Today is World Mental Health Day. For me an important part of the journey to obliterate the stigma around mental health is recognising this type of health is important to us all. We should be talking about it more in everyday life with our kids, our elderly, our bosses – without fear or shame.
We all experience different levels of physical and mental health at different points in our life. Your fitness tracker of choice congratulates you for eating a sensible number of calories or doing your 10,000 steps a day. WeightWatchers awards stars and certificates for shedding your muffin top. But who celebrates the effort you put into maintaining or improving your mental health?
This year cycling has become a significant part of my daily fitness routine. It’s helped me drop a little under a stone and I’ve received some lovely comments about “looking great”. However cycling is as much about improving my emotional fitness as my waistline.
What do you think those same people would say if I also told them I invest 5-10 minutes at breakfast scanning my Animal board on Pinterest? Perhaps they’d think it’s funny or an indulgence. Maybe even a frivolous waste of my life. I doubt they’d comment how great I look on it.
In fact a quick scan of emergency kitten photos has a similar impact to the two-wheel workout: it makes me smile. Some researchers have connected smiling with lowering stress in the body. Even if that’s never convincingly proven, I know that it’s not just the physical muscle movement that helps me. It’s the conscious act of deciding that German Shepherd puppies are more important in that moment than panicking about something that might never happen. As UK charity Mind say, “Give yourself a break”.
Serious mental health conditions need seriously great mental health support. Especially many of the conditions Toby Allen’s captured in his Real Monsters drawings. One of my first questions as a trainee coach will be about recognising when a client should be referred to a mental health professional and how to do this sensitively.
So the point isn’t that we should all look at fluffy animals over our avocado on toast (try it – it’s delicious!). Instead the point is that investing time in your mental health is time well spent. No matter how small.
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