Is giving something back the way to health and wellbeing?

Ruth Warden

19 / 6 / 2015 2.47pm

Ruth Warden, assistant director, development and employment services team

This weekend I travelled to Hull to take part in the ‘Run For All' 10k.  It was a first for me. The first run I was doing by myself.  I’ve done 10 kilometers before, but always with someone else.  This time I didn’t have a running partner to encourage me, it was down to me, I had to get myself round that route, motivate myself and push myself on when it started to hurt.  I knew that I could run 10k, most of the challenge was in my head.

I’m a slow runner, sometimes I think it might be quicker walking!  I was running for 1 hour and 15 minutes – that’s a lot of time to think.  Mostly I was thinking WHY?  Why am I here early on a Sunday, it’s cold and raining and I’m pounding the streets of Hull?  But it wasn’t just me, there were thousands of us, all shapes and sizes, some fast, some slower, some in fancy dress.

As I looked at my fellow runners I started to realise why we were there.  Most people around me were supporting charities, they were running to raise money for cancer charities, Help for Heroes, hospitals, you name it - somebody was running for it.  At the start of the race I was chatting to the lady next to me, she told me that she is doing ten 10ks this year for a still birth charity because her daughter, who was still born, would have been 10 this year.   Some people had messages on their running shirts “I’m running for my mum/brother/sister/aunt”, with a photo underneath. 

These people weren’t elite athletes, they weren’t going to get a record breaking time, but something else was driving them.  Yes, I know there is the personal challenge of finishing the race, going faster than you did before, but all that is a bit hollow unless you are doing it for something else, something bigger.  I was running for MIND, it’s a charity close to our family.  When I’m struggling a bit on a run I always imagine those family members who aren’t with us any more urging me on (I know it’s corny but it works for me!!).

As I plodded round, I reflected on this, running without a purpose or a cause isn’t the same as running for something.  Yes, the physical act of running and training contributes to my health and wellbeing, but knowing that I have put something back, that by doing this crazy thing which defies logic isn’t just for me, it’s to give something back and it’s for others. 

Health and wellbeing is a complex issue and different things drive each of us to make changes, but this weekend I did wonder if one of the keys to unlocking health and wellbeing is to make that link between doing something for yourself and giving something to others.  The New Economics Foundation’s five ways to health and wellbeing are:

  1. Connect
  2. Be active
  3. Take notice
  4. Keep Learning
  5. Give. 

I think the thousands on the street of Hull this weekend were doing most of those.  So when we are thinking about health and wellbeing and how to motivate others, maybe we should start with “Give” and the rest will follow?

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