Published 12th May 2021 by mymo
Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 is an awareness campaign led by the Mental Health Foundation which aims to provide support, action and resources to support everyone with their mental health.
The theme this year is ‘Nature’, and as runners we know the benefits of running on body and mind especially when it allows us to get out in nature. Mental boosts from running are vast, from the ‘happy’ chemicals released in our brain during exercise, to the connections and communities we are part of. It’s no surprise there are teams of GPs in the UK now prescribing parkrun for mental and physical health as a way of boosting overall wellbeing.
Getting out in nature
The Mental Health Foundation chose nature as their theme for awareness week stating the choice was because, “Nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health, that it’s almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world.”
Running gives us the ultimate freedom to explore this. While some runners may be fans of really connecting with nature through trail running, even those happiest on the road may discover parks and cycle tracks in new places they may never have found without running. Running allows us to see and connect with new places and at a slower pace so we can really take it all in.
It’s not just endorphins that keep our heads happy when we run. Running is a great time to switch off - and often we mean from technology, too! Instead of being a slave to Zoom, email or phone calls, being outside and in your thoughts can help you to process, make decisions and let off steam after a tricky day.
Paul Sinton Hewitt CBE, founder of parkrun says: “Running is the place where I settle arguments with myself”, while author Anji Andrews writes: “When I run, I think about everything and I think about nothing.”
Moving your body and switching your brain off at the same time can be a huge brain boost.
Kick from community
How many of us, particularly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, live fairly isolated lives?
While we have been forced to live in ‘bubbles’ for much of the past year, even before this there are many people who work at home or in offices with little interaction outside of work and family.
Running boosts our mental health through social interaction and community, without us realising. Running in groups can spur on competition and give us a sense of belonging and identity as well as introduce us to lifelong friends and connections, while community events like parkrun allow us not just to run but to volunteer and connect with people in our area we may never have otherwise crossed paths with.
Running can also change communities for the better. Look at GoodGym and the amazing work they do as they run, walk and do good deeds in the community and with isolated older people. Who says running has to be a lonely sport?
How do you use running to support your mental health? Have we missed something above? We’d love to hear from you.
How often do you go running without a watch? Do you go out and just 'run to feel'? This is usually a topical debate amongst runners so here, we take a look at the great watch debate!
A lot has happened over the last 12 months and naturally, some of us may have lost our running 'mojo'. In this article, we look at a few ways to help you get that motivation back.