Healthy Minds – Eli’s Story

Eli AfanuEli has been speaking to us about his experiences on the Healthy Minds programme and how it supported him and helped him to develop during his time at the University of Bristol.  

Eli experienced mental health difficulties whilst studying his undergraduate degree in economics, combined with social pressures outside of university, such as his living situation. 

“Before I joined the programme, I’d say my Uni experience was quite mixed. It started off well during fresher’s week and getting to know different people and going out, but the people I had made friends with were in a different accommodation, so my social side of things became quite lacking, which meant I began to lose motivation to study and I fell behind with lectures.” 

He had mentioned trying to be active beforehand, looking to play football and other team sports, but because his accommodation was quite far away from campus, it was hard to consistently keep this going. 

“Going into campus was hard because it was so far away and I wasn’t too active beforehand as the closest gym was like a 40-minute bus ride” 

As this continued, he sought support through the University website. He came across the Healthy Minds programme through the universities Sport, Exercise, & Health division and arranged a meeting with a student counsellor to discuss how to be involved. 

One evening I was looking through options for support from the Uni and I saw I could speak to a counsellor and near the bottom of the page mentioned Healthy Minds. So, I clicked on the link and looked through the website and thought it would be something I would be interested in. 

Because I’ve always like sport and been interested in keeping fit and improving myself, I spoke to a counsellor and asked if I could be referred to the healthy minds programme.” 

On going through the process, Eli was able to meet with a counsellor and get referred onto the programme, partnering him with an instructor who began to lead them on a bespoke physical activity programme. 

“In the beginning, I had some anxiety because I hadn’t been to the gym in a long time and wasn’t sure how to use the equipment with proper form which was in the back of my mind. But I was supported by my instructor who showed me the correct form and how to use any of the equipment/machines, so I was able to adjust and get used to the environment. 

As I started going to the gym regularly, I enjoyed it. I had two main goals of building muscle and improving fitness.” 

Eli referenced his mentor, a qualified instructor who works within the health and fitness team, as great support for his goals and helping him to adapt to new things. 

“I became more confident. I was doing things I hadn’t really done before, like trying new stretches and it really helped. [My mentor] was motivating and he kept supporting me, so I tried different exercises and then saw how I can push myself further. I stopped thinking about what other people were thinking and I was just focusing on what I was doing. 

And that I was getting closer to my goals which helped me fall back in love with being active and exercising which improved my mental and physical health.” 

Eli also discussed how it wasn’t just the gym that provided him with this support, but also by utilising the other areas the programme had to offer, such as the class programme. 

“One thing in particular I liked about the programme was the fact that I had access to the fitness classes. I’ve always wanted to go to one of the classes and the programme allowed me to do that. I think I probably enjoyed the classes just as much as the gym. 

I was working out with a group of people with music, sometimes with LED lights and fun and engaging doing completely different movements I haven’t done before. The class instructor explained everything in an easy to understand way and we just needed to follow her instructions.” 

Eli completed the 12-week programme, seeing significant improvements in his wellbeing, as well as his physical health. 

“I build routines into my day now, so that I am not just on social media, becoming stronger and more fit. My overall wellbeing increased and I became more motivated.” 

His advice for any individual studying at the University of Bristol that may be going through something similar to him, is to look into the programme. 

“If you’ve never been to the gym before and or would like to start again, you should definitely give the programme a go! It’s a great opportunity to have 1-1 to support with a trained instructor. I would say take each day as it comes and make use of the all the support you have available to you; the instructor, counsellor, and friends. It’s not as scary as you first think, and eventually you’ll see your overall wellbeing improve as your physical and mental health improve.” 


About the Programme 

Healthy Minds is a physical activity mental wellbeing intervention, designed to support students at the University of Bristol who may be encountering any mental health difficulties. 

As a participant, you will be partnered with one of Healthy Minds team, who are qualified health and fitness professionals with additional exercise and mental health training. They will support you to develop sustainable health behaviours, both physical and mentally, and teach you skills and strategies to stay well in the future with an active lifestyle over the long-term. 

We boast a 100% success rate, in which every individual that has engaged with us has recorded increases in their wellbeing, both quantitively and qualitatively. 

As a participant, you receive: 

  • 12-week journey through guided physical activity support 
  • One-to-one sessions with our team 
  • Small-group Healthy Minds workshops, for a more social approach to physical activity 
  • Continued contact and check-ups on progression and wellbeing 
  • Inclusion to a community of like-minded peers 
  • Premium access to our facilities (Gym, Swimming Pool, Class programme, Full access to our App

If you are interested in participating in the Healthy Minds programme, please speak to your Wellbeing Advisor, or if you are engaging with the Student Counselling Service or Mental Health Advisory Service, you can discuss a referral in an appointment. For any further information, please contact our team.

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