Headucation Active

Step into Mental Fitness: Celebrating National Walking Month

It’s National Walking Month! As part of mental health awareness to boost the mental health of people across the nation, we want to highlight the mental health benefits of walking, 

Did you know? Studies show that there is an 18% reduction in depression amongst adults who get just HALF of the daily recommended physical activity.  


This blogpost will discuss: 

  • The benefits of walking for mental wellbeing 
  • How to fit walking into your routine 
  • How to get kids involved in walking 
  • How to practise mindfulness when walking  


Benefits of walking for mental health 

You might know walking as good for your physical health, but did you know it has many mental health benefits too? Here are some of the mental health benefits of walking you can benefit from this National Walking Month: 

Reduced risk of depression and anxiety 

Many studies have shown that there is a strong link between exercise, walking and a reduction in anxiety and depression. It is important that we get regular fresh air exercise on a daily basis to prevent depression and anxiety.  

Improved sleep 

Studies have shown how there is a strong link between sleep and exercise. Those who exercise on a daily basis tend to get better quality sleep throughout the night. This has a positive impact on both physical and mental health by reducing negative moods and promoting overall well-being. 

Stress reduction  

Exercise and walking releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals, which can help reduce stress. Also, walking in nature can be relaxing and calming, especially if you practise mindfulness, which can reduce stress and make you feel energised.  

Increased self esteem 

Walking can make you feel really good about yourself! When you set a goal to walk every day, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement, which can boost your self-esteem. Also, walking is the perfect opportunity to self-reflect and practice gratitude.  

Improved cognitive function 

Walking is good for the brain! Studies show that those who walk regularly have improved memory and a reduced risk of cognitive decline such as dementia. John D. Omura a et al conducted a study which found that cognitive decline is almost twice as common among adults who are inactive compared to those who are active. 


How to fit walking into your routine 

Start small 

Some people can walk marathons, and some can just walk around the park. Either way, it’s best to start with what you feel comfortable with. Stick with what you can do, if you push yourself too much you might give up! 

Set realistic goals 

It’s good to set goals, but make sure they’re realistic. If you struggle making time for walking, start by setting a goal of only walking on weekends, or only walking to work on warm days! This way, you won’t get put-off by your goals. Whatever your goals are, make sure they work for you and your lifestyle.  

Incorporate walking into your daily routine 

We all have busy lives and packed schedules, so rather than working your routine around walking, try working walking into your routine. Rather than driving to the shops, you could walk. You could walk to pick the kids up from school, walk the dog, walk during your lunch break or even walk to work.  

Walk with a friend or group 

If you’re dealing with loneliness, walking with a group, friends or family can be a great way to combat loneliness and boost your mental health and wellbeing. If you’re feeling lonely, reach out to people you know and ask if they want to go on a walk. Alternatively, find walking groups in your community, you could ask your local Facebook group if anyone wants to start one! 

Listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks 

Walking can be the perfect time to get some ‘me time’. We all like a little bit of time to ourselves, so be sure to listen to your favourite music, podcasts or audiobooks. This can make you feel more motivated to walk and enjoy the time you spend on your walks.  

Explore New Areas 

Walking the same route can get a tad boring! Make sure to switch it up by exploring new neighbourhoods and parks in your area. Remember to be safe and take a friend with you! 


How to get kids involved with walking 

Set a good example 

Parenting starts with setting a good example! If you show your child that you enjoy walking and walk regularly, they will see it as a fun activity. This way, they will want to incorporate it in their lives, even when they are older. 

Establish walking in their routine 

Whether you want to walk to school, walk after school or walk after dinner, it is important to make walking a normal part of your child’s routine.  

Music or dance walk 

Pick a safe and suitable location, such as a forest trail or a park, and put some of yours and your child’s favourite dance songs. Now it’s time to have a little boogie along your walk! This can make walking more fun and enjoyable.  

Walking challenges 

Children love a little bit of competition. If you give them a walking challenge, they will feel motivated to hit their targets. You can set them a goal of 2000 steps a day to start with. 

