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Listen up to be inspired and have spirits lifted

For the next instalment of his look at Retune’s SCALES system (Sleep, Creative, Active, Listen, Earth, Social) for good mental health, Tom Ryder tells us to be all ears.

This article originally appeared in The Bishop’s Stortford Independent in July 2020

For the next instalment of Retune’s SCALES series (Sleep, Creative, Active, Listen, Earth, Social) I’m turning my attention to ‘Listen’.

When it comes to mental wellbeing, it is easy for us to get caught up in a bubble, overthinking and dwelling on the day-to-day challenges we face. Fortunately there is a way to hand over the reins, by looking to outside sources for inspiration.

Listen is about taking in great content from books, podcasts, music, films and TV, and it also involves listening to your body, which is where diet and nutrition come in. I’m not going to write extensively about nutrition because I’m no expert – that’s where Indie columnist Alex Ballard comes in. But here is some material to inspire and uplift, as we weather the final few weeks (fingers crossed) of lockdown life. I hope it gives your wellbeing a boost.

Top 5 Books

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Slumber has more benefits – both physical and psychological – than many of us realise. Walker lays this out in an informative and engaging manner.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

The creative person’s bible. The famed author of Eat Pray Love eloquently describes how to face fear and pursue your passions.

Jog On by Bella Mackie

Journalist Bella found solace from anxiety by pounding the streets. From a standing start, she demonstrates that we can all follow her lead and discover the joy of running.

The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle

All we have in life is the present moment, and through it we can discover enlightenment. Drawing on many spiritual teachings while retaining originality, Tolle is a powerful teacher.

This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

All of us are acutely aware of the astonishing work of the NHS, especially of late. In this moving, hilarious memoir, Adam Kay brings us up-close-and-personal with life on the ward.

Top 5 films

When Harry Met Sally

Famed for ‘that scene in the diner’, this cinematic classic documents the helter skelter romance of Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan). Expect razor-sharp, witty dialogue throughout.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is up against it from the start, but bullish determination combined with unwavering devotion to his son (played by Smith’s actual son Jaden) wins the day.

Silver Linings Playbook

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) brilliantly portrays bipolar disorder, undergoing turbulent relationships with his father (Robert de Niro) and the beguiling Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).

The Shawshank Redemption

A timeless tale of the incarceration of Andy Dufresne at Shawshank, and his enthralling escape to freedom from despair. Morgan Freeman is in his element.

Theory Of Everything

This charming flick features an Oscar-winning performance from Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, who finds his calling in science at Cambridge University, along with the love of his life.

Top 5 TV Shows

The Last Dance (Netflix)

The Chicago Bulls basketball team of the 1990s, led by Michael Jordan, are one of the finest sports teams of all-time. Witness the astonishing skill and never-say-die attitude of MJ and co.

The Thick Of It (Netflix)

There’s an argument to say we’ve seen enough of politics lately, but this gripping satire pokes fun at a dysfunctional government department. Peter Capaldi’s verbal tirades are iconic.

Queer Eye (Netflix)

A makeover show that offers so much more. Featuring the Fab Five, who have all gone on their own journey to overcome adversity, each episode is educational and deeply moving.

Gavin and Stacey (BBC iPlayer)

Does James Corden and Ruth Jones’ masterpiece require an introduction? Hilarious characters and consequences abound as a boy from Essex and a girl from Barry Island fall for each other.

The Office – US (Prime Video)

While I loved the cringeworthy antics of Ricky Gervais’ David Brent in the UK edition, Steve Carell et al really take it up a notch. Keep an eye out for one of the greatest TV romances ever screened.

Top 5 Podcasts

Desert Island Discs

Well-known figures choose eight songs to take to a remote island, plus a luxury item. We learn a great deal about their upbringing, and how songs provide a poignant soundtrack to their lives.

Happy Place

Fearne Cotton’s acclaimed series discusses wellbeing in detail, and features creative guests. Her chat with Hozier is well worth a listen, and the effervescent Russell Brand is a regular contributor.


Radio 1 (and Bishop’s Stortford) favourite Greg James chats cricket and plenty more besides, accompanied by England fast bowling icon James Anderson and Felix White of The Maccabees.

Jay Shetty – On Purpose

Jay gave up all material possessions and spent years living as a monk. He shares his insights on everything from money to relationships to emotional health.

George Ezra & Friends

Hertford-boy-come-good George speaks openly about his mental health and encourages his guests, which include former St Mary’s schoolboy Sam Smith, to do the same.

Top 5 albums

Dreams by Fleetwood Mac

“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.” That line, and that song, says all you need to know about wellbeing. This record has everything, from intensity to tenderness.

Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings Of Leon

KOL were trotting out indie Rock bangers long before Sex On Fire and Use Somebody brought them global adulation. The title track, along with King Of The Rodeo, are highlights.

Parachutes by Coldplay

Not a bad way for the UK’s finest to announce themselves on the scene, 20 years ago last Friday. Look out for the epic Everything’s Not Lost, which closes this devastatingly good record.

O by Damien Rice

Damien Rice’s 2002 debut release brought singer/songwriters deservedly back into the spotlight. Cannonball is the standout hit, but this is an LP you can really lose yourself in.

Tapestry by Carole King

This is an album of majestic songwriting exquisitely delivered. You’ve Got A Friend, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Natural Woman… wall-to-wall anthems.

And Finally… Top 5 Foods


Nuts, seeds and legumes, such as beans and lentils, are excellent brain foods. Walnuts are said to improve memory, concentration and information-processing.

Dark Green Veg

Dark green leafy vegetables are considered to be ‘brain protective’, so no need to be shy on portion sizes.

Oily Fish

Along with fruit and vegetables, focus on eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, to improve your mental health.


Bananas are a source of mood-boosting serotonin, a chemical that contributes to overall feelings of wellbeing.

Dark Chocolate

Loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health, dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants. Plus, you know, it’s chocolate. Happy days.


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