We’ve long known the positive effects that physical exercise has on our wellbeing; aside from boosting immunity and strength, incorporating physical movements into your day – whether that’s a pilates session or a walk outdoors – encourages the release of happy hormones to improve your mood and mental health.
Which is why the latest trend of combining physical workouts with mental health workshops make perfect sense. "As therapists, the mind-body connection is a tale as old as time," says Chance Marshall, co-founder of the on-demand mental health service provider, Self Space. "In the thousands of clients we meet in session, we’ve come to learn that the mind and body are two parts of the same system. Work on your body, your mind feels good. Work on your mind, you feel better about your body."
To kick-off the year on a positive note, Self Space has partnered with the editor-favourite fitness chain, Frame, to create Feel Good Sessions, a combination of physical movement and mental health care.
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What is a mind-fitness session?
In short, this means fusing a physical workout class such as barre or pilates with a therapy workshop conducted by a licensed professional. Depending on the studio, mind fitness sessions can take on various forms. Manchester’s Hero Training Club features a wellness hub where clients can book in for counselling or see a psychotherapist alongside boxing or HIIT classes, while London-based Mindfit prioritises joy above all else with its inclusive approach to fitness. The first studio is set to open in Brockley with plans to host mental health talks and complimentary classes for charities.
Frame's Feel Good Sessions with Self Space involve four two-hour workshops. It kicks off by exploring mental health-related topics such as building confidence and discovering pleasure, facilitated by qualified Self Space therapists, before going into a movement class such as yoga or dance cardio.
What else should you know about mind-fitness sessions?
The best thing about a mind-fitness session is its holistic approach to wellbeing. It makes mental health resources more accessible, and the workout classes are guaranteed to spike your dopamine levels. When looking for a class, consider these points:
1/ Mind-fitness sessions aren’t about self-optimisation
This trend is relatively new in the UK but it has been steadily gaining traction Stateside under the moniker ‘mental health gym’. Catchy, but potentially problematic, says Marshall.
"I see a lot of brands in the US selling this idea of relentless self-optimisation as a way of building constant happiness – which isn’t achievable or realistic. Bad days are a part of a good life. To be in good mental health is to sometimes struggle and feel low; this is human," he tells Bazaar. "This is part of our work with Frame, to create spaces where people can show up as their full messy selves and be embraced." Frame's co-founder Pip Black agrees, explaining that Frame doesn’t position itself as gym but rather, a space for "positive movement".
Ultimately, mind-fitness sessions aren’t here to feed off insecurities. It’s all about encouraging one another and making mental health support more accessible, especially considering that, according to the NHS, more than eight million people have difficulty finding mental health support as they're considered 'not sick enough' to qualify.
2/ It’s not a replacement for therapy
If you’ve never been to therapy, walking in and telling a stranger your most intimate thoughts can feel daunting. Mind-fitness sessions allow you to get a feel of therapy in a pressure- and judgement-free group setting. Plus, it’s a great way to meet a licensed therapist so you can voice any curiosities or concerns before committing to therapy.
3/ Be cautious of your triggers
For those who are affected by or have a history of disordered eating, it goes without saying that it’s important to check with your GP before joining any form of exercise classes. "When exercise becomes associated with an eating disorder it can often become compulsive, where exercise levels can increase beyond that of nutritional intake," says Marshall. "When this happens, the health benefits of exercise are lost and exercise becomes more harmful to the body than helpful."
Why should you try a mind fitness session?
A poll conducted by Self Space found that while 98 per cent of people feel better after exercising, a whopping 73 per cent admit to feeling less than comfortable in a traditional gym setting. The relaxed yet insightful vibe of a mental fitness workshop makes it easy to stay consistent. "Think of it as something you can access regularly to maintain both your physical and mental health, as we know both play a vital part in keeping on top of your overall wellbeing," says Black. At Feel Good Sessions, there are no expectations to talk or share, and no one bats an eyelid if you need a break after the second plié.
Feel Good Sessions take place every Sunday from 22 Jan – 12 February. Book your slot here.