes many different events and displays, such as walking tours of history, art displays and performances from live musicians. However, due to the growing health concern surrounding the Coronavirus, many of these events have been cancelled or postponed. Check their website for more details. 

What your £20 for a NUS student discount card actually goes to

Walking through a fresher’s fair, a student is often first greeted by the welcoming bright teal sign of the NUS. More formally known as the National Union of Students, the famous brand is commonly known for offering students some of the best discounts in the United Kingdom.

Aside from the massive discounts NUS offers, when a student signs up for the union, they join a group of over seven million students aiming to use their education in order to create a fair and prosperous society.

Nevertheless, 61% of students are unaware of what the NUS does for their university environment. And even so, of the 39% who are “aware” of what the National Union of Students does, 86% thought that the organization was just their NUS Extra Card that allows them to get discounts.

Founded in 1922, as an effort to make peace after the first world war, their mission still remains to promote, defend, and extend student rights allows them to fight discrimination and injustice through democratic representation, campaigning, and targeted action.

Through the help of students across the nation, the NUS is able to bring together the collective interests of their members in order to develop research that influences national policy and take on issues that affect the lives of students now and in the future.

The National Union of Students is a voluntary membership organization consisting of 600 students’ unions. That’s more than 95 percent of all higher student unions in the United Kingdom. When a student pays £20 for their discounted student railway card or the extra 20% off at Boots, they agree to uphold and support the three core values of the NUS: equality, democracy, and collectivism.

The latest elected officers of the NUS focus on pursuing equal opportunities for everyone to fully participate in a society of students to celebrate diversity. The NUS also aims to “[build] open, transparent, and accessible democratic structures that increase performance and strengthen accountability.”

Furthermore, their message strongly resonates with the quote, “unity is our strength” by constantly promoting the idea that students’ unions are more effective when they work with each other on a local, national, and international level.

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Within every student’s union lies a desire to provide wide-ranging research and discussion about the policies of further education, higher education, society, citizenship, union development, and welfare.

Spanning across Great Britain, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland, the NUS also campaigns and defends the rights of highly marginalized and underrepresented groups such as black students, disabled students, LGBTQI+, and women.

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Although it may seem like the NUS does nothing but give you 10% off at Pizza Express and lead the funding and mission student unions, their recent movements and parliamentary wins for students are very present for plenty of individuals.

Student’s right to protected student deposits in the private rented sector, exemption from Council Tax, Young Persons Railcard, and Endsleigh Student Insurance are all due to the constant efforts of the NUS.

Less known strides towards a more student-friendly world have been made by the NUS as well. In the past three years, the National Union of Students has managed to help 48,000 international students who were wrongly deported after falsified English language tests were turned in.

The NUS is also the reason why students over the age of 30 are still able to receive student loans.

When founded by Sir Ivison MacAdam, his vision for the future involved providing “hope for tomorrow.” Giving a voice to their seven million members from all walks of life and fighting for a better student environment for the future.

Read all about what the NUS is doing to not file bankruptcy here.

Are we living healthy lifestyles?

If you’re looking to lose weight fast, then the diets mentioned below may be the ones for you. But if you are like me, and want to live healthily, then these diets are not recommended as they can result in long-term health risks.

 

 

The following infographic shows us what the diets mentioned in the audio are and how they make you lose weight.

leading a healthy lifestyle

 

The science of relaxation: learn to de-stress using your senses

Whether it’s running late for work, revising for exams, or something bigger concerning family or friends, stress occurs on a daily basis for the majority of adults in the UK. But learning how to deal with it is important for mental and physical wellbeing.

 

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One of the most common relaxation methods is visualisation, picturing a scene and focusing on the smallest of details using all of your senses.

But how do you visualise a calming atmosphere when you’re surrounded by office desks, traffic or road works?

Take this opportunity to learn, by listening to different sounds, learning about different scents, and watching different scenes, and discover how to unwind using all your senses.

Sounds

 

A study at the University of Sussex has scientifically proven that nature sounds help us relax, and Jo, a Londoner, agrees. “Just generally being outside is relaxing” she tells WNOL. Orfeu Buxton from Pennsylvania State University explains that when we sleep, we can hear threatening and non-threatening sounds, with water being considered the latter. It tells our brains not to worry, whereas harsher sounds, like alarms and thunder, can be considered threatening, and wake us up.

