Not wanting to start with a moan but doing it anyway… We are not massively fond of awareness weeks over in the Self Space camp, particularly Mental Health Awareness Week – if we still need an awareness week, we haven’t done enough to move culture where it needs to go. What we want to shout loudly is – let’s not just be aware of our mental health but move awareness into action, actually make moves towards ‘doing’ as opposed to noticing. That being said, we have embraced it and not reluctantly, we’ve gone full-on IN and we’ve pioneered some pretty epic shit this month, which we feel unbelievably proud of. 

Most of our activity throughout May has teetered on the edge of discomfort, pushing our community and ourselves out of our comfort zones, and this we feel is at the heart of awareness into action. We haven’t just made pretty Instagram posts (although we have done that too, not just pretty but truth-filled, boss-like words shared by thousands) but we’ve had our feet firmly on the ground and our arms open wide to our community. We’ve pushed the agenda for awareness into action forward with gusto. That’s felt so, so good – more than good, nourishing and lush and connecting. 

The national theme this year was ‘movement’… never ones to be obvious! We focused on the idea of movement toward deeper connection, and kept this as our north star in everything we put our mits on over the month of May. 

We are acutely aware from so many corners of our experience, as messy humans ourselves, from our pals, our colleagues, and our community that loneliness is something we will all feel at some point in our lives. Sometimes it’s big and ugly, sometimes just quiet and nagging and long –  but mostly it’s ughhhhhhhh. Mine takes the shape of a sort of dull ache, highlighted by kids getting bigger and needing less to keep them alive, my divorce papers being signed, and an nerve-wracking new awareness that I work way too much and should do less – eeek, terrifying!

It makes no difference how many people you have in your life, parties you go to, how popular you are, relationship or not, kids or not, it’s going to visit you at some point, and if we allow ourselves the grace to actually be in full contact with our feelings of loneliness they often show us what we really need to enrich our lives. So uncomfortable though, isn’t it…  

When we feel it creeping in, you can see how we so easily become obsessed with quick fixes, anything we can do and fast to quash our lonely feelings: Netflix to online shopping, Uber Eats to Pornhub, Deliveroo to all-day ravs, email, WhatsApp, Insta, booze… But when we get too embedded in quick fixes, all we really do is keep ourselves spiritually and emotionally starving, more depleted, leaving us absolutely desperate for proper meaningful connection, because this is the real and honest antidote to loneliness. And nothing makes us feel closer, more seen and heard and connected than deep and meaningful time with ourselves and others, with strangers, with loved ones, with anyone!  

As long as it’s honest, sometimes a bit awks but real and authentic sharing, allowing ourselves to sink into the comfort of others, no edge, no corners, just the soft shape of our own vulnerability. So comforting, so peaceful. But how to cultivate it more… we asked ourselves that exact question at Self Space, and we came to the idea of a series of events and activations which we hoped would do just that – bring us all together in a more intimate and connected way – and do some proper moving awareness into action.  

So what have we actually been doing then?  

Walk Club

We met up at all our London sites, (I took my dog to the King’s Cross walk) an opportunity for strangers to walk together, led by therapists on gorgeous routes, we had walking prompts which gave us the opportunity to connect in deep and meaningful ways, thought provoking, tear jerking honest convos as we strolled along the canal. I felt so connected and energised by being a part of it. We ran 4 walks for public with 119 people taking part overall and this is what they said about it in there own words:

‘I’ve learned that being in a conversation with a stranger does not necessarily mean having meaningless talk, you can really discuss deep things. Thank you for being so warm and welcoming.’

‘It’s good to talk and reflect and realise everyone faces their own challenges in life and sometimes the stories are similar in terms of outcome. Life’s learnings. It was a relaxed session and easy to work with Jo and Mitali.’

Gymshark Pop-Up

What better place to show our face than in the vibrancy of Regent Street, in the beautiful Gymshark flag ship store. How incredible for the face of mental health to be embraced by Gymshark who are saying loudly and clearly physical health and mental health go hand in hand, one does not exist without the other, which is why we have teamed up with Gymshark to offer free 20-minute sessions with our qualified therapists throughout the week in a small pop-up space among the cosy cushions. It was a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment in our team and we have only good things to say about this partnership and its future. This is what people who visited our pop up said…

‘I was lucky enough to book into one of the free spots Self Space opened up during their time at the Regent St. Gymshark store. I met the lovely Jess who took 20 minutes to let me chat sh*t, decompress and just **breathe**. It was really lovely to have a moment to just stop and check in with how I’m doing.’

I had my free session and couldn’t believe how much I got from 20 minutes that felt like a rich hour. It really made me understand how we can make only so much progress on our own, and we need others to take us further – even if it’s just a 20 minute encounter. These meetings help us put the pieces of our lives together, because sometimes they don’t fit easily.’

Supper for the Soul

What a brilliant evening, we all arrived (almost 100 of us!) as strangers and left with extended groups of friends, who we’d shared on a deep and meaningful level with. As the sun shone down on the Coal Drops Yard, we ate delicious food and meandered through a menu of conversation questions/prompts which varied from deep deep to ‘what’s your fav dessert’, tears were shed, hugs were had, hands were held and numbers swapped. We laughed, we cried and we all unanimously agreed that the world needs more of this conscious connection. Supper for the Soul did what it set out to do. 

‘Last night was their inaugural Supper for the Soul, an al-fresco feast, inviting connection through a menu of conversation with like-minded people.’

I’ve never attended anything quite like it and had the privilege to share hours of nourishing conversation with two people I know I’ll see again.’

‘This year’s mental health awareness week theme is Movement, and although the focaccia, lasagna and profiteroles ensured I would be pretty immobile for the evening, I was incredibly moved by the intimacy of the moment.’

‘What an amazing sunkissed evening with Self Space in Coal Drops Yard – heart food and meaningful conversation. Thank you for having us and creating such a wonderful event. Your work is breaking barriers and opening doors to the tender places inside ourselves.’

‘Can’t praise you and the team enough for what you all pulled off last night. Everybody walked away with an experience they’ll treasure for a long, long time to come. Thank you.’

Apart from all that, in one week we’ve also delivered 17 workshops, 6 B2B Walkie Talkies, 1 short course, 2 launch talks, and 11 MOT sessions for our partners.

All of this really hits you right in the feels. Couldn’t be prouder of our whole team.

Please know this… we are all lonely in ways we can find indescribable to share and when we stay along in that, it can compound our sense of being further away from ourselves and others. Cultivate environments and relationships for yourself where you can arrive fully as you are and know that you are a co-contributor to the experience you create with others. 

Being alone is powerful, being lonely for seasons is enviable, and finding healthy ways to self-soothe is a key component of better mental health. BUT prolonged periods of loneliness, and fear, and avoidance of connecting deeply, firstly with yourself and then with others, is going to be a critical component in you feeling rubbish and low. What can you do today to lean into what you need? To have a deeper, more meaningful connection?