HUMAN INTEREST STORIES

MAY IS MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH

by Jeanni Ritchie

The theme for 2024 is Movement: Get Moving for Mental Health. There is a 100-mile challenge in 100 cities across the US in which you can sign up and participate virtually in the nationwide activity from May 1-December 31.

You can’t walk virtually though.

I know about virtual living; I lived vicariously through television and my tablet for several years after a devastating event sent me diving for cover. Accepting illness as an excuse to stay in bed, it wasn’t long before I gained over 60 lbs and started declining all offers to socialize. My mental descent wasn’t as obvious as it progressed much slower than the mad spirals I later came to know. It was deceptively dangerous, a slow leak that caused more damage than a blowout would have.

I eventually became active again, found my joy, lost weight, and began enjoying life once more. It started by simply walking.

Walking is one of the best things you can do for your health. Besides the benefits of increased cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness, less pain, and stronger bones, there are marked improvements in your mental health as well.

Combining movement with other therapeutic tools such as talk therapy and spending time with loved ones, you don’t have to break the bank to treat your mental health.

A growing body of research shows that regular walking can improve your mood, cognition and memory, as well as reduce stress. It can also help prevent mental health issues like depression, and reduce cognitive decline and your risk of dementia as you age, according to accredited exercise physiologist Brent Nicol.

Despite knowing the benefits, it’s often hard to take that first step once mental health reaches an all-time low. That’s precisely why you must do it!

Start slow, enlist accountability partners, and work through those thoughts that tell you it won’t matter. It will!

Make a commitment to do one small thing a day. Some starter activities include:

  • Walk around your house or to your mailbox once a day.
  • Walk in a nearby park, even if it’s just a few steps from your car to a park bench.
  • Turn on your favorite song and dance in your living room.
  • Find a free, low-impact exercise video online to do a few times a week.
  • Meet a friend at a nearby walking trail a couple of times a week.
  • Remember your youth. Swing on a playground swing or ride a bike.
  • Join a water aerobics class.
  • Create building blocks. Walk for one minute on a treadmill. Add one minute each day. Dance through one song. Add a new song every other day.
  • Find a church offering a beginner’s exercise class. (They exist and are usually free!)

Every positive thing you do for your body and mind has the potential to multiply and you will soon find yourself craving more activity. After all, we know that a body in motion stays in motion.

May is a great time to put your body back into motion again!

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

How do you walk 100 miles? One step at a time.

You got this!

To sign up for the challenge and find the nearest participating city, visit www.run100challenge.com or register at 100 Mile Challenge.

Jeanni Ritchie is a mental health journalist from Louisiana who finds playground play to be one of the most effective ways to manage her physical and mental health. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. I am not providing healthcare, medical, or nutritional therapy services or attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any physical, mental, or emotional issue. The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before undertaking a new health regimen. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you read [in/on this material/website]. Do not start or stop any medications without speaking to your medical or mental health provider.

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