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Mental Health Awareness Week 2024: The importance of physical activity

Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event (13 – 19 May) where we are all invited to have an open dialogue about the importance of maintaining good mental health. This year’s awareness week, led by the Mental Health Foundation, is based on the theme of ‘movement’. This theme encourages people to find “moments for movement”.

An awareness week like this is important, especially as statistics show that people with mental health problems are, on average, predicted to live 10-25 years less than the general population. Furthermore, Mental Health UK’s research shows that 56% of people surveyed said that regular exercise helped reduce feelings of burnout and stress. 

Over the years, our Trust has stressed that physical health is directly linked to mental wellbeing. We are committed to providing a holistic and integrated NHS Service to benefit the overall health and wellbeing of our service users and carers. The support we provide, both as 1:1 and group sessions, ranges from weight management to alcohol and substance misuse. 

One of the forms of support offered by our clinical staff and health psychologists is better sleep workshop sessions. Sleep issues have been shown to significantly worsen an individual’s mental health, for example by increasing depression and anxiety. Prolonged sleep issues can create negative feedback loops, where poor sleep results in poorer mental health and vice versa. 

To alleviate these issues, sleep hygiene training is vital. This term refers to healthy sleep practices which aid better rest; this can be through changing our behaviour or sleep environments. Sleep hygiene tips include having a set bedtime schedule, dimming lights at night, staying off electronic devices an hour or more before bed and avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed. 

The Tavistock Trauma Service pioneered a yoga session at our trust as another tool to aid better mental health. According to Harvard Medical School, yoga helps our brains develop new connections and has many cognitive benefits such as improving decision-making, attention span, language and memory. 

It can be hard to find time out of our busy lives to exercise, but it is important to remember that even short moments of movement are better than none. There are tips and tricks to make exercise more enjoyable such as setting yourself weekly goals, doing an activity with friends and family or even listening to a podcast on the go.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, get involved on social media by sharing your #MomentsForMovement.