 

 

Most of the people WNOL spoke to mentioned “birds singing” as a calming sound. A study led by Dr. Daniel Cox found stress, depression and anxiety levels decreased when participants were watching birds. Listen to the clip and see how the bird calls make you feel.

 

 

For many people living in cities, traffic can be a trigger for stress. But compare it to the sound of waves crashing against rocks – it’s surprisingly similar. None of the people WNOL spoke to had ever considered this, but one man did say white noise, like car engines, is soothing, along with the ocean, so this visualisation is likely to help him destress.

 

Scents

 

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Many people rely on lavender to help them fall into a deep sleep (image by Alysia Georgiades)

Lavender is arguably the most popular scent for relaxation, with a range of pillow sprays being sold to improve sleep. But why does it work so well?

One suggestion from Christabel Majendie, a sleep therapist at Naturalmat, is that linalool, a part of lavender oil, acts as a sedative by affecting vital neurotransmitters that help us sleep.

Maybe it’s time to try one of those pillow sprays…

 

 

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There are hundreds of species of jasmine, but they all have a sweet, calming scent (image by Alysia Georgiades)

Jasmine is another scent that has been proven to combat stress, with its subtle, sweet smell helping participants of a study fall into a deeper sleep than if they were exposed to lavender.

A couple of Londoners mentioned jasmine when asked to list calming scents, which could act as an alternative for those who are not a fan of lavender.

 

 

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Pine will remind most people of Chrismas, but its scent is excellent for our mental wellbeing (image by Alysia Georgiades)

Finally, pine (aka Christmas trees) is proven to be a relaxing scent, with its essential oil being found in most health stores. A study from Kyoto University in Japan found that stressed participants who were taken for a 15 minute walk in a forest everyday, were considerably more relaxed afterwards, compared to a group who were not taken for walks. Burning the oil above a candle can fill a room with its aroma, helping you unwind after a long day.

 

Scenes

 

The University of Illinois found that the more trees in a scene, the less stress a person feels. It’s arguably one of the easiest to visualise, with trees scattered all around London, 8 million to be exact, and was a popular response among Londoners, who all said they enjoy watching the branches sway in the breeze.

 

 

For many people, watching a crackling fire can help them wind down, and this no coincidence.

Dr. Christopher Lynn explained to the Telegraph that watching a fire lowered blood pressure and increased relaxation the longer people were exposed to it. When Jo was asked what she thought she explained, “as long as it’s a cold winter’s night and I have a good book it’s relaxing”, which sounds like a pretty perfect moment.

 

 

You’ve already listened to water, but watching it is also proven to lower stress and anxiety levels. Professor Michael Depledge and environmental psychologist Mat White found that showing images of landscapes containing a water feature alongside greenery resulted in positive responses in the participants that significantly lowered stress levels.

The ocean was a popular response from Londoners, who all enjoy staring at the waves moving back and forth. “I like the waves crashing against the shore” said one person, who finds the British seaside and pebbled beaches more calming than ones with sand.

 

So how do you feel?

After watching the videos, listening to the sounds and imagining the different scents, have you been able to visualise the perfect, peaceful environment?

If you have, try picturing it whenever you’re stressed, or need a moment to yourself, focusing on everything from what you can see and hear, to how it makes you feel. Let your muscles grow heavy and your breath soften, and leave all your worries behind.

 

Audio and video recorded by Alysia Georgiades

 

Katy Bellotte: “organized chaos” turned influencer

“I was a mess, I wasn’t ready…”

Picking at her freshly painted maroon colored nail beds and staring that the white oak floors, YouTuber and Instagram influencer, Katy Bellotte, looked back on her journey from a life full of “organized chaos” to promotional boxes of Free People and Glossier at her New York City flat’s doorstep.

Accrediting her success to not being afraid to produce hard and clear content that hurts, Bellotte has grown a fanbase of 469, 387 Youtube subscribers, 159,000 Instagram followers, and the second leading podcast on Spotify for Lifestyle and Health. As a result, she has become a frequently sought after fashion, skincare, and beauty ambassador and is friendly with several celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Jenna Mourey.

Nevertheless, the road to becoming an influencer is a rocky one, and Katy’s journey is no exception. With millions of individuals fighting their way into the social media fashion and beauty scene, just how difficult is it to actually make it.

