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Heidi Cambridge
| 16TH MAY 2024

Zeno Thinks:Five thoughts on 2024 Mental Health Awareness Week

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week – an annual moment each May led by the Mental Health Foundation which seeks to tackle stigma and share tips and resources to help boost our mental health. The theme this year focused on movement and how being more active can help boost your mood and wellbeing. 

To support this goal, we invited charity Shout  - the UK’s first and only free, confidential 24/7 text messaging service - to join us in London to share their latest findings on physical exercise and wellbeing. 

Here are my five key takeouts on what I have learnt over the course of this week:   

  1. Exercising can be easier said than done: A new report by Mental Health Foundation reveals that while 82% of UK adults understand how exercise can boost mental health, over a third (36%) don’t meet the physical activity recommendations set out by the World Health Organisation. Some of the barriers called out include struggling to allocate time (37%), being too busy (22%) and everyday stress (17%). I could relate to these findings, I like to think of myself as quite active, but when tackling multiple deadlines all the best laid plans for going for a lunchtime run or hitting that post work exercise class can go up in the air! I am learning that it is important to go easy on yourself – even a quick walk can make all the difference in boosting your mood and energy levels.  
  2. Exercise benefits mental wellbeing in multiple ways: Our bodies and minds are connected, so looking after ourselves physically can help prevent problems with our mental health. In fact, Shout recently analysed data from their texters about how they’re harnessing the positive power of exercise, with some of the top reasons including: 
    • Using it as a distraction from feelings
    • Using it as a way to de-stress or relax
    • Improving sleep and sleep disorders such as insomnia
    • Uplifting mood
  3. You’re more likely to move if you set small, achievable goals: The thought of exercising or starting something new can be overwhelming, so it’s good to set small, achievable goals and praise yourself when you succeed. This could be as simple as walking somewhere instead of taking the car or public transport. Also, remember, exercise doesn’t need to be in the form of sport - everyday activities such as gardening, doing the cleaning or walking the dog are also great ways to improve our mental and physical health.
  4. Building positive mental health is important in the PR industry: The 2023/2024 Mental Wellbeing Audit published by the PRCA and CIPR shows that the prevalence of mental health conditions among people who work in the PR sector has risen from one in four to one in three. Worryingly, PR professionals continue to have a higher risk compared to the general UK workforce with almost two thirds (63%) reporting they have suffered with poor mental health in the past year.  At Zeno London I’m proud to be a Mental Health First Aider and help lead our Be Kind To Your Mind employee group. Through this we organise a range of events from lunchtime walking groups to Pilates sessions in the boardroom, all with the goal of supporting positive health and wellbeing. 
  5. If brands want to get involved in an initiative, going against its theme can work: Coverage this year has been dominated around the theme of movement, but a brand that bucked this trend and really stood out for me was McDonald’s. They announced the removal of the iconic smile from their Happy Meal box for the first time, to help reinforce to children that it’s okay not to be happy all the time. They leveraged sports ambassadors such as Rio Ferdinand to help amplify the campaign, and worked with BBC Children In Need to create resources parents can use to help spark family conversations about emotions. Bravo McDonald’s for stepping out and doing something different!