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Mental Health Awareness Week 2024

Let's move more for our Mental Health - Mental Health Awareness Week 13th - 19th May 2024

This image includes a blue background with the logo for the Mental Health Foundation and writing saying "Mental Health awareness week, 13-19 May 2024", "Find your moments for movement"

This year's theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is "movement: moving more for our mental health". New research shows that 36% of UK adults find it difficult to find the time for physical activity (Opinium Research). These figures have worsened since Covid-19, which led to more home working and more sedentary lives as a consequence.

Regular physical activity is known to have a range of benefits for our physical and mental health. Despite these benefits, over a third of UK adults are struggling to meet the recommended amount of physical activity (read the Mental Health Foundation report to know more).

Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of depression by 30%. It is also known to promote better self-esteem, reduced stress and anxiety and improve our quality of life.

Engaging in physical activity does not mean just going to the gym. Any activity is better than no activity. If you are struggling to be active, here are some tips that can help you begin your journey to a more active lifestyle.

Mental Health Awareness Week - Helpul Tips

Tip #1 - Set SMART goals

If you have not been active for a while, it can feel daunting to know where to start. Exercise programmes are often difficult to stick to, especially with a busy schedule. A helpful tip is to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) to set yourself up for success. Start small - if you are just starting out, it is important to start with a small goal e.g. going for a 10 minute walk around the block in your lunch break).

You might want to look at your calendar to explore what days it may be easier to begin your new routine. Don't start on a day when you know you will be busy and life may get in the way.

"Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn't formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them." – Lee Haney

Tip #2 - Integrate movement in your daily routine

One of the most helpful ways to begin a new activity is to try to anchor the new activity to something that is already established in your routine. For instance, if your goal is to walk 10 minutes a day, it can be helpful to think about something you are already doing every day and anchor the new activity (walking) to the already established activity.

For instance, you could create a goals as follows:

After I have my midday coffee I will put my coat on and walk around the block for 10 minutes.

This way, your brain will find it easier to remember and the new activity will soon integrate into a regular routine.

Tip #3 - Take a break from sitting

We said above already that any movement is better than no movement. As we have began working from home more, our lives have become more sedentary. If you are someone who is sitting for long periods during the day, set a timer on your phone to take regular breaks to stand up, walk around and stretch your body.

Tip #4 - Connect with others

Humans are social beings and seek connection with others. It might be helpful to think about ways to integrate movement / exercise with other people. You may want to invite a friend to join you for a lunch walk or find a social club centred around movement.

This may also create opportunities to meet new people. Being part of a club can be a great way to increase your self-esteem and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

Tip #5 - Separate movement from exercise aimed at losing weight

One of the most common barriers around movement is that we often link movement with a goal to lose weight. This can be problematic because it can take a while to achieve results when it comes to our body and this can lead to a loss of motivation over time and feelings of failure.

Whilst one of the consequences of moving more may be that you do eventually lose weight and feel fitter, try to separate movement from losing weight. Remember the SMART goals we spoke about above? Focus on small steps for now to reduce the risk of becoming overwhelmed.

The important thing at the beginning is to increase your movement and activity. Other goals can be thought about later on but should not be the sole focus at this point.

Don’t Forget to Add a Closing Statement

Remember, we are thinking about movement in the context of mental health. You do not need to run a marathon to get the mental health benefits that come with more movement. Focus on your wellbeing, be kind to yourself and don't forget to celebrate!

If you want to support the Mental Health Foundation visit the Mental Health Awareness Week page by clicking here.

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