This week we’ve been marking Mental Health Awareness Week and as we reach the midpoint, today we’re looking at the mental health benefits of being more social.

On Monday we covered movement, exploring how being more active can help lift mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Yesterday, we moved on to the benefits of discovery and nature, and a selection of our Mental Health First Aiders will also help us cover the power of motivation and connection later in the week.

Today we cover how being more active can benefit us socially, and the mental health benefits this can bring.

Setting the scene:

Anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health challenges continue to be the most common reason for absence within the NHS. The Office for National Statistics reports that 1 in 4 UK adults often or always feels lonely, with a clear link between loneliness & depression and anxiety.

However, a recent Mental Health Foundation study found a strong connection between social wellbeing and life satisfaction – meaning social connections can help boost our mental health. Helping us to demonstrate that today are a selection of our Mental Health First Aiders.

How getting out and about helps us socially:

Often the most difficult step when it comes to getting out or meeting others is the first one – getting out in the first place. Undergraduate Programme Support Assistant, Emily Ramshaw, explains: “I’m terrible for making plans and then cancelling… I think we can all be a bit like that sometimes.

“However, I’ve learned that sometimes committing and going out even if I am tired is always worthwhile. Spending time with friends or family is self-care, and it shouldn’t be neglected. You might not always realise you need some down time, but you probably do!”

Highlighting some of the benefits that can be gained by pushing beyond the comfort zone, Emily continues: “A work colleague asked me to join her at a class in Newcastle. I wasn’t sure at first, but I had the BEST time. It’s made our working relationship better and I feel like I have a friend in the office, not just a work colleague.”

Our Chaplain, Joan Urwin, hits the nail on the head around how activities lead to new relationships as she summarises: “Whether it’s at the gym, pilates or dancersize, part of the fun is chatting to people and getting to know them. When you go week after week, you build up relationships and have a bit of banter with them.”

Emily and Joan’s feelings also appear to be shared by Senior Biomedical Scientist (Microbiology), Gillian Nichol, who expands: “It’s always good to connect with others, and particularly those with a shared interest other than work.”

Meeting new people comes easier for some of us than others. Michelle Cummings, our Biomedical Scientist, shares: “I’m quite a confident person socially so I can find positives from things as simple as chatting to people in the chemists or walking the dog when I had one. I love a community spirit because we all need help from our community and neighbours from time-to-time. It’s just nice to be nice.”

Rounding us off today is Patient Experience Facilitator, Anya Dyson, who echoes the common theme of today’s responses.

“I’m not a massively social person, but when I get to spend time with those I am close with, I feel so much better. My hear and head feel lighter, and I feel closer to them.

Join us!

We’re extremely grateful for the help our Mental Health First Aiders have provided us in helping make this series of articles. Raising the profile of mental health in the workplace is a key responsibility of our MHFAs, alongside providing support and signposting where appropriate – and we’re always looking for more!

To find out more about the role of MHFAs, it’s well worth checking out our recent item on them here.

Alternatively, if you’d like to play your part in helping us build a more supportive workplace, you might want to become a First Aider yourself. For line managers, we’ve even launched a new dedicated 1-day session. To check out dates, times and locations of these sessions and sign-up, just use our dedicated registration form.