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Perhaps Bellotte’s strongest motivation came from her desire to fulfill an unsatisfied market. “…I decided that I wanted to become for others what I wanted for myself.”

Born and raised in the small, bayside town of Annapolis, Maryland, Bellotte always felt slightly out of space. “Back in my early teens, I was brutally bullied. The way that I looked, acted and talked caused me to be ridiculed. It was a tough time for me and I really wish that there would have been I’d an older girl who I could have sought advice from.”

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With her Youtube algorithm showing that most of Bellotte’s viewers being slightly younger than her age, 23, she sees herself as one of the “big sisters” of Youtube. “It has always been my goal to act as a beacon of hope for girls who have gone through similar situations and are just looking for guidance and a helping hand.”

Despite her tripod of textbooks from her previous degree at Elon University, Bellotte has still managed to make a name for herself because of the passion that she has for her hobby. “When you’re 14, you’re constantly searching for ways to label yourself and the only clear label that I could find that suited me and I enjoyed was a videographer.”

With a folder entitled, “Katy’s Creations” on her old Envy HP laptop, Katy decided to start her journey to becoming a Youtuber. Within this folder sat her first video ever uploaded: a eye makeup tutorial with one eyeshadow brush and one eyeshadow. “I remember thinking, ‘gosh, I really just want to put these somewhere, I want for other people to see them.’ I really found my worth in making videos. I loved it. I would wake up in the morning and be like, “where’s my camera?” and I am still kinda like that honestly. From there it has blossomed into something I don’t even have the words to describe”

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In spite of her popularity on social media, Katy undeterred by the numbers and fully intents on keeping her hobby and career as separate entities. “I think that as soon as you make something that you love your complete job, you start to love it less.”

Despite her strong belief, Bellotte she’s no end to her content creating anytime soon. With a New York City apartment, a social media editing job at L’Oreal, and her evergrowing life experiences, she can only see herself continue to grow. “In the words of Leonardo Da Vinci, ‘people of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.’ Being open and public about the things that others don’t dare to speak up about is how I’ve gotten where I am and how I’ll keep climbing.”

As a chip of her maroon nail polish fell to the ground, she looked up, “I wasn’t ready, but then again, when will you ever be? Dare to be different. Create for yourself. Work with what you have and go with the flow. You might be more ready than you think.”

Ban on junk food ads: What is the point?

As childhood obesity levels skyrocket, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is proposing that junk food advertisements are banned from all London public transport — buses, tube and trains.

So will we no longer see fast food chains advertising everywhere?

No. Well, not as they are today. Instead of advertising burgers, chips and ice creams, we will see carrot sticks and salads making their way on to the tube.

Carl W Jones, senior lecturer for PR and Advertising at the University of Westminster, told the university’s radio station that the new advertising campaign will help to battle childhood obesity within the city.

“If TFL don’t advertise those brands, the organisations have to adapt” so they’ll have to come up with new products or find other ways to reach the same audience. As TFL tube alone reaches 4.8 million commuters each day, companies do not want to lose their advertising spot.

Advertising healthier options rather than junk food will help to reduce the amount of junk food seen across the capital as the publics “opinions will be influenced” as at the moment it is all we see. It will seem as though there is a wider range of choice of food that is available to the public.

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Graphic by Tabitha Durrant     Statistics from: gov.uk/health 

Jones also mentioned the companies targeted will have to be seen as though they are “caring about children”. Children are easily influenced and as society becomes more health conscience we need to give children a range of choice, without only advertising unhealthy foods and drinks.

The ban on junk food advertisements comes shortly after the sugar tax, which all companies, aside from Coca Cola, which will help reduce the intake of sugar. Now, if you wanted to buy a full fat Coca Cola, you need to pay an extra 12 pence.

A quarter of children aged between two and 10 being classed as overweight. In 2014/15, the NHS spent £6.1 billion treating patients suffering from the condition.

See what you can do for National Eat What You Want Day

Cycling in London: how is it going?

Cover photo by Roman Koester on Unsplash.

“It’s as easy as riding a bike” is a common phrase used to say that, well, something is easy. But just how easy is it to do it in London, one of the most congested cities in the world? Transport for London’s 2017 Analysis estimated that 730,000 journeys are made daily with bicycles in the capital.

The Mayor of London recently announced a commitment of an average of £169m per year over the next five years to improve London’s cycling conditions, contributing to its target of 70 per cent of Londoners living within 400m of the cycle network by 2041.

