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Student Blog

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024: Get Moving for Mental Health

Date

Written by
Adrian C.

Adrian from the University of London’s wellbeing team shares how we can feel better by getting active and spreading kindness this Mental Health Awareness Week.

2 people stretching on the side of a running track

As we step into Mental Health Awareness Week 2024, let’s talk about a theme that’s buzzing with energy this year — how physical activity can lift our spirits, sharpen our minds, and generally make us feel great!

Why get physical?

You’ve probably heard it said that a healthy body equals a healthy mind, and it’s true! Engaging in physical activity is not just about building muscles or staying physically fit; it’s also about boosting our mental health. When we move, our bodies release chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that naturally enhance our mood and make us feel happier and more relaxed.

Every little helps

Now, when we talk about physical activity, it doesn’t mean you need to run marathons or hit the gym hard. It’s about finding joy in movement in any form—whether that’s dancing to your favourite tunes, cycling through the park, or simply taking a brisk walk around your neighbourhood. The key is consistency and enjoyment. Even small amounts of regular physical activity can significantly affect your mental health, helping to manage stress, anxiety, and even symptoms of depression.

Random acts of kindness through activity

This year, why not combine physical activity with random acts of kindness? Here’s a thought: next time you are out for a jog or walk, pick up some litter along your path, or leave a friendly note on a neighbour’s doorstep.

“Doing good does you good” is not just a fluffy saying – it’s backed by research. Engaging in acts of kindness releases neurotransmitters that stabilise our mood, feelings of wellbeing, and happiness. This isn’t just about grand gestures; even small actions can make a significant difference. Whether you are on campus or online, consider these simple acts:

  • Compliment a classmate on their insightful comment in the forum.
  • Share your study notes with someone who missed a lecture.
  • Check in on a friend who has been quiet lately.
  • Volunteer for a local charity or start a fundraiser with friends.

These acts of kindness build connections and create supportive networks, crucial for mental health, especially in a university setting.

Integrating physical activity and kindness into your routine 📅🤝

Combining physical activity with acts of kindness can amplify your mental health benefits. How about organising a group walk with a litter-picking goal? Or perhaps a yoga session where each participant contributes something small to a local food bank?

Activities that suit you

Finding an activity that you enjoy is crucial. If you don't enjoy intense, sweaty workouts, how about yoga, pilates, or even gardening? (Is there a community-maintained garden near you where you can volunteer to help?) These are excellent for those who prefer a gentler approach to activity but still want the mental clarity and mood benefits that come with getting active.

Community and connection

Let’s not forget the social side of staying active! Joining a class or a sports club can also connect you with others, providing social support and reducing feelings of loneliness or isolation. Group activities can offer encouragement and a sense of community, which are essential for mental wellbeing.

Taking the first step

If you’re feeling inspired to get more active, here’s a simple way to start: integrate activity into your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk or cycle to places instead of driving, or try standing more if you have a desk job. Small choices can lead to big changes!

Your wellbeing, your pace

Remember, your mental health journey is unique, and so is your way of integrating physical activity into your life. It’s okay to start small and gradually increase your activity level as you feel more comfortable. What matters most is that you are moving and taking steps to enhance your mental and physical health.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, I encourage you to embrace physical activity in any form that feels good for you and consider coupling it with acts of kindness. Let’s move towards a happier, healthier mind together! 🌈💪