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Mental Health Awareness Week 2021: How nature has boosted my mental health at home and at work

11 May 2021

For Mental Health Awareness Week and its theme this year of nature, our colleague Thomas Dunning has shared his experience of how running in the great outdoors has helped bring great benefits to his mental health, both personally and at work. Here is what he had to say:

Running on a track or in an urban setting is one thing for getting the plethora of benefits that come with being active; but breaking that constraint of tarmac and pavement is where it really hits its prime. Seeing historic sites, being in places that are not visited very often and being present; but also the gift of how the outdoors make you feel grounded – the sensory overload of the elements helps give you a sense of perspective and just being present, as well as helping you feel at peace.

Running and being a mental health ambassador is quite a cathartic experience. On days when I feel very low in my own mental health, I can go for a run or give a talk – often to a global audience - on mental health and afterwards I feel like I’ve solved all of the world’s problems. It gives me a healthy release of stress, keeping me level-headed, but also a way to ensure that when I look back on my life I can happily say “I did that” and “I tried my best”. At the end of the day, that’s the goal – being able to be proud of those things later in life, challenging the stigmas around mental health and progressing my career here at British Sugar as far as I can.

Having running and getting out in the natural world as a source of stress release to boost my mental health means I’m able to do my job as a Process Technician and Maintenance Lead to the best of my ability. At work, I have also taken great benefit from being involved in the overall business-wide mental health policy and taskforce groups, and seeing first-hand how mental health has been approached by colleagues – even at the highest levels of the company - is extremely fulfilling. In particular, it was great to see British Sugar sign up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment last summer.

It’s an amazing feeling how my confidence after my own breakdown and subsequent recovery in 2014 has filtered through to my work at British Sugar, and I find it a privilege to be able to provide support for others in my role as a Mental Health First Aider on site – with 1 in 4 people living with a mental health condition, there are always 3 others who can help save a life.


Thomas Dunning

Process Technician and Maintenance Lead, Newark Factory


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