So let’s start with body, the mental health benefits of becoming more physically active are becoming more and more well known.
Let’s think about how we feel after we’ve done some exercise? Even if we’re absolutely exhausted and breathless and red in the face we feel pretty smug & good! Once the initial tiredness subsides we feel more energetic and for me personally my problems do not seem quite as big. Whilst out running or walking or whatever I’ve chosen to do I’ve managed to gain some perspective and headspace? These things are not an exact science but they are more important to many than exercising to keep in shape. We know many GPS will now prescribe exercise for low mood because it is clear that exercise stimulates positive endorphins.
New research from the department of health October 2017 reported 12% of cases of depression could be prevented with an hour of exercise each week.
Make this 3 times a week and the risk of depression reduces by 30%.
What about stress? Yes regular exercisers have more grey matter in the prefrontal cortex which governs stress management. Exercise stimulates serotonin the natural feel good neurotransmitter. Exercise helps with anxiety and is fantastic for helping you bounce back in difficult times. Different types of exercise can be used for different things for example, yoga and Pilates are very relaxing. It’s horses for courses though and important that we remember this. I prefer to release my tension by doing a spinning or combat class or a really long run.
Nutrition for mental health……..
Of course when we think about body and mind we have to think about nutrition too. We often don’t hear about the link between nutrition and mental health yet nearly two thirds of people without mental health problems eat fresh fruit or juice every day compared with less than half that do report mental health problems. The pattern is similar with fresh vegetables and salad. We can protect our mood and encourage greater feelings of wellbeing by ensuring our diet is balanced and that we are eating enough essential fat and vitamins and drinking plenty water. We should also look to reduce the amount of processed food sugar and alcohol.
I believe that we shouldn’t think about physical and mental health as two different things; the two things are one and the same.
If we take this thinking to our role as school leaders how can we ensure our schools are genuinely active places and I don’t just mean the children? We also need to consider how we can we ensure that our children and staff are making positive nutritional choices. It really is about having a whole school approach and the Youth Sport Trust @YouthSportTrust is well placed to support schools with this.
If we get these two things right and use the PE department who are really well placed to drive the wellbeing agenda we are half way there. What we can’t have is PE departments who don’t know who the ‘least active’ are.
Of course I can’t blog about mental health without advocating for Mental Health First Aid training– http://allianceforlearning.co.uk/cpd/mental-health-and-wellbeing/youth-mental-health-first-aid/ and http://allianceforlearning.co.uk/cpd/mental-health-and-wellbeing/adult-mental-health-first-aid/ this is an essential part of ensuring students and staff receive early help. I also believe that embedding a coaching culture is essential to achieve a supportive and happy school environment which allows staff and students to thrive but that is a whole other blog…..
Across our Mat at BFET we have strategies around all those things:
Finally, in terms of a whole school approach there are some great resources on the Mental Health First Aid England website – for example: the Line Manager Guide is excellent: https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/resources/for-workplaces/ I particularly like the diagram on page 19 which looks at a holistic approach to staff wellbeing at work. Another great resource is the NCB Wellbeing Framework for Leaders and I really like the diagram below taken from that:
Thank you for taking the time to read by blog and Happy New Year!
Director of Teaching School & Partnerships