Cyclists and campaign groups, however, want more than that. Yes, appropriate infrastructure is needed, but that also requires a transition of established societal and institutional ways. A study done by the Portland State University showed that changing cycling infrastructure won’t change culture.

Having blue lanes segregated from cars and other motorised vehicles won’t do anything if people don’t know how to use them. Bruce Lynn, from the London Cycling Campaign, says the infrastructure is there but people won’t use it.

There are bigger issues TfL and the Mayor of London have to consider to make cycling a possibility for every Londoner. Today, there is a common idea of the typical cyclist in London: young white men, environmentally-friendly and mostly liberal. This is supported by various studies that argue people who don’t identify as any of the above, feel less inclined to try cycling.

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Graphics by author

In TfL’s 2016 report, the fact that people are highly against changing their routines was assumed to be one of the main reasons they don’t try it. Their 2015 Attitudes towards cycling report also showed that safety concerns, fear of collisions, too much traffic, bad weather, lack of time, health reasons and lack of confidence and accessibility are some of the most common deterrents that put Londoners off using bikes.

Just last Saturday, around 4,000 riders took the streets of London for the #BikesUpKnivesDown demonstration led by the #BikeStormz movement to raise awareness to the rise of knife crime and murder rates in the city. They rode from London Bridge to Oxford Street in one of the biggest youth-led rides against knife crime, showing that the use of bikes has turned their lives around.

Current cycling network

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Central London’s cycling paths mapped by Route Plan Roll.

The current cycling network is made up of quietways and cycle superhighways for the most part. TfL defines them as “cycle routes running from outer London into and across central London. They give you safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city and could be your best and quickest way to get to work.”

Existing ones go from the City to Tottenham, Stratford to Aldgate, Barking to Tower Gateway, Oval to Pimlico, Merton to the City, and Wandsworth to Westminster. The east-west and north-south ones are the newest additions with proposed ones to go from Tower Bridge to Greenwich, Kensington Olympia to Brentford, and Swiss Cottage to the West End.

 

 

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Graphic by author

 

Safety

Safety concerns is probably what discourages people from riding the most. A study done recently by Cambridge academics found that changes in behaviour and policies is what is needed to keep the system moving, and tackle these concerns. A change in work hours, in the number of cycleways and docking stations, and in how people cycle together are factors that will contribute to that.

Another study done by Injury Prevention found that the more number of cyclists and pedestrians, the less likely motorists are to collide with them. This is partly because they are more visible, but also because the so called “safety in numbers” makes riders feel more comfortable.

14.6 per cent of casualties in Greater London while travelling were of cyclists in 2016, according to TfL. However, only eight, out of 4,424, were fatal, a decrease of 11 per cent from the year before. It certainly shows how, compared to the car, the transport mode responsible for 39.3 per cent of the casualties, cycling is less likely to get people injured. The study by Cambridge academics, however, also points out that an increase in cycling traffic also means an increased risk for cycle coalitions.

Not every rider has the same experience levels, specially in urban area conditions. ‘Bikeability’ is something most of the campaign groups advocate for, because they know that is where it starts. The London Cycling Campaign offers free ‘bikeability’ training to anyone interested and the have regular group sessions. Everyone, not only cyclists, should know how to share a public road.

How is London doing compared to the rest of the world?

 

Not good. It isn’t even on the top 20 of bike-friendly cities in the world. Infrastructure, safety and diversity (or lack of) are some of the reasons why the British capital is not considered in the 2017 Copenhagenize Design Company Index.

Tokyo, Munich, Helsinki and Oslo are new to the list because they have worked to fix issues that didn’t allow their cycling levels to grow. Closing the center to private cars, bike sharing systems, growth of network, parking facilities, and the creation of the Cycling Embassy (Tokio) and the Cycling Federation (Helsinki) are some of the things that are on place in this cities to improve the levels of cycling urbanism.

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As much as it is common thinking that more and better infrastructure will make London a top bike-friendly city, if Londoners don’t learn (or don’t want to learn) about ‘bikeability’ and cycling urbanism, the city won’t see any major changes in the years to come. The Mayor of London is committed to increase the use of bicycles in the city as it has been demonstrated that not only will it help with air pollution, but will also provide better quality public spaces.

 

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