Graeme Kinghorn

Movement: Is it just about moving?

By Graeme Kinghorn, via RGU Fundraising and Alumni Engagement - 08 May 2024

Graeme Kinghorn is the Chief Executive at Mental Health Aberdeen and shares his reflections as part of Mental Health Awareness Week...

The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week for 2024 is ‘movement’, with a focus on keeping active in whatever form gives you enjoyment.

I could tell you about running, cycling, waking, exercise, dancing and any number of easy to do activities that have the impact of releasing natural chemicals in your brain that do make you feel better. But for me, the benefits of movement are not just confined to the physical, and thirty years after I graduated from RGU (as a mature student!) I feel comfortable that I have had enough experience to reflect and opine on the importance of other forms of movement and how adopting a conscious, thoughtful, and measured approach to our other actions can also help maintain mental wellbeing.

Movement, changing position, going from one place to another, a group of people who hold common beliefs, development, changing attitudes, developing opinions and evolution, are all descriptions of movement that can be just as important to maintaining individual emotional resilience as physical exercise, and how challenging your own perceptions, beliefs, abilities, fears and weaknesses, helps you to grow in many different directions.

Being open-minded and willing to challenge your biases and move previously held beliefs takes the ability not just to change your attitude, but to also do the exact opposite of movement. To stop and take a step back, to think before you speak, to pause before you comment on social media, to consider the impact of your comments, emails and communication on your colleagues, friends, family, or anyone you engage with.

If you drop the “ve” from movement, you are left with moment, and we all need to live more in the moment. Living in the moment, generally known as mindfulness, is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. Developing your ability to be mindful helps you realize that you are not your thoughts. Mindfulness is about being with your thoughts as they are, not grasping them or pushing them away and instead of letting your life go by without living it, you experience much more.

I believe that society is at a pivotal moment, well yet another one! The relentless and exponential development of computing and artificial intelligence capability has reached the point that the human brain was never designed, or has reached through evolution, to deal with. The operation of our brains and physical reactions to everyday events are pretty much the same as they were thousands of years ago, so it is important that this technological movement is offset by a greater understanding of the steps that any individual can take to maintain a healthy emotional balance.

Physical movement is important for mental wellbeing and can be done cheaply, easily and by most of us, but is not a panacea on its own. Placing an equal level of importance on our emotional movement will give us the best chance of enjoying life to the full, regardless of our individual circumstances.

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