Mental health, we all have it, just as we all have physical health; however it can be a topic that is difficult to speak about.
Especially if you are experiencing poor mental health, and yet according to Mind 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year in England and 1 in 6 report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England.
Perhaps the reason physical health is more openly discussed is because there are often visual symptoms, such as a broken leg or a cough, whereas our mental health is locked away internally and is only apparent to others when purposefully shared. However, it can impact on every aspect of our lives and eventually it can even result in physical symptoms.
In May Active Lincolnshire want to focus on the benefits being physically active can have on boosting our mood and protecting our mental health and wellbeing. During this month both Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week (4th-9th May) and Mental Health Awareness Week (10th-16th May) give us opportunity to discuss and focus on the importance of looking after our mental health.
Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week is a week-long campaign dedicated to talking about mental illness during pregnancy or after having a baby and signposting to support for all mums. The focus is on advocating for mums affected by maternal mental health and helping them to access the information and help they need to enable recovery. There are some fantastic resources available with guidance around physical activity, both pre and post natal. Better Births Lincolnshire says “the more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth”. They suggest you continue your normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as you feel comfortable.
Mental Health Awareness Week aims to get people talking about their mental health and reduce the stigma that can stop people from asking for help. Specifically, this year the focus is to immerse yourself in the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’, while reconnecting with nature across the week.
The ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ includes being active, as Mental Health UK state: “Engaging in regular physical activity is known to go hand in hand with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups.”
Being active is proven to:
Improve sleep: by making you feel more tired at the end of the day
Reduce stress: doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times
Improve mood: physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy
Lift self-esteem: being more active can make you feel better about yourself as you improve and meet your goals
Lower risks of depression: studies have shown that doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression
Help make connections: doing group or team activities can help you meet new and like-minded people, and make new friends.
Slow dementia and cognitive decline
One of our ambassadors for physical activity and improved mental health is Thomas Dunning, the creator of Run Talk Run, a group whose goal is to increase accessibility to mental health support through running & walking peer support groups. This is his message for anyone who feels their mental health needs a boost:
“My name is Tom and I’m in love. What can I say… I love running, but why?!
For some it’s an activity which is seen as a torture, I mean the treadmill was first invented as a torture device so I suppose there is some logic?
But for many others and myself included, it’s not just an activity but a way of life. See, I’ve experienced hopefully the lowest point of my life and I owe a huge part of my recovery and also the huge catalyst which is running – the hidden saviour.
You may think that you’re a slow runner, or you can’t even run down the street and you know what, who cares? We have all been there at the start – that first day of putting the first foot in front of the other and it easily is the hardest thing you will do as a runner.
Running WILL take you places (pun intended) further than just to the end of a circuit, track or course – it’s made me have a thirst for life, a love for adventure and a passion for life – it’s given me a drive to action to help anyone with mental Ill health problems recover and get active; it’s also the passion to excel in my life and make me the best I can be.
My name is Tom, I’m a survivor of suicide and live with social anxiety disorder, PTSD and Borderline a personality Disorder.”
If you are thinking of including more daily activity into your routine remember that being physically active tends to be easier if you choose an activity that you enjoy, and that fits into your daily life. If you force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy, you’re much less likely to keep it going and experience benefits to your mental health.
As May is also Walking Month, we highly recommend walking as an activity that is free, low impact and easily incorporated into your day. We have a whole page of inspiration, recommendations and challenges to encourage you to take the first step to an improved mood and healthier mind.
If you are struggling with your mental health and need someone to speak to please reach out and make contact today.