University Health and Wellbeing Coordinator, Laura Ackerley, is sharing her thoughts on how being physically active can inspire change and improve your mental wellbeing.

Why should we be kind to ourselves?

  • To develop that sense of feeling good about ourselves
  • To be able to deal with the ups and downs of life
  • To create a sense of purpose and a feeling of being valued
  • To be able to cope with challenges and to make the most opportunities that arise

But how do we go about being kind to ourselves?

  • Spend time do the things you enjoy
  • Promote your own wellbeing
  • Transform your mindset
  • Take care of you mind and body

Essentially being kind to ourselves should be about promoting our own wellbeing so that we feel happy and content, and we can do that by being active regularly and taking care of both our mind and our body.

We already know a lot about how being active can be good for us – how it can improve your physical health and decrease the chance of disease. Likewise how it can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve our overall mental wellbeing.

But how do we put all of that into context when we are talking about being kind to ourselves? What we are really talking about here is, self-care, looking after yourself. And when we are active regularly, we are rewarding ourselves with all the positive benefits associated with exercise, and therefore being kind to ourselves.

When we are active, we are able to:

  • Promote our own wellbeing
  • Transform our mindset
  • Take care of our body
  • Take care of our mind
  • Spend time doing things we enjoy (most the time we enjoy it!)
  • Cope with challenges better
  • Feel good about ourselves
  • Feel valued
  • Have a sense of purpose

Being active doesn’t have to mean doing sport or going to the gym. We can think outside the box, and especially with the current circumstances we are in, we can think about how to be active within our own home. Be creative! Being active can actually be secondary to what you are doing. Like those fun runs, obstacle courses, gardening, housework, dancing. Don’t tell me that you are doing those because you were thought you needed the exercise!

Now being active also doesn’t need to be a 2-hour workout, even just a 10-min brisk walk can increase your mental alertness and energy levels as well improve your mood! You could even concentrate on exercises that improve your mind set, like yoga or stretching. There is also a way to continue with your usual workout, but focus on being mindful – for instance, you could perform your usual activity but focus inwards; concentrating on your breathing or movement.

While running, turn off your music and pay attention to the sound of your feet, rhythm of your breath and movement of your arms

While lifting weights, pay attention to the muscles you are strengthening as they contract and relax

While cycling/spinning, focus on the movements of your leg muscles as they move in unison, from the top of your leg all the way down to the peddle.

I know we are talking about encouraging you to be active and how this can help us to be kind to ourselves, but I am fully aware that it is easier said than done. When I go running, I don’t run because I like how hard I find it, how breathless and tired I get, or hard I find it to keep putting one foot in front of the other, in fact when I am running I don’t enjoy it all. But afterwards – I love it! I feel so good in myself, and have a great sense of achievement and purpose – as strange as it sounds exercise can do that for you.

And remember there are many other activities out there that you can do that are also enjoyable when you are doing them; swimming, exercise classes, a family cycle ride, walking your dog, dancing…

There are many reasons why being physically active is good for our body, but it is just as good for our mental wellbeing. Therefore, it is important to try to value being active not as something we ‘ought to do’ or as something we ‘should do’. But as something we personally value because of its positive benefits to our wellbeing, so be kind to yourself by being active.

Why not get active during this time with Christ Church Sport’s Free Facebook Fitness Classes! And get involved with their 2.6 Challenge– help save the UK’s charities while having fun