Mental and Physical Healing: How the Gym is My Sanctuary

For Mental Health Awareness week this month we’re exploring the theme of being ‘better together’ with mental health issues. In this article, member Brad Hulme tells us his journey of how the gym has helped him on a path of mental and physical healing and his advice for others.


“My journey from the confines of a homeless hostel at 15 to the empowering environment of a gym is a testament to resilience and the human spirit’s capacity to overcome adversity. Living in hostels, I was surrounded by people grappling with severe mental health issues, including schizophrenia, severe anxiety and depression.

The pain was later compounded by the heart-wrenching loss of seven friends in 12 months just last year, most to suicide.

These experiences exposed me to the depths of despair but also ignited a profound commitment to finding mental and physical healing through fitness. Read through this short article to see how fitness can help you too!

Building Friendships and Community

The Power of Connection

In the midst of loneliness and isolation, the gym emerged as a community hub. It was there I met Kurtis, battling schizophrenia. Our daily gym sessions became his lifeline, and mine too, helping to momentarily ease our burdens and foster a rare sense of joy and normalcy.

Practical Tips:

Engage with others by starting conversations around common exercises or fitness goals.
Participate in community events at the gym, like charity runs or wellness seminars, to deepen connections.
Be a buddy to someone who seems to be struggling; sometimes a workout partner can make all the difference to both of your mental and physical healing processes
Reflective Question:

Who might benefit from your companionship at the gym today?

Gaining Purpose and Focus

Finding My Why

Amid the chaos of my circumstances, the structured environment of the gym offered a refuge where I could set and achieve clear, tangible goals. Every weight lifted and lap completed symbolized a small victory over my external and internal struggles, helping to restore my sense of self-worth and purpose.

Practical Tips:

Set daily or weekly fitness objectives to maintain a forward-moving mindset.
Reward yourself with something meaningful after reaching a fitness milestone, like new workout gear or a fun day out.
Visualize your success to maintain focus and motivation, imagining how you’ll feel after reaching your goals
Reflective Question:

What are your personal reasons for staying fit, and how do they help you cope with life’s challenges?

Navigating Gym Anxiety

Overcoming Initial Fears

The initial fear of stepping into the gym was overwhelming, compounded by my personal insecurities and the stigma associated with being homeless. Starting with less crowded times and gradually integrating into more populated sessions helped my transition into a regular, more confident gym-goer and further my mental and physical healing.

Practical Tips:

Start with a friend or personal trainer to help familiarize yourself with the equipment and routines.
Practice mindfulness before entering the gym to calm nerves and improve focus.
Set small, incremental exposure goals to gradually desensitize yourself to the gym environment.
Reflective Question:

What small step can you take today to overcome any anxiety associated with your workouts?

Combating Depression Through Exercise

The Role of Physical Activity in Mental Health

Lifting weights and cardiovascular exercises became my therapy, releasing endorphins that naturally boosted my mood and alleviated symptoms of depression. The rhythmic nature of exercise provided a meditative escape from the cyclical thoughts of despair, particularly after the loss of my friends.

Practical Tips:

Incorporate outdoor activities for additional sunlight exposure, enhancing mood and vitamin D intake.
Join a fitness class that emphasizes teamwork and collective achievement, such as boot camps or spin classes.
Listen to uplifting or calming music during workouts to enhance the mental and physical healing effects of exercise.
Reflective Question:

How does physical activity affect your mood and how can you make it a regular part of your life?

ADHD and the Gym

Channeling Energy Positively

The structured environment of the gym allowed me to channel my restless energy into positive actions. This was especially beneficial in managing ADHD symptoms, where the immediate feedback from physical activity provided a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Practical Tips:

Use apps or devices to track your progress and maintain engagement with your workout routines.
Focus on circuit training to keep your mind engaged and body moving continuously.
Establish a consistent schedule for gym attendance to build a routine that your body and mind can rely on.
Reflective Question:

What elements of your workout routine help manage your ADHD, and what new activities could you incorporate for mental and physical healing?

Nutrition and Mental Health

Fuelling Mind and Body

Balanced nutrition is foundational to mental health. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains helps stabilize mood and energy levels, which is essential for everyone, but particularly those dealing with mental health challenges.

Practical Tips:

Plan your meals to include a variety of nutrients that support brain health and reduce mood fluctuations.
Limit processed and sugary foods which can exacerbate mood swings and energy dips, but you can enjoy them if it is what you truly want as it’s important to not restrict yourself too much.
Experiment with mood-boosting foods like dark chocolate, avocados, and berries that can enhance feelings of well-being.
Reflective Question:

What changes to your diet could potentially improve both your physical and mental health?

Seeking Help: Important Contacts

For those in need of immediate mental health support:

NHS 111 – For non-emergency medical advice.
Samaritans – Reach out any time at 116 123 for a listening ear.
Mind Infoline – Call 0300 123 3393 for advice on mental health problems and treatments.
Walsall Mental Health Support – Check your local NHS website for services in your area.


The gym is more than just a place to exercise; it’s a sanctuary where fitness fosters mental and physical healing, where challenges are met with supportive smiles, and every individual’s journey is respected and celebrated. No matter where you start, each step taken in a gym is a step toward recovery and self-discovery, proving that even in the darkest times, there is a path forward—one step at a time.”

mental and physical healing

By Brad Hulme

Like this? Then why not check out our blog on How to Achieve Fitness Goals in a Cost of Living Crisis

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