Today is the World Mental Health Day. Previously we have written about the connection between Volunteering and Wellbeing but there are many ways in which we can work on improving our mental health. Rita Kelly, our new Administration Officer, happens to be a qualified Tai Chi Teacher and here she has written a short article about the benefits of practicing this ancient movement form.
Looking for a volunteer role? Why not look at what sort of roles are available with organisations that strive to promote better mental health! Or perhaps, like Rita, you have a unique qualification that could be essential to improve other peoples mental health.
“Tai Chi is a mind-body practice with a history dating back about 700 years in China. It remains popular in China, where it’s practiced daily en masse, often early in the morning in parks and open spaces and it is now practiced by millions of people worldwide everyday.
The practice itself involves subtle postural alignments combined with mindfulness training. It promotes a return to deep natural breathing which improves the flow of Chi [energy] to the internal organs. The nervous system relaxes and releases stress, leading to a profound feeling of well-being. The fact that Tai Chi requires very methodical, low impact movements makes it especially suitable for older adults and those recovering from illness or injury.
The Tai Chi Form is a moving in and out of specific body positions in coordinated motions. The movement is slow, precise and pumps energy around the body releasing blockages and strengthening weaknesses.
It differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.
Tai chi benefits are well documented; conditions known to respond well include fatigue, stress, anxiety, low mood, poor immunity, weak digestion, back/bone and muscle problems, menstrual dysfunction, blood pressure and arthritis.
Positive psychological impacts may be the most powerful gift Tai Chi has to offer. Studies (Ref 1 below) have found that practicing Tai Chi produced beneficial psychological effects ranging from increased self-esteem to reductions in stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disturbances.
Finding that Tai Chi can be effective is particularly significant for people who wish to avoid conventional treatment or who live in areas where support is limited or expensive.
Teaching Tai Chi can be an extremely rewarding experience – particularly when a student tells you that their sleep has improved or the pain in their left shoulder is easing or they feel calm when they practice Tai Chi. All of these are steps in the right direction towards improving physical and mental wellbeing and by teaching people how to practice Tai Chi themselves, gives them the tools to start helping themselves and to show that over time, they have the ability within themselves to heal.”
 Wang C, Bannuru R, Ramel J, Kupelnick B, Scott T, and Schmid CH. Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010, 10:23 doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-23