Mental Health Awareness Week – Moving more for our Mental Health

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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Movement’. Research shows that incorporating regular movement into our everyday lives is fundamental for maintaining good mental health. Movement can have a profound impact on our well-being, which, in turn, positively impacts our mental health and performance at work. In this email, we will look at the benefits of movement, how we can incorporate it into our lives, and considerations as an Employer.

Here are some examples of the benefits movement can provide:

  1. Boosts mood: even short bursts of 10 minutes brisk walking can enhance our mood and increase mental alertness and energy levels.
  2. Improves sleep: regular physical activity contributes to better sleep quality.
  3. Enhances self-esteem: movement helps us feel better about ourselves and improves self-esteem.
  4. Reduces anxiety: movement makes our ‘fight or flight’ response less reactive, helping to reduce anxiety.
  5. Social interaction: engaging in movement-based activities often involves meeting new people and spending time with others, which encourages social connections.
  6. Cognitive benefits: movement therapies are often successfully used as supplementary treatments for depression and anxiety in place of medication.

Movement can be fully inclusive if we consider that everyone has different limitations in terms of the movement, they are able to achieve. Setting small movement goals can help in this respect. Ultimately, all movement creates positive feelings that, in turn, naturally boost confidence and mood.

Below are some examples of how we can incorporate movement into our everyday lives:

  • Take a break from sitting: set a timer to take regular breaks to stand up, walk around and stretch.
  • Find the fun: instead of thinking of movement as a chore, embrace your inner child and choose activities that you enjoy doing.
  • Connect with others: team activities encourage us to make new friends and strengthen our relationships.
  • Get into nature: being outdoors has a greater impact on our well-being than being indoors. For instance, visiting places such as parks, nature reserves, and gardens all provide opportunities.
  • Try something new: Pushing ourselves to try new experiences can boost our well-being and confidence.
  • Plan things to look forward to: having events and plans in the diary is great for mental health; it can give a sense of hope and excitement for the future.
  • Listening to music: listen to music that gets you moving. Who doesn’t love turning up their favourite tune and dancing like no one’s watching?

It is also important to note that not all movement has to be about pace.  Focusing on slow, deliberate movement through the practice of Mindfulness has also been shown to improve concentration and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.   The benefits of this are that it is accessible to everyone and can be done at a time and place that suits the individual.

Considerations for Employers

Employers may want to consider how they can implement initiatives to promote movement and well-being in the workplace. Any initiatives implemented should be inclusive and should not indirectly discriminate – this being where a policy or procedure you have in place isn’t intended to discriminate against anyone but where, in practice, it has the effect of disadvantaging a group of employees who share a particular protected characteristic, like disability. As mentioned above, be mindful of different limitations in terms of the movement they are able to achieve, as this will help avoid indirectly discriminating against an employee.

It is worth noting that employees with ongoing mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression, may be defined as disabled under the Equality Act 2010. In cases of disability, employers are under a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to remove or reduce a disadvantage related to the disability. Employees who have the protected characteristic of disability are also protected from discrimination, harassment, and victimisation.

In cases where the employee does not hold the protected characteristic of disability, employers are still encouraged to make reasonable adjustments to promote the health and well-being of that person. In turn, this is likely to have a positive impact on the relationship with the employee, their ability to stay at work (rather than needing time off as sickness absence) and encourage a productive work environment.

In the context of introducing movement-based initiatives at work, reasonable adjustments may be needed to any initiative you implement in order to remove any barrier or disadvantage to a disabled employee. An initiative, for example, which encourages employees to go outdoors and get their steps in could be adjusted to recognise steps on an at-home treadmill for an employee whose mental health condition prevents them from going outside as often as others.

In the same way as physical health, mental health can fluctuate between good and poor, and it includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Promoting and protecting the mental well-being of your workforce is extremely important for employees’ health, well-being, and productivity. If you do not have one already, consider implementing a Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy to outline your organisation’s role in promoting mental well-being and support provided to staff.

If you require any assistance or advice regarding the above, please call 01274 864999 to speak to your dedicated Howarths Employment Law Advisor.

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