I went for a walk today. I went into town and walked a huge loop round the town, which given that there are loads of rural walks and I prefer places that are less peopley, more interesting views, this was just a change of scene.
It was around 5 miles, which was not the five miler of death that is attributed to a military regt by other branches looking to poke a bit of fun but for me, it was a good workout and long overdue. I have been a bit down and feeling like I’m chubbing up, so a good long walk seemed in order.
There is strong evidence that exercise has a really strong effect on mental health issues, especially as the feel good chemicals of the body, the endorphins are set loose in the system giving you a boost. It certainly has affected my mood positively today and although not out of woods, I do feel better for it.
This has been highlighted in a BBC documentary, Mind over Marathon which is following ten people with mental health issues as they train to complete the London Marathon. It’s an interesting study which is showing how exercise and purpose is having a positive effect on the wellbeing of people suffering mental illness. There is also the added focus of the young royals who have started a charity, Heads Together, to raise awareness of mental health issues and to remove the stigma in society, which can only be a positive move to be so high profile.
Anxiety & depression account for 7.8% of the UK population, with 1 in 6 adults suffering a common mental illness. The worrying trend is the growth in the number of reported cases of common mental health issues being treated. There has also been a significant growth in the number of suicides, with 75% being male, 25% female.
There are many hypotheses put forward for why this is happening, with the most likely being that we are not designed to be living such a fast paced, stressful and frenetic lifestyle consistently. We have information overload like never before from 24 hour media news and internet access, all giving messages of one thing or another, politically or commercially, urging us to think in a certain way and to buy something to give us that lifestyle they are selling.
There are pressures placed on each of us to comply with laws, wait in queues of people or traffic, work harder for longer and all this in a back drop of continual global bad news. I don’t believe it’s too far a stretch to believe that these are all contributory factors to the growth seen in mental health issues in the UK.
There are many suggestions, many theories as to what can be done and I believe that you not only have to treat the people that are suffering today, but identify those who are showing the first signs at a young age to help them avoid illness in the future. How this can be effected into a major national initiative is for people who are much more capable than me and I really hope that it will soon be initiated. All I can do is wait and hope on this.
I think for me, I need to apply a variety of actions to manage my illness, from exposure to news, refraining from debate online, more exercise and doing new things regularly, visit new places, new experiences to keep the mind alert as well as positive.
If I could walk myself to good health, I certainly would and I’m going to try that as a therapy for recovery.
Be kind to yourself.