Find your Move this Mental Health Week


stormbreak Mental Health Week 2024


It is well established that moving plays an instrumental role in supporting our mental health. At stormbreak we purposefully and intentionally use movement to help children develop strategies to navigate the complexities of modern life.

This year’s mental health awareness week is all about moving for our mental health; and at stormbreak we couldn’t agree more! Movement doesn’t have to be difficult, time consuming, skillful or complicated. Movement can be experienced in many wonderful forms. It can uniquely support children’s mental health by disrupting the environment and by offering an array of movement types from soothing and settling to lifting and inspiring.

In this blog I would like to share with you five different ways we use movement at stormbreak to help children recognise, respond and regulate their emotions. Each example offers a related ‘stormbreak’ activity for you to watch or even try out.

  1. Movement to improve our mood
    Probably the most well known and researched connection to movement and mental health is through the release of specific hormones. These include, endorphins often referred to as the ‘runner's high’, which can make us feel positive; the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which plays an important function in mood regulation; and dopamine, the reward hormone, which can make us feel proud of our achievements. Movement also helps reduce the levels of cortisol in our body, which is often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’. Prolonged stress long term has been associated with mental and physical ill health.
    Try the stormbreak Rockstars, to experience an energetic and fun movement activity that shifts the mood and leave that feel good feeling.
  2. Movement as a metaphor
    The English language is rich with somatic and movement metaphors that can help children to understand their emotional state. Often when an emotion becomes ‘stuck’ it is due to a lack of movement - either metaphorically or literally!
    • I need to keep moving forwards
    • I keep going round in circles
    • I swing from one feeling to the next
    • Its too big of a mountain to climb
    • I am feeling a bit wobbly today
    The Life in Balance stormbreak uses the metaphor of an ‘anchor’ - a person - animal - place - memory - hobby that makes us feel more balanced in our life. Thinking of our anchor can help our body and mind to be connected and physically help us to be less wobbly.
  3. Movement as an embodied experience
    For many children, and certainly young children, understanding big ideas associated with feelings and emotions can be challenging. For example, what does resilience mean, and what does hopefulness look like? Movement can be used to help feelings and emotions become less abstract and more tangible, by providing an embodied lived experience. Scott Kretchmar (2006) explains that something is meaningful, when it holds personal significance or value to that person. We experience a lot about the world through our body, and movement can facilitate that experience so connections can be made.
    The stormbreak Glitter Jar, allows children to connect their feelings with a movement. This can be associated with conversation about when those feelings were experienced.
  4. Movement to connect with others
    Movement is a great way to connect with others. It helps develop empathy, compassion and understanding and to avoid conflict, isolation and misunderstanding. When we move with others it releases the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, which enhances feelings of trust and we are more likely to share how we are feeling. Movement can disrupt solitary, predictable and isolated environments and encourage spontaneous interaction.
    Try the stormbreak Copy Cats and the fun that can be had from sharing movements with each other.
  5. Movement as a third object
    Talking and sharing about how we feel with someone is much harder when we are sitting or standing. Using our body to undertake an unrelated task with another person (such as gardening, cleaning, dancing, walking) distracts the personal nature of the conversation. When we are ‘in’ movement the environment becomes more ‘busy’ and we become less about the focus of the conversation.
    Try the stormbreak Buddy Run and experience a journey of moving and conversation.

Children are happier when they move. And moving more with a trusted adult or loved one can create feelings of being valued, belonging and connectedness. When we move we understand a little bit more about ourselves and the world we live in. This mental health week, have fun finding ‘your move’. See what conversations you have when moving and what new connections you make.

Dr Vicky Randall, Programme Manager at stormbreak

Kretchmar, S. R. (2006) Ten more reasons for quality physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 77(9): 6–9.