Anthology of Wellbeing in Education
Submission by Steve Hoey @shoey1968
Steve is a school leader and Mental Health First Aid Instructor. He is based in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
Walking for Wellbeing
As Hippocrates stated, “walking is man’s best medicine”. Regular walks not only increase your chances of living longer, but also help you get more energy, lose weight, stay healthy and positive.
My work in schools and in delivering Mental Health First Aid courses to staff, students and parents means that I talk about wellbeing a lot but what does it actually mean?
The charity MIND says that “mental wellbeing describes your metal state – how you are feeling and how well you can cope with day-to-day life”. Our mental health is dynamic. It can change from moment to moment, day to day, month to month or year to year.
Personally, for me wellbeing it is about me being ME. How can I be the absolute best person I can be, and this involves my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Where am I at that moment in time? Whereas if you work in education, especially if you are a teacher, your wellbeing probably isn’t very high on your agenda and you can sometimes feel like you are on an hamster wheel, furiously going but not really getting anywhere.
One proactive strategy that I know works to help me maintain a sense of wellbeing, a sense of balance and a sense of purpose is walking. You have probably all heard of the five ways to wellbeing promoted by the NHS and the various apps and you know there’s loads of good things to help you maintain a sense of wellbeing. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.
If you are a class teacher that is chained to your classroom, you probably do thousands of steps every day just walking around the desks. Maybe a quick sprint at break time to go to the toilet or to grab a coffee and the slow walk at the end of your day back to your car laden with books for an evening of marking.
If you are a senior leader, especially if you are a fan of leadership by walking around, you probably do those steps patrolling the corridors and popping into classrooms. I must walk up the equivalent of Mount Everest every day.
The mental health benefits of exercise are huge and what I am going to talk about is walking for wellbeing. Giving yourself that time outside of school to walk in the fresh air. Outside of the hustle and bustle of your normal life.
For the last three years I have tried to walk a 1000 miles per year. It sounds a lot, but it only amounts to 2.74 miles per day. Just under an hour. There are 24 hours in a day and are you willing to devote some of that time for you. To invest in your own wellbeing. Walking is a proactive exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere, and best of all it is completely FREE.
You can walk with your dog, your friends or on your own. You can listen to music, audiobooks, podcast or just the birds. There is a fantastic app called Headspace that is FREE to teachers, but I prefer to walk alone with nothing but my own headspace. It helps me to process, ponder and plan. Giving yourself the space and time to be well.
I can guarantee you that by the time you get home you will feel better. I am extremely fortunate because I can walk in the woods. I walk all year round. I love seeing the changes in the seasons, the animals, the weather, and the changes in me.
A good walk can do wonders for your wellbeing. It improves self-perception and self-esteem, mood, and sleep quality, and it reduces stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Physically active people have up to a 30% reduced risk of becoming depressed and staying active helps those who are depressed recover. In older people, staying active can improve cognitive function, memory, attention, and processing speed, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Now, more than ever, we need the physical and mental health benefits of walking. So, my advice would be to just walk but beware.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step into the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to”. J.R.R. Tolkien
Maybe walking for wellbeing will help you reconnect with yourself and with others. What have you got to lose?
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