Mental Health Awareness Week 2024


This Mental Health Awareness Week 2024, the theme is Movement for Mental Health. In this article, MQ Ambassador, athlete, LGBTQ advocate and author Amazin LeThi shares with our staff writer how movement has been an integral part of her mental health journey.

 

Moving Through Childhood

 

Like a lot of kids, I started moving and doing athletics at a very young age, I must have been about five. But I found team sports very hostile. I was picked on for being Asian. But I instantly realised the power of movement and how it made me feel inside it was like a fire had ignited inside of me and, that, that even though I couldn’t verbalise, I understood the correlation between mental health and physical health. I didn’t know what mental health was to verbalise it, but I could understand the correlation of movement and how that made me feel.

I was very young, when I started weight training. I was around six, and when I started going to the gym. That was the beginning of a lifelong journey of movement. I would spend time just moving different machines, moving my body, watching people move and looking at them. I could see other people move with confidence, which gave me the confidence to be able to move.

Movement helped me in so many different ways. It helped me see myself for the first time as a queer Asian kid, even though I couldn’t verbalise it. It helped give me the self-worth that I needed, as well.

You can’t be depressed and enjoy yourself moving. There’s a shift, a physical, psychological and a chemical shift that your body makes when you start moving that makes you feel good. And in that moment, you think, I can’t have a sad face. I’m in such a good place when I move.

 

Movement is Mental Wellness

 

When you feel depressed, or down, it for me looks like sitting still, my head is dropped, my shoulders are slumped and I’m hunched over, my face is sad, and I’m not moving.

If someone is happy – what does that look like? If they’re ecstatic and they feel alive, they would be doing the superhero pose! They’d be looking up, they would be smiling. They would be dancing. There would be movement.

Mental health is not a belief system. But if someone said to you close your eyes, and remember, the happiest time that you’ve had recently, you would see a physiology shift in that person. And that person would begin to feel better.

 

“When I feel physically burned out and my mental health is wavering, I know as an athlete, I must keep going, when my body fails, my mind must take over.”

 

When I think about movements, for me it is the yin yoga. It’s about relaxing the body to train the mind, going into the pose and just holding it. But even when you’re holding a pose, your body is still in movement. And at the same time, your mind is in movement to relax and release its thoughts and its tension. So you end up calm, in the present.

 

Celebrate the Little Wins

 

I do a lot of breath work now within my own mental health, because that’s something that you can do. Still, when you sense that anxiety or panic or you sense your mental health starting to waver. You can just take a few moments in silence, and just do some deep breaths. You may find a physiological and psychological shift in you.

And I think another part of mental health is mood and movement. We forget to celebrate the small wins. We always go for the Big Golden Nugget at the end as a goal, but for many of us though, that is not attainable. But movement could be simply getting out of bed. Let’s celebrate that win. Because for the last few days, maybe I haven’t been able to do that. That’s still movement.

Movement could be taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking two blocks instead of one. It’s a matter of celebrating those little wins along the way. And it’s because that gratitude helps us recognise we’re doing much better than we thought.

 

Imagining Lessons Learned

 

Movement has taught me about correlation between the mind, body and spirit. My mind can go back, thanks to my imagination, to all those times that I have moved in a way that made me so happy and lifted my spirits. So when I have those moments where maybe I’m having a mental health challenge and I can’t move, my imagination can create a physical and psychological shift.

I’m humbled by how important movement has become for me, and how it’s saved me. Without movement, I wouldn’t be here today.

 

“On the journeys I’ve had with my mental health, movement really saved me because I was able to pull in those strengths as an athlete to keep going.”

 

What I’ve learned over the years is the importance of priming your body. There are key things that I do to prime my body, like in the morning, I do meditation, I do gratitude exercises, I think of the goals that I’m going to do that day. And then once I get out of bed, I do a lot of movement and prime my body, so it creates a different state. So if I was having a mental health challenge, once I do that priming, my whole body lifts. It’s hard. Sometimes it’s not easy, but then something changes.

It’s like, as an athlete, when you’re training, you get to the point where your muscles are aching, and your mind is so worn out and you just feel like you can’t go on. But it’s like that push when you push yourself over the pain barrier, that’s when you start seeing results.

 

Movement Begins With Stopping

 

During the pandemic, movement became everything, especially when you can’t do anything else. I spent a lot of time outdoors training during the pandemic – moving my body, trying to ground myself in nature. I don’t take it for granted because I realise how quickly it can be taken away from you. For me the gym had become a place I could go every day. I never had imagined a day that I couldn’t go to the gym. And then during the pandemic obviously everything was closed worldwide.

And now, having a dog has changed me. Movement isn’t just going to the gym. Movement has become going to the park for extended periods with my dog and really enjoying every moment of movement.

Movement can be standing still in a park, closing your eyes, and letting the wind move your hair, just feeling how good that feels for your mind and your body. My body has helped me learn to appreciate how little movement you need to make you feel good. So rarely do we stand in a park and close our eyes or taking off our shoes, being grounded with the earth and just moving our toes in grass. How good that makes you feel – those little things.

Since the pandemic many people are living and working differently. The time that we didn’t have before ‘because I’m working non-stop in the office, I’m working through lunch!’ has changed. Many people are working from home. So you can give yourself time for movement. We need to be more intentional about it.

If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that we need to stop and take time for self-care, to take those breaks. People might think ‘I don’t have time to take breaks and look after myself!’ but you do. We do. You are allocated a lunchtime and even if it’s just 5 minutes to stand outside and feel the sun on you and feel the movement of the air around you and within you.

Movement requires us to stop. Before we can begin any movement, be it physical, ideological or political, we need to first stop. And then mindfully make choices. But movement begins by stopping.

 

Thank you to Amazin for sharing her story. Read more about Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 here.

Find out more about Amazin’s story here.



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