The Forget-Me-Not Walk is a great opportunity to gather with friends and family to remember someone close. It is also an opportunity to walk, get fresh air, and exercise, either alone or as a group. Outdoor activities, such as walking, running or something physical has multiple mental health benefits to those experiencing grief.
Recent research* suggests exercise can help people cope with grief after the loss of a loved one by alleviating feelings of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Exercise can create a sense of freedom and enable the bereaved to express their feelings while providing a distraction and moments of relief from grief. “Exercise is a very good and positive tool that people can use while grieving, mainly because it triggers that release of neurotransmitters and the release of endorphins,” explains counsellor Sharon Stallard, who is trained in helping people cope with bereavement. “Exercise helps regulate a person’s mood and can prevent them from going into a low phase which can trigger depression,” comments the study.
Grief can be all-consuming. Maintaining routine, including everyday things like diet, exercise and socialising can help people process their grief, and ground any bigger feelings they may be experiencing. Exercise is a great tool for both engaging socially and having an opportunity for thoughts and solace. Exercise is also important to maintain good physical health.
Engaging in exercise can help clear the mind, even if it is just for a few minutes. You tend to focus, whether it’s a walk, run, group class, or swimming on just your body for that time, so it can brings a feeling of calmness. Getting moving can also bring a sense of motivation to keep going day to day, which may feel a struggle when you are experiencing bereavement.
Exercising can also help bring back a feeling of control, which is often lost after someone dies, especially is that death is a sudden or unexpected death. This might look like a short walk every day, or it might even mean undertaking a marathon. You may wish to undertake a challenge in benefit of a charity supporting others who are experiencing grief, this feels like a great motivational tool to focus your efforts on helping others and gaining control of your own situation.
Sleep issues are common in bereavement, especially in young children. Interrupted or lack of sleep can manifest and impact mental health overall, as well as contribute to physical issues. At Grief Encounter, we are working hard to develop a specific sleep and wellbeing support programme which focusses on sleep and meditation in order to give a 360 approach to bereavement support.
Talking through grief can be really beneficial. Our support services are varied and include 1:1 counselling, and our helpline is open weekdays, 9am – 9pm for free, confidential listening and advice services. When you feel ready to talk, call us on 0808 802 0111.
*National Library of Medicine