Mental Health Awareness Week: 13-19 May 2024

This year Mental Health Awareness Week will be 13th to 19th May 2024.  This year the theme is “Movement – moving more for our mental health”.

One of the most important things we can do to help protect our mental health is regular movement. Our bodies and our minds are connected. Looking after ourselves physically also helps us prevent problems with our mental health.

Movement is a great way to enhance our wellbeing. Even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking can boost our mood and increase our mental alertness and energy. Movement helps us feel better about our bodies and improve self-esteem. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety and help us to sleep better.

Regardless of the form it takes, movement that gets our heart pumping and muscles moving releases the “feel good” hormones that help reduce feelings of stress and anger.

Here are some tips to help us get moving more:

  1. Make time to move.  Life gets busy and it can feel like we don’t have time to spend on activities to improve our wellbeing. But, finding moments for movement throughout the day might be easier than we think.  We should challenge ourselves to move whenever we are waiting for the kettle to boil, for a bus, for a delivery.  We could march on the spot or do some stretches.
  2. Set small, achievable goals. To encourage ourselves to move more, we should set small goals which we do not find daunting or overwhelming.
  3. Take a break from sitting.  We sit more than we should – working, reading, watching the tv.  We should ensure that we move around regularly.
  4. Find the fun.  We are more likely to move more if it’s fun!  Think about what is fun for you – team sports, exercising alone or with a friend.
  5. Be mindful of your movement.  Often, we are moving without realising it. For example, when we do housework, grocery shopping, or walking to work.  Try to be mindful of how you’re moving, and the way it makes you feel in both your mind and body. Noticing how we’re breathing, the sights and sounds around us, how the air feels on our face, can help us relax and feel less stressed.
  6. Moving in nature. Research suggests that doing movement in an outdoor ‘green’ environment has greater positive effects on our wellbeing compared to doing activity indoors. So why not take your moments for movement out into the wild?
  7. Plan things to look forward to.  We know having events and plans in the diary to look forward to, is great for mental health, it can give a sense of hope and excitement for the future.  Add moments for movement to your diary and make plans to do fun things that you can get excited about. This could be planning a family outing for a walk in an interesting place you haven’t been to before, joining a club or class that you can look forward to every week, or a night out dancing with friends.
  8. Be kind to yourself, movement is an act of self-care. It can be hard to get yourself up and active if your mental health is poor. The days when you lack in motivation or are feeling low are likely when you’ll see the biggest boost to your mood by getting moving. Think of moving more as an act of self-care that will help you to feel good.
  9. Don’t forget to rest! Taking time to rest is important for good mental health, especially if you’ve been using up a lot of energy. Try to prioritise time for rest and establish a regular, relaxing routine that lets you unwind and sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to rest.
  10. Celebrate your achievements. Congratulate yourself for taking care of your body and mind. Make sure to reward yourself too, perhaps a nice bubble bath after a walk in the park or something else that you enjoy.  Appreciation is a powerful way of generating positive thoughts and feelings. Recognising our progress is an important part of moving for our mental health!

We take these principles into the Nurseries and Pre-Schools by encouraging the children to move regularly, try new things, play outdoors to be at one with nature, to practice mindfulness, to celebrate their achievements and to rest.