Walking for wellness / Art & soul groups

Walking for wellness / Art & soul groups featured image

Walking for wellness / Art & soul groups

• Shortly after starting my role as Healthcare Assistant at Change Grow Live, My recovery, Tameside, I quickly realised there was a need for Service Users who needed ‘group’ support but were not comfortable with the idea of a traditional ‘group setting.’

Many people I spoke to said ‘it wasn’t really their thing’ when I tried to signpost them to existing groups at that time.

I am a keen walker and runner myself, and I know from experience, the huge benefits walking outdoors in nature can have on a person’s mental wellbeing and outlook in general. For me, the role of Healthcare Assistant should incorporate both physical and mental wellbeing. I don’t believe you can truly have one without the other.

Studies have shown that committing to a regular exercise routine has been linked to reduced substance use and discontinuing substance use altogether. For many of our Service Users, drugs and/or alcohol is all they have known. I wanted to introduce them to activities they may grow to feel passionate about that would open doors to a whole different lifestyle.

So, the idea of Change Grow Live, My recovery Tameside’s Walking for Wellness group was born followed recently by the Art & Soul group. I run the two groups back to back on a Thursday each week. We break for one hour for lunch between groups and some service users return for the afternoon session. We enjoy taking photos whilst out walking in the morning then recreating the images we’ve seen in various mediums of art in the afternoon. The day is all about promoting wellbeing, relaxation, and inner peace.

My aim was to make group support appealing to everyone. For many people, the idea of sitting in a relatively confined space, speaking up in front of others and being under scrutiny, is too overwhelming, especially for those who experience anxiety. Walking in the fresh air side by side with another person - group facilitator or peer(s), is a far easier option, for many of our service users. I have been able to talk in depth with many of the attendees who gradually, over time, have felt able to share some of their life experiences. For some, as they have grown in confidence, they have then felt able to access some of the other groups on offer at Change Grow Live, My recovery Tameside.

• For me it has never been a case of goals. If just one service user turned up for the Walking for Wellness group that was enough. On occasion, in the early days of the group, there were times when there was just myself and one attendee. I saw that as a perfect opportunity for some real one-to-one work and we always made the most of those times. I had to be mindful not to overwhelm the service user and to see the session as an informal ‘walk and chat’.

To begin with I asked questions. Questions about who would be interested and why. I engaged with Service Users and asked their opinions about groups and what they would like to see. I realised there was a need for an Art group after the walking group had been established. I then thought about the idea of a ‘Wellbeing Day’.

I spoke to management about my ideas and received their backing.

I spoke to Marketing and had flyers/posters designed which I put up and around the two sites.

Disclaimer forms and Risk Assessments were drawn up and completed.

I did my research on local routes for the walking group and quickly established several walks ranging from 2.5 – 4 miles.

You can download and read the full project report HERE

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