Mindful walks  

Mindfulness is a great practice for children, and what better time to practise mindfulness than on a pleasant walk. There are so many sensory experiences to soak in, and walking is the perfect time to reflect and be in tune with your body.  

Make walking fun! 

Here are a few things you can do with your kids to make walking more fun: 

  • Play ‘I Spy’ or a scavenger hunt 
  • Play follow the leader 
  • Bring friends along 
  • Get them to photograph their surroundings 
  • Bring snacks 
  • Find an item from each colour of the rainbow 
  • Stop at local monument to learn about local history 
  • Teach them about nature 


How to practise mindfulness on walks 

Mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety, improve cognitive function and increase our overall mental health. Here are a few ways you can practise mindfulness on your walks: 

  • Pay attention to your senses, focus on what you can see, feel, smell, touch and hear. 
  • Take slow, deep breaths. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. 
  • Walk slow and deliberately, paying attention to each step you take. 
  • Focus on the present moment. 
  • Practice gratitude. 


Shawmind has a mission to improve mental health across the nation. We want to provide early intervention to prevent a further mental health crisis. If you want to support our mission, please donate or choose to do one of our mental health courses 


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Why complete a Mental Health first aid course?

A mental health first aider acts as the first point of contact for anyone who want to discuss their mental health. The mental health first aider can provide advice and support in a confidential, non-judgemental way before a professional mental health specialist is contacted.

Mental health is highly important to living a healthy life. It affects our emotional, psychological and social well-being, and is integral to the way we feel, think and act. Understanding of mental health has greatly developed in recent years, however there is still a lot to learn about the problems faced by those suffering with their mental health.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, as such it should be cared for in the same way. With the level of stigma around mental health people can often feel uncomfortable talking about their feelings. Understanding how to effectively support a person struggling with their mental health is an important skill.

Who should become a mental health first aider?

A mental health first aid course is ideal for anyone looking to better understand mental health and how to support those struggling with it. Anyone can take a mental health first aid course, however there are certain professions where it is especially advisable. Understanding how to support those struggling with mental health is important within all professions, especially for those in charge of others.

Mental health in the workplace

Mental health training isn’t only beneficial for employers but can also greatly support employees. Covid has resulted in many struggling to find steady work. A large part of the recruitment process is finding candidates with the right skills for the role. Although role-specific skills are important, employers also look for candidates’ soft skills. The ability to build positive relationships with colleagues and support them in their lives creates a good company culture. Something highly important to companies, especially within a post covid society.

Mental health in education

For Teachers and Careworkers who work around young and vulnerable individuals this training can be especially beneficial. Young and vulnerable people are particularly susceptible to mental health problems, with 1 in 6 school children struggling with their mental health. Completing a mental health first aid course will give you the tools and understanding you need to support individuals with their mental health. While mental health education is compulsory in schools as a result of our initial Headucation campaign, mental health training for teachers isn’t. Teachers and education staff play a large role in the lives of children and, as such, are in the right position to recognise the signs of mental health problems within the children in their care. But how do you recognise these signs?

Why become a mental health first aider?

Negative mental health affects 1 in 4 people. By completing a mental health first aid course you can learn the skills you need to support people with their mental health. As an authority figure in someone’s life, whether that be as a teacher or employer, you are an integral part of their support process. You are not the whole solution, however.

By becoming a mental health first aider you will learn the skills to understand what can affect a person’s mental wellbeing, as well as how to identify signs of various mental health issues. By learning how to confidently reassure and support someone struggling with mental health you will be able to effectively signpost an individual to the appropriate support and resources they need. Although you are not the whole solution, you will be an important part of supporting mental wellbeing.

All proceeds from our mental health training courses will go to our Headucation2025 campaign that aims to train 151,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support. This campaign will provide front line mental health support for nearly 2.5 million school children across the country every year.

We need all the help we can get to provide this crucial training – please support us by donating, booking one of our mental health training courses or buying a product from our store.


