Mental health nurse Claire Gallagher begins her series on the five ways to wellbeing, and gives her insight into how runners and clubs can be mindful of their benefits. Claire starts things off by talking about the first of the five ways: CONNECT.
I am a mental health nurse working three days a week in the NHS and a nurse lecturer working two days a week at my local university. I’m very passionate about trauma informed care and supporting people with eating disorders. I’ve taken a break from running at the moment but I am a big fan of parkrun, and I love the odd marathon or ultra where I eat and drink my way around the course.
Today I wanted to talk with you about the five ways to well-being (5WTW). Some of you may already know about the 5WTW - great! I hope this is a perfect opportunity to consolidate your knowledge and refresh your memory. For those of you who are learning about the 5WTW for the first time, I hope you find this article useful and it leads you on to learn more about it.
So what are the 5WTW? In 2008 the New Economics Foundation identified five activities that can improve our mental well-being. These activities are: connect, learn, give, notice and be active. Today I’m going to share with you some thoughts I have about connecting.
The New Economics Foundation report suggests we
With the people around you.
With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.
At home, work, school or in your local community.
Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.”
However we can at times find ourselves constantly connected but feeling alone or lonely. Loneliness can make our mental health poor or our mental illnesses worse. That in turn can make us feel more lonely that our mental health difficulties have cut us off from our social circle, therefore feeling even more alone.
Being mindful about our language
To prevent loneliness, I believe it is really important for our running club members to understand that even if they feeling unwell mentally they are valued members of the running community. One way in which we can do this is to make sure our language when talking about mental health and illness is kind, compassionate and correct.
For example do words like crazy, insane, nutter (urgh, shudder) get used by your members (often innocently I’m sure) on your social media channels? Do you share helpful tips on how to return to running gently after a period of illness, mental and physical? Do your runners know that connecting can help improve our mental health and well-being? Are runners welcome to come along to sessions if they are not feeling 100%?
Encouraging meaningful connections
How can your running club ensure you are promoting genuine chances for connection for your members? Maybe a monthly walk/jog/run and talk session would encourage this. As a running club, could you connect with another club or local parkrun? Could you encourage club members to bring a friend along one evening? Or when you have your club runs do you ensure everyone is catered for, pace and distance wise?
I know for myself, I have been running for a really long time and I’m often a very confident slow and steady runner who is very happy to be last. However, when I’m not feeling well - maybe work is worrying me or my mood is low that day - the idea of turning up to a club run and there not being a shorter slower group to go with can be daunting and would probably put me off.
And finally do you have opportunities for social events that don’t involve running, maybe for runners like myself who may not be running for a multitude of reasons? The odd quiz night maybe or bowling?