World Mental Health Day 2021

Active Essex

Did you know that around 1 in 6 people in Essex are living with a mental illness? That’s close to 150,000 residents. Here at Active Essex, we know that our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and much like the latter, there are things we can do to help us feel better and to stay well.

Physical activity has the huge potential to help us with both. Not only does participating in regular activities help us with our mobility, but it has been shown to help increase our mental alertness, lifting our energy levels and our moods along with them. Even just regular, short bursts of exercise can help to boost our self esteem, and decrease anxiety and stress levels. Although physical activity is not a cure for the mental health conditions that we live with, it is an effective method of managing and maintaining the way that we feel, immediately and in the long-term.

With winter creeping upon us, it’s easy to think that curling up in a ball on the sofa until spring arrives would make us feel a bit better. The cold, short days might feel like less of an invitation to get ourselves moving. But Dr Ronan Fenton, System Medical Director, MSE ICS and Find Your Active supporter, encourages all of us to keep going. He said: “When I was a kid we used to have to learn phrases like ‘Mens Sana in Corpore Sano,’ which means: ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body.’ I thought it was bonkers back then, but have learnt through my personal life and in my medical career that it’s absolutely true. It’s amazing how a little bit of activity, especially doing something you like, clears away the blues and helps you to think clearly.” He added: “As winter approaches it’s appealing to put your feet up and snuggle down – Don’t! Find something which you enjoy and makes you be a bit more active every day. Then do it! You will feel fantastic.”

And it’s not just a question of feeling a bit better, but there’s a science to it. When we exercise, chemical reactions take place in our body, which result in lowered cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and stimulates a release of endorphins (the happy ones!). Creating a balance in our bodies and in our minds, too.

Daniel Doherty, Alliance Director at Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, explains the after effects of these chemical changes. He said: “Physical activity releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good – it boosts your self esteem, helps you to concentrate and helps you to sleep well. How good is that, for something you can do for free?”

It doesn’t haven’t to be a strenuous, back breaking exercise routine. Daniel said: “It doesn’t matter what you do. Whether it’s rugby or running, yachting or yoga, or just enjoying the countryside with your dog. Remember that physical activity isn’t just good for your body, it’s good for your mind!”

If you’re at a low ebb, it can feel quite daunting and hard to know where to start when it comes to getting active. Luckily, in Essex, there are a whole host of groups out there specialising in supporting mental health, whilst getting active at the same time. We at Active Essex are partners of the Mind Regional Network in East of England – a network that pools together these groups, resources and organisations. We are always here to help you find an activity that suits you, your lifestyle and your mental health needs in Essex.

If you would like to find an activity to help you with your mental health maintenance, check out our website and get in touch with us! We’d love to hear from you. And if you are in need of more guidance, support and information about your mental health, contact your GP and visit the NHS Every Mind Matters website.

Wishing you happiness and good mental health, today on World Mental Health Day, and every day that follows.