Mental health nurse Claire Gallagher continues her series on the five ways to wellbeing, introducing the importance of learning as part of our personal journeys.
Hello Mental Health champions and ambassadors, thank you for taking some time to read this article, and I hope my last one on connecting was helpful. Please let us know in the Facebook group for ways in which your club has connected or thought about connection!
Today I want to talk about LEARN, another one of the five ways to well-being. For those of you who do not know what the Five Ways to Wellbeing are, here is an introduction. In 2008 the New Economics Foundation identified five activities that can improve our mental well-being. They are evidence-based (meaning research has shown that these activities will improve your mental health) and can be used by everyone. These activities are: connect, learn, give, notice and be active. Today I’m going to share with you some thoughts I have about learning.
The New Economics Foundation report suggests we “Keep Learning… Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun”
Nowadays we are one click or a touch of a screen away from knowledge - and lots of it! So learning should be easy right? Not always. For those of us that have experienced poor mental health at any time in our lives, understanding new information, retaining it, making sense of it, holding a balanced view of that information and putting it to good use can be really overwhelming. As mental health champions it is good to remember this for when information or new learning is disseminated to your running club members, so that everyone has the chance to benefit from it.
As a nurse lecturer, I’ve learnt that the information we can easily access can be wrong or misleading, or heavily biased (for example when you look for information about ‘healthy eating’ more often than not it’s influenced by diet culture and the diet industry- not healthy at all!!) so ensuring anything we share comes from a reputable source is vital. Sharing information from sources such as The Mental Health Foundation, Rethink, MIND, and NHS are a good place to start.
So how can your running club encourage members to keep learning?
Are there opportunities to invite professionals to club runs who can talk about issues like podiatry, fall/injury prevention, pelvic floor strength etc? Your club may already have these professionals as members, if so could they hold a workshop for your members after a run one evening?
Do you have a club newsletter that could promote one aspect of mental well-being a month, like stress management, mindfulness or sleep hygiene? This could link in with race season - spring and autumn are busy times for big races, so could some of this information be shared as a way to improve confidence when race day arrives.
Can your Coach or leaders in running fitness offer support to runners to learn about running. I know this may sound silly considering we are talking about running club members but stick with me here! For me, I started jogging about 15 years ago, with the goal to compete a race for life. But it wasn’t until I attended some track sessions with a coach about four years ago that I understood what my body did when I jogged. And before you all shake your head at the idea of a track session - these were sessions designed for the more steadier / slower runner like myself, with some chance to run fast if we wanted but also great place to learn about keeping our heads up and arms moving properly when we ran, certain drills we can do to improve our posture, and a good stretch and cool down session after.
Talking about coach and leaders in running fitness, does your club encourage runners to complete these courses or others offered by England athletics? These would certainly increase confidence and encourage good evidence based information to be shared between members.