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Top 10 Children’s Mental Health Resources

Children’s mental health has never been more critical. We’ve just been through an extraordinary worldwide event, children have been thrown in and out of their routines and kept away from their friends.

Even before all of this, children’s mental health was a serious matter with 1 in 6 school-aged children experiencing a mental health problem. So let’s make sure we’re here to support them by reducing mental health stigma, encouraging kids to talk about mental health and providing early intervention for mental health conditions.

As part of our #Headucation2025 campaign, Shawmind is committed to train 150,000 teachers in the UK in the basics of mental health support to enable them to act as mental health first responders in schools and classrooms.

Alongside this larger campaign, we want to share as much advice and knowledge as we can to support children’s mental health. Here are our top 10 favourite mental health resources that you can use at home or at school to educate and support children.

1. Children’s Mental Health Books From Trigger Publishing

Trigger Publishing have created a selection of fun, illustrated children’s books about mental health that can be used both by children on their own and by adults as a way to start a conversation about mental health.

2. Sock It To Stigma Mental Health Resources

Every February at Shawmind, we celebrate #SockItToStigma. A month where we focus on reducing the stigma around mental health in schools and workplaces. We have developed a pack of classroom resources (including wordsearches and colouring sheets) that engage children in the conversation about mental health. Download your free mental health resources.

3.“We All Have Mental Health” Video

This video, created by the Anna Freud Centre, is a great way to explain mental health and reduce the stigma surrounding it. “We All Have Mental Health” is a 5 minute animated video that tells the story of school children struggling with mental health – it is so effective it is often used in adult mental health training too.

4. MeeToo Peer Support App

MeeToo is an anonymous free service for young people aged 11+ to discuss anything that’s troubling them, including mental health. The app is a safe space where users can get peer support from those of a similar age and experience. All posts and replies are checked before going live so there is no harassment, bullying or grooming. The MeeToo app also has an internal directory linking to mental health helplines and resources.

5. Childline “For Me” App

A great option for those who are too young to join MeeToo, the Childline “For Me” app allows children to create their own mood journal, start confidential chats directly with a counsellor and access lots of games and support resources.

6. Fink Cards

Fink Cards are a set of question cards designed to help children answer questions about mental health that will help them learn about common mental health conditions, how to maintain good mental health and how to seek mental health support. These cards were developed by Place2Be, a leading children’s mental health charity.

7.Anna Freud #SelfcareSummer Packs

The Anna Freud Centre have developed #SelfcareSummer packs for primary and secondary school children. These packs are free to download and contain a series of activities to help young people understand, evaluate and maintain their own mental health.

8.Stress Relieving Activities from Calm Zone

Calm Zone, created by Childline, contains a wide range of activities to help children let go of stress. These include breathing exercises, mental health tools, and games they can play.

9.YoungMinds Mental Health Guides

YoungMinds, a national young people’s mental health charity, have created a series of mental health guides. These are great resources for teenagers who want education or support around a wide range of mental health challenges including how to talk to friends about mental health, gender and mental health, and drugs.

10.The Mix Mental Health Support

The Mix is a service that provides under 25’s with support and advice across a number of different areas. They have a great selection of mental health support resources including articles, a helpline and a chat service.

Mental health is as important to a child’s safety and wellbeing as their physical health. It can impact on all aspects of their life, including their educational attainment, relationships and physical wellbeing. So let’s look after it.

Support our mission to train teachers in the basics of mental health so that they can act as mental health first responders for schoolchildren. Donate now or purchase one of our training packages (all proceeds go to Headucation 2025).



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Signs of anxiety to look out for in children

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness or fear that, in many situations, is normal to experience – however when you feel this way most of the time it can be debilitating and massively impact how you function on a day-to-day basis.

As adults, it can be incredibly difficult to identify and manage anxiety. So, just imagine what it feels like for a child who is struggling with anxiety themselves.

What factors put children more at risk of anxiety?

