There are so many ups and downs in life, it comes as no surprise that one in four of us suffer with our mental health, leaving us stressed, anxious and depressed.

Sadly the stigma surrounding mental illness can make it difficult to know where to turn and even harder to actually open up and start the much-needed conversation.

That’s why initiatives like Time to Talk Day on 6 February, part of the Time to Change campaign led by Mind and Rethink Mental Health, are vitally important, offering tools and advice on how to break the conversation barrier, think and act differently about mental illness.

But it’s not just talking that can help. It may be easy to see and measure the physical benefits brought about by regular exercise but medical evidence shows being active can improve your mental wellbeing, boosting your mood and helping to relieve stress.

According to the NHS website: “Physical activity is thought to cause chemical changes in the brain, which can help to positively change our mood.” It adds: “…being active can improve wellbeing because it brings about a sense of greater self-esteem, self-control and the ability to rise to a challenge”.

But knowing exercise will help and actually doing it are two different things, especially when low mood and depression can leave you feeling exhausted. Taking on the challenge of an organised event from the Great Run series will give you back some sense of control, a goal to focus on and some essential ‘me time’, something we often neglect to give ourselves with the feeling of achievement and exhilaration as you cross the finish line strengthening self-esteem.

With distances covering 5k to half marathon and hosted in major cities from Glasgow to Portsmouth, there’s something to suit all abilities. And with Junior and Mini Runs sitting alongside the Senior events, it’s a perfect way to enjoy family time whilst setting the children up for a healthier future. Sadly mental illness does not discriminate, regardless of age.

A Sport England study* from 2019 showed that children who are more physically active have improved mental well-being (described as happiness in the survey), are more likely to trust others of a similar age and are more likely to get involved in volunteering. Physical activity also contributes to their personal development with active children more likely to be resilient and keep trying even when they find something difficult.

Practicing mindfulness – paying more attention to the present moment and the world around you - will help you appreciate your surroundings and reconnect you to the sights, sounds and smells as you head out to explore the area on your training runs. 

If running alone doesn’t appeal but the idea of joining a running club is too intimidating, consider registering for a Great Run Local near you and taking advantage of the free weekly, timed events to get the bonus of connecting with other people while being able to track how well you are doing.

Mind and Rethink Mental Health are just two of the many worthwhile causes that will benefit from the hundreds of thousands of pounds that will be raised by runners, joggers and walkers of all abilities throughout the 2020 Great Run series.

To find out more about Great Run events click here