Mental Health Awareness Week (13th – 19th May)

MOVEMENT

This week marks Mental Health Awareness week, with movement as this year’s theme.  Although most of us know that regular physical activity has a positive impact on our physical and mental health, over a third of all adults in the UK do not meet the 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week WHO recommend for all physically able adults.

The Mental Health Foundation reported although 82% of people believe that regular physical activity is important for mental health and wellbeing, despite its apparent simplicity, for many people the advice “move more for your mental health” is easier said than done.

Common barriers to regular movement noted are time constraints, feeling too fatigued, stress and anxiety, having a long-term condition or disability, costs and body image.  Weather is a common barrier to physical activity for people across Scotland, with 30% stating that it prevents them from engaging in more movement during a typical week.

Why movement?

The mind body connection is strong – when we feel better in our bodies, our mental health tends to follow suit. Exercise releases “feel good” hormones that reduce feelings of stress and anger and improve our mood. Sleep can also be improved with regular exercise, a common symptom of many mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.  If we exercise with others, our relational connections can be improved, also know to support our long-term mental health.

What can we do?

Recognising the barriers to movement is a good first step.  Finding what motivates you can help to establish a good exercise habit.  Keep it realistic and achievable, what is right and manageable for us will be dependent on many factors.  Recognising that you don’t need to be doing a HIIT workout or training for a marathon for it to count – avoid that compare and despair thought trap we can get into.  If you do a sitting job, find ways to make regular movement breaks (or if you can, use a standing desk).  Connect with others with your goal to move a bit more – connection through exercise is known to boost motivation and retention of the exercise habit.

Walking

I have tried lots of different forms of exercise – from karate to belly dancing, body pump to yoga.  They all offered something different to my physical and mental health.  I get a real sense of empowerment from very physical activity.  Conversely, gentler mindful activities help me to wind down and connect with myself and let my thoughts settle.  As many exercise interests have come and gone, one that has remained a fail-safe source of mood boosting medicine for me has been walking.  Research suggests moving in an outdoor environment has greater positive effects on our wellbeing than indoors.  A beach is my ideal walking environment, just a delight for all the senses.  Those first 10 minutes, my head is picking apart the day; thereafter I can feel each stress or strain lighten with each step on the sandy shores.  There is something very soothing about the rhythm of a walk, known to calm and south our nervous system.

Walk and Talk

It is little wonder, then, that Walk and Talk therapy is on the increase.  Combining the health benefits for physical and mental health, the outdoor environment can feel less intimidating than a therapy room.  No need to look your therapist in the eye, you can have that side-by- side conversation that may help you open up about what is on your mind more freely.

If you are interested in trying Walk and Talk therapy, please contact me to have a chat.

To find out more ways to improve your movement, visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

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