Beat the winter blues with Red January

RED January returns next month with its annual month-long public health campaign empowering people across the UK to move every day in January to support their own mental health and raise funds to help others. Since it started, more than 200,000 people have taken part raising millions of pounds for mental health charities.

RED Campaign 15

Red January Returns

We at Outside & Active are incredibly excited for the return of Red January. It provides a great opportunity for you to start the year out on the right foot whether that's running, cycling, swimming, walking or any other activity that helps you to get outside. 

Being outside and active has proven benefits to both body and mind. Over half of participants from previous Red January's said they've had a significant improvement in their happiness and a reduction in anxiety.

We spoke to Hannah Beecham, founder of Red January and Red Together about this years campaign and how you can get involved. 

You can watch the interview here or read the full transcript below. 


Full Transcript of Interview

Welcome to Outside and Active. I'm your host, Matt Coyne, and today on the lead up to Christmas as well as well as I guess the time with people starting to think about what they can do in the new year and how you can continue to be outside and active from January 1, I'm excited to have Hannah Beecham, the creator behind Red January and Red together. Joining me. Hello, Hannah. Hello. It's good to be here. How are you doing? You just had quite an exciting launch this weekend?

I think we did. Yeah. So our official red January merchandise launched with the Decathlon yesterday, and it was the number one best selling product launch, which we're just over the moon with. And I think, as I was saying to you before we came on here, we've always known that for the right community, they love wearing the brand. It makes them feel a part of something really special. And actually, it's one of those things that it does help motivate you to move more when you feel part of something, when you feel part of the community. So we're just thrilled to know that Redders are wanting that experience again.

So, yeah, we're over the moon. 

That's amazing. Congratulations. And I never knew you're called Redders before. So that's new to me today. 

It's actually one of the Redders in the community came up with that must have been five years ago now, and we were like, we love that. And we love that it came from the community as well.

So for people that don't know and I don't know how they wouldn't know, but for people that don't know, is it Red January now or is it Red together or is it both? 

Red January is our flagship campaign, and in essence, it's a public health campaign that's empowering people to move every single day in January to beat the winter blues away. So to support their mental health, and it can be any form of movement. So we've seen people up and down the country enjoy walking, running, cycling, cold water swimming is massively taken off, as I'm sure, you know, in recent years as well. So it's just been amazing to see people move in a way that works for them and their lifestyle. And the focus is really on starting to build habits into your life in a way that works for you, not just during January but beyond as well. So it's about taking steps that just feel like a natural extension to what you do day to day and then read together.

It's really here because come February, we were always so mindful that there are thousands of people out there that form these habits, and we didn't just want to say, oh, see you next year. So we formed Red together. And the idea is that we'll continue to support you throughout the rest of the year. So we partner with some incredible people like Sport England, to give the right community advice and inspiration and things that they can do season by season. But we really believe that if you can move in January 1 of the toughest months of the year, then just think of what you can achieve throughout the rest of the year, too. 

So that's kind of how you started things, I think from what we've talked about before, but we started with your mom, and it was kind of taking each day one step at a time. Is that right? Exactly that.

So I was inspired to start Red seven years ago, like all of us were on a mental health journey, and my mum was diagnosed with depression a number of years back, and she went through a particularly low period. And if I'm honest, I didn't really know what to do to support her during that time. And it got me thinking about what I was doing to support my own well being. And I didn't actually realize that I was signing up to physical activity challenges to give me a focus and a goal and a sense of purpose. And I just thought, you know what? My mum feels pretty helpless right now. Her words as well. And so right.

I signed us up to a walking marathon and took the news home to my mom. And obviously it wasn't a jump out of bed moment by any means. But after a few months and to know that she had the support and obviously me and friends and family, I saw her literally put 1ft in front of the other, and her mood improved. Her energy levels improved. Her sleep improved. She went back to work after a few months. As we know, it doesn't necessarily cure depression by any means.

But for my mum now, it's part of the toolkit of things that she turns to support herself. And we were training for the event in the wintertime, and I'd always felt so strongly that even if you don't experience mental health challenges, it's a really tough time of year to motivate yourself to move like you say, it's getting a smidge lighter at the moment, which is great, but it's still dark. It's cold in January. We tend to have all weathers as well, like snow, rain, sleep. And when you look outside, the prospect of lacing up your trainers. Yeah, it's tough. It could be testing.

And seven years ago, there wasn't really anything at this time of year to give people that goal and that focus and couldn't get beat the winter Blues out of my head. And Red January was really born from there. And here we are today. Well, I mean, amazing. And is your mom still doing well, thank you for asking. She's well, I think like all of us the past couple of years is definitely challenges in different ways. And we're all on a journey with our mental health.

So there's definitely times where she's being tested in other ways but I kind of take solace in the fact that she's now got this toolkit of things movement being one of them. We know that it's not just about movement. People from my mum, especially she has a counselor and nutrition and sleep, and it's very much a holistic approach to your lifestyle. But to know that movement forms a part of that, it's really heartwarming to know. Yeah, it's incredibly important. And I think something else. And I like how you've moved on to kind of read together because I think it's incredibly important you did this with your mom.

