As part of EuropeActive’s commitment to promote and safeguard an inclusive and welcoming environment for all across the fitness and physical activity ecosystem, and as part of EuropeActive’s Inclusion calendar, we are thrilled to promote the fourth edition of European Mental Health Week, 22-28 May 2023. This is further correlated with our European activities as it falls under our awareness-raising activities for our #HealthyLifestyle4All pledge.
PhD and Research Analyst at the Wellness Foundation, Marco Bigica, has agreed to share with us some words on the topic.
It was June 1993 when the vision of Wellness was launched by the President of the Wellness Foundation. Since then, it has become a global trend, whose benefits are clearer and clearer.
Wellness was defined as a lifestyle that combines regular physical exercise, a healthy diet and a positive mental approach, improves the life of people and communities and has a positive impact on both physical and mental health.
Mental health is a vital aspect of overall wellbeing that encompasses emotional, psychological, and social dimensions. It affects how we think, feel, and act, ultimately determining our ability to handle stress, cope with challenges, and maintain healthy relationships. In today’s hasty and frequently overwhelming world, it is increasingly important that we dedicate time to nurture our mental health and wellbeing.
A healthy lifestyle to foster mental health
With his famous phrase “mens sana in corpore sano”, Roman poet Giovenale was among the first to highlight the synergistic relationship between mental and physical health already 2000 years ago. Now, scientific evidence has clearly demonstrated the positive impact of a healthy lifestyle on mental health and on wellbeing.
For example, it is well-established that physical exercise improves psychological wellbeing. In the largest review of studies to date focusing on physical exercise and mental health conditions (including more than 1000 trials), researchers concluded that every type of exercise —from walking to resistance training to yoga— is beneficial to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological distress (1).
Adequate nutrition is also crucial for mental health. In fact, a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and legumes and moderate in fish, poultry and dietary products, such as the Mediterranean diet, can help preserve mental wellbeing and prevent depression symptoms (2).
Another important element for mental wellbeing is social connectedness. Feeling part of a community and cultivating healthy relationships has been shown to preserve and nurture mental health, whereas social isolation can negatively affect mental wellbeing (3).
Overall, physical activity and nutrition, together with social connectedness, adequate sleep, and dedicating time to interests, are fundamental dimensions of Wellness [see picture: the Pyramid of Wellness lifestyle].
Wellness Week: an initiative to promote physical and mental wellbeing
Since 2003, the Wellness Foundation (WF) has been committed to promoting the Wellness lifestyle and its benefits for physical and mental health. Flagship effort of the WF is the Wellness Week - “The Week of movement and healthy lifestyles”, an annual community event held in Romagna, Italy, incorporating activities and initiatives focused on sports, nutrition and wellbeing. During the Wellness Week, people can take part in group walks, park workouts, yoga and meditation sessions, bike rides, healthy-cooking demos and many other initiatives for all ages organized by gyms, local businesses, spas, associations, and others. This year’s edition, which will be held on 16-24th September 2023, will have a special theme on “Healthy body, happy mind” to raise awareness about mental health and promote activities and initiatives focused on psycho-physical wellbeing. Overall, the Wellness Week provides an opportunity to explore wellness practices and motivate people to incorporate healthy habits into daily lives.
By prioritizing our mental health and adopting the Wellness lifestyle, we can take proactive steps towards achieving a healthier, more balanced, and fulfilling life.
Find out more activities and initiatives promoted by the Wellness Foundation on https://www.wellnessfoundation.it/
(1) Singh, B., Olds, T., Curtis, R., Dumuid, D., Virgara, R., Watson, A., ... & Maher, C. (2023). Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for improving depression, anxiety and distress: an overview of systematic reviews. British Journal of Sports Medicine.
(2) Firth, J., Gangwisch, J. E., Borsini, A., Wootton, R. E., & Mayer, E. A. (2020). Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing?. bmj, 369.
(3) Wickramaratne, P. J., Yangchen, T., Lepow, L., Patra, B. G., Glicksburg, B., Talati, A., ... & Weissman, M. M. (2022). Social connectedness as a determinant of mental health: A scoping review. Plos one, 17(10), e0275004.