Mental Health Awareness Week 2024

By Jasmyn Collings

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week!

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 takes place from the13th to 19th of May. The focus of this year’s campaign, is inspired by the theme “Movement for Mental Health.” This theme emphasises the significance of exercise in impacting our mental and physical wellbeing, with the aim to incorporate exercise into everyday life.

Privilege vs. Punishment

As children, we rejoice at the opportunity to run, jump, play, and sprint as fast as we can. Yet, as we get older and life gets busier, we can sometimes let go of the creativity and get pushed into boxes. We often turn exercise into a punishment, groaning at the thought of heading to a HIIT or spin class. But we can break out of that box and start to see exercise as a privilege.

Take a look at these stories that shift the focus of exercise away from a punishment and more towards a tool to improve life as well as mental, and physical health. From accepting your body, to finding peace in the wilderness, to running marathons for fun, these stories serve as a reminder to embrace exercise in a way that suits us. Break free from what is expected of you, and just do what makes you happy!

Making a change

As a mental health team, we understand that it is quite tough to squeeze in plenty of movement throughout the working day, and by the time the weekend comes, we’re pooped! But we also recognise that movement is fantastic for mental and physical health. Many of us find incorporating daily exercise to be a chore. Even thinking about scheduling in exercise can be overwhelming. But we want to change that. Movement can mean dancing to a song, stretching or walking breaks at work, roller skating, pole dancing, hula-hooping, racing the kids across the park or taking them to the pool.

In our mental health office, we embrace a simple yet effective practice called the “11 o’clock shock.” It’s a playful ritual where, at 11 a.m. each day, we dedicate a few minutes to move our bodies and refresh our minds. Whether it’s a brisk walk around the block, a series of squats, or gentle stretches to release tension, the goal is the same: to “shock” our system in a fun and friendly manner. This simple change in our daily routine not only gets us moving but boosts our morale and gives everyone a good laugh.

What’s available?

The variety of options available on YouTube beyond yoga or HIIT classes is endless. There are fun alternatives like musical theatre dance sessions, sing-along fitness sessions, and even “5,000 steps workouts” (which I just completed 5 minutes of at my desk!). It’s important to remember that you don’t have to do everything or do it perfectly, but safety should always come first. Just tapping along to a steps workout for a few minutes while seated at my desk was fun and different, it gets the blood pumping, and  offers more benefits to my body than simply remaining inactive.

Perhaps that’s the point of this year’s theme. It’s not just getting moving, it’s finding ways to spark joy through movement. It’s exploring what you find fun in order to create a long lasting and sustainable change. So this week, take a look at your daily routine, and see where you can spark some joy through movement, and who you can do that with!