Maybe like you said, you weren't consciously doing something for your own mental health. You are helping your mum. But I think it's incredibly important that you might be helping someone else. But in turn, actually, that's probably helping you inside without you even knowing it right. It's so true. And I'm a reader as well. I'm part of that community.

So when people are like, how do you feel about the way that it's grown? And obviously, I've got lots of thoughts around all of that. But fundamentally, I feel a part of an incredibly special community at a time of year where, yes, I needed the motivation to me too. So I just feel very lucky that something like a rich January exists and other campaigns are starting to blossom in that space as well, which is great to see. Yeah, it's amazing. And I know I have a running group and I know a lot of them have downloaded your trainer every January and covered that in or done various designs and graphics around it, which is pretty awesome. But have you got something like that, like trackers or inspiration and ideas for people that actually go, well, I can walk. I'm not sure what else I can do.

Have you got things like that to kind of help motivate people along the way? We do. So we've got a bunch of downloads on our website that includes the color and trainer. Of course, it's one of our most popular downloads. It's amazing just to see people color in each day. People get a lot of motivation from that. I think even as adults, we know kids especially love the start, like putting stars. But I don't think that changes as you get older.

And it just shows when people are printing off putting on their fridge. And we got posters and fundraising packs for our charity partner support in mind. And yeah, take a look. It's on our download section on the website. And then also this year, excitedly, we've partnered with an incredible initial place and they've created this activity Finder for us again, it's available on the website. You can click on it and find free and fun local activities in your community. So if you're struggling to kind of think of what you can do to fill your 31 days, hopefully that will provide you with some inspiration as well.

Okay. Amazing. And you mentioned your charity partner there as well. Who are you fundraising for? So we're going into our second year partnership with Sport in Mind. I knew about Sport in mind a few years ago, and it's just been amazing to see them blossom. And I've just been such a huge fan of the work that they do. They basically work in partnership with the NHS, and for anyone that's experiencing mental health challenges, in essence, they give them a helping hand back into enjoying the benefits of sport.

And they've created these amazing sports programs, which we were very lucky to go along to in the past few months and see them in action. I was really moved. I was moved to see on the ground what that Red community was funding. And the ambition is that actually, over the coming years, the Red Community's fundraising efforts will go towards launching these incredible sports programs all around the UK. So in every single town, there will be a sports program there to support you directly.

Genuinely, it just feels so meaningful and so exciting to be able to physically be seeing the difference that everyone's efforts are making. That's amazing. And I think what is also quite amazing is you're seven years on and you're still talking about this so passionately as though you started it yesterday. I think that's absolutely incredible. So hopefully that itself inspires people to sort of see the positive impact of a change to daily routine that you're suggesting. Oh, I hope so. And it's a part of my life now.

I can't imagine a Christmas time where I wasn't checking the restaurant, most of my parents annoyance when I'm like, under the table, checking emails. But I love it. I love to see people turning to campaigns like Red to support themselves and other people. It's really heartwarming. And I guess maybe finally it's important to say that it's not just about doing a marathon distance walk or some crazy Triathlon or something. It could be just getting outside of the house for ten minutes. Right.

You're trying to make this accessible for everyone. So maybe just a couple of ideas of some of the things that people are doing through together. Regenery. Yeah, it's exactly that. So we've seen people use it as an opportunity to start leaving their car at home a bit more and actually do the score run on foot. And also if you're getting the bus or a mode of transport somewhere, if you can get off a stop earlier and then walk the rest of the way and start to incrementally build up your distance as well. We see that across the road January experience that people start by going, okay, I'm going to walk to that lump post and then the next week they're like, okay, I can go a bit further, and we know that those small steps will eventually lead to big steps as well.

And we've witnessed that every year there are so many ways that people are moving. And as I said earlier, people are having a lot of fun with it as well. Cold water swimming has massively taken off, and we've got people in the community that are doing a bit of a deep dive into cold water swimming safely. Of course. But of course, on the most part, as you say, it's really about incorporating movement into your life in a way that works for you. Yeah, definitely. And we should absolutely link to some safety tips and open water swimming, because if you haven't done it before and you're deciding to go on January 1, you need to build up to it and maybe consider a wetsuit for your first time.

So we need to add that on cold water swimming, but okay. So, Hannah, where can people find out more? What's the website? What's your Facebook. What's Instagram. Where can people find you? Yeah. So you can sign up for free at redtogether co. Uk and come along and join the online Red community. I'm incredibly biased.

They are very supportive and special, and it's at regional. Uk across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Okay. Amazing. Well, Hannah, thank you so much for your time today. Hopefully, we can encourage more people to take part through January and we look forward to maybe a progress update through January. Let's do it.

Yeah. That would be awesome. Thank you.