While anxiety can arise for seemingly no reason, there are some situations that more often lead to children developing anxiety:

  • Bullying
  • Abuse
  • Bereavement
  • Substance abuse
  • Divorce or difficult home situation (e.g., frequent arguments between parents)
  • Moving house or school
  • Pre-existing conditions such as ADHD or autism

Signs of anxiety in children

With children spending seven hours a day at school, here are some signs of anxiety that teachers should look out for:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor performance
  • Feeling tired
  • Change in eating habits
  • Easily angered or irritated
  • Frequent toilet visits
  • Constant worrying and negative thoughts
  • Complaining of physical pain like stomach aches and headaches
  • Emotional outbursts (e.g., crying or tantrums)
  • Being clingy
  • Disruptive behaviour

What to do if a child in your class has anxiety

  • Have someone in the school start a conversation with them – preferably a teacher or teaching assistant with mental health first aid or ELSA training
  • Talk openly about anxiety in the classroom to reduce the stigma around mental health – you can use our Sock It To Stigma classroom materials to help you
  • Talk to the child’s parents and refer them to professional support if appropriate

According to the latest research, one in six UK school children have a probable mental health disorder. Aside from parents, teachers are the adults that children spend most of their time with during the day. It is crucial that anyone who works with children can recognise the signs that a child may be struggling with their mental health and, more importantly, that they know how to take appropriate action. But with no compulsory mental health training, this task can feel overwhelming and difficult.

Our Headucation 2025 campaign aims to train 150,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support by 2025. Your school could be eligible for fully-funded mental health training. Get in touch with our team to find out more.


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Shawmind Supports Teacher Wellbeing

Preparations are under way as we plan to host a specialist wellbeing panel as part of a week-long festival led by Teachers Come First.

On Friday 9th October,  just ahead of World Mental Health Day (10th October), we will welcome a collective of education and wellbeing specialists from across the country to an online panel discussion, which will be chaired by the charity’s CEO Peter Wingrove.

Kelly Forrest Mackay, Head Teacher and pioneer of the new mental health curriculum in Wales; Elizabeth Williams, Chair of Mindfulness Wales; Victoria English, Shawmind Mental Health training partner; and Adam Parkes, Shawmind Champion, former Head Teacher and CEO of Parkes Education, will sit on the panel and answer questions put to them by participants.

Topics to be discussed will include: Having the courage to change the status quo; Mindfulness as a strategy for teacher wellbeing; Lessons learned from working with schools to implement wellbeing culture; Finding the time for self-care; and Teacher mental health training.

There will also be opportunities for attendees who register to participate to ask the panel questions.

Teachers, Head Teachers and teaching support staff have been invited to attend the free session which will last for an hour after school from 4pm on Friday 9th October.

Peter Wingrove, CEO of Shawmind, said: “Our successful 2017 Headucation campaign ultimately resulted in children’s mental health education becoming mandatory in schools from this year, but teacher mental health appears to have been neglected. We are working hard to address this through a series of initiatives including teacher basic mental health training.

According to a recent poll conducted by the National Governance Association (NGA), more than 51 per cent of staff governors believe their schools are not “effectively addressing” workload and wellbeing issues.

Panel speaker, Adam Parkes, CEO of Parkes Education, said: “We cannot successfully invest in student mental health, without accepting the need to improve staff wellbeing first. We cannot expect to deliver a successful wellbeing curriculum, if the teachers charged with doing it are, themselves, struggling with their mental health.

Teachers or teaching support staff who are interested in taking part in the panel discussion or asking a question can join the Zoom meeting here: http://bit.ly/TeachersWellbeingPanel

Anyone who is unable to take part in the discussion live will be able to watch a recording on the charity’s YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/ShawmindYouTube

The Teacher’s Wellbeing Panel is the first event in a week of activities, which will also involve short videos from some of the panel plus other special guests from the wellbeing sector. The videos will be hosted on the Shawmind YouTube channel.

The week culminates in the online Teachers Come First #tcfc20 Conference delivered by Teachers Come First and Positively Empowered Kids.

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