During Mental Health Awareness Week 2024, we spoke to some of our experts and presenters about this year’s theme – Movement. Sally Harris, who delivers our Mental Health Awareness workshops and webinars, talks about the role of physical health in her life: 


This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’. What do you think of this choice of theme?

SH: I think this is a fantastic theme for Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s a great reminder to look at mental health holistically, to know that our bodies and minds are not two completely separate entities.


SWW: How does movement / physical activity benefit your mental health? What are your physical health ‘go tos’?

SH: Being active is a massive part of how I look after my mental health. I know a day that I’ve managed to get out for a walk I will feel calmer, more focused and positive. I also go weightlifting twice a week. As a woman, it’s not something I ever thought I would feel passionate about but I go to a small, friendly gym and love the feeling of confidence and achievement I get from it, as well as the social aspect. It’s satisfying to feel like you’re making progress as you see the weights you’re able to lift gradually increasing.


SWW: What advice would you give to those struggling with their mental health who don’t like the thought of physical activity / exercise as a means to help with those struggles?

SH: Focus on finding a form of movement you genuinely enjoy, otherwise it will be very hard to find the motivation to do it. It doesn’t need to be traditional exercise either – you don’t have to suddenly start running marathons – it could be something as simple as putting your favourite music on and dancing around the kitchen with your kids. I think celebrating small wins is important too. If you’re struggling and you manage to get out of the house even for a five-minute walk that can be a massive achievement. I think combining movement with something you really do enjoy– like seeing a friend or walking to a favourite shop or café – can make it seem less daunting and more fun.


Finally, what ‘movement’ activities do you have planned for Mental Health Week Awareness Week 2024 / What have you done thus far?

SH: I had a walking meeting with a colleague earlier this week which was great. It would have been so easy to just speak via Zoom, but we both felt better for connecting face to face, getting some fresh air and a break from sitting at our desks. We even saw some swifts flying overhead and go to share that moment of joy. I am leading a mindful walk in a local park on Saturday so that will be a good chance to combine the benefits of walking in nature with some guided mindfulness activities. I will also be going weightlifting at the weekend!

Separate to her work with Shine, Sally runs a mindfulness practice based in Oxford. For more information, visit: https://www.sallyharrismindfulness.co.uk/

(Main picture credit: Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash)