We’re right in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s theme is 'Movement: Moving more for our mental health'.

It’s something I talk about frequently in this column. But let’s face it, sometimes getting motivated to move can feel like a marathon in itself. The good news is, even a small burst of activity can have a big impact on how we feel.

Quite simply our bodies and minds are intricately connected. When we move, we trigger the release of powerful chemicals in our brains called neurotransmitters and hormones. I thought this would be the perfect week to explain a few of these chemicals to you, and how they help us to feel good.

• Endorphins: Often referred to as our ‘natural painkillers’, endorphins have a two-pronged attack. They not only reduce physical pain but also elevate our mood. Think about that post-workout high you experience after a brisk walk or a fun dance session. That’s the power of endorphins at play. They bind to opioid receptors in the brain, creating a sense of euphoria and reducing our perception of stress and discomfort.

• Serotonin: This neurotransmitter is a major player in regulating mood, sleep, and appetite. When serotonin levels are low, we can experience symptoms like anxiety, depression, and difficulty sleeping. Regular physical activity acts like a natural anti-depressant, increasing serotonin production. This can lead to feelings of calmness, improved focus, and a more positive outlook.

• Dopamine: Ever feel a surge of motivation or a sense of accomplishment after completing a task? That’s dopamine at work. This neurotransmitter is closely linked to reward, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. Physical activity triggers the release of dopamine.

• Norepinephrine: Feeling foggy-brained and struggling to concentrate? A brisk walk or some light exercise might be just what you need. Norepinephrine helps with alertness, focus, and concentration. By increasing levels in the brain, physical activity can sharpen our mental edge and improve cognitive function.

By getting your body moving, you’re essentially creating a feel-good cocktail in your brain. This chemical response not only improves your mood but also helps manage stress, anxiety, and even symptoms of depression.

Remember, movement doesn’t have to be about hitting the gym. Find activities you enjoy, whether it’s dancing in your living room, taking the stairs, or going for a walk, in nature. Even small changes can make a big difference.

n Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various modalities and an Instructor Member of Mental Health First Aid England wellbeing@martinfurber.com