Research has been growing showing that you can improve your mental health with exercise. Physical activity is now routinely recommended to patients suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health ailments. Here at Inspiring Change I support all my clients to increase their level of activity for physical, mental and emotional health. Hypnosis for exercise motivation can help you to become more active on a daily basis. Studies show that there is no antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug on the market that matches or exceeds the benefits of cardio exercise.
Ask your doctor if getting off the couch
is right for you.
Ways Exercise Can Improve
Your Mental Health
The Active Times, May 27, 2015: Fitness isn’t just about the physical benefits—exercise helps the mind too
- Keeps the Brain Sharp
- Improves Memory
- Reduces Stress
- Helps Relieve Symptoms of Anxiety
- Exercise Can Provide Social Support
- Boosts Your Mood
- Protects Cognitive Function Long-Term
- Helps Creativity
- Helps Relieve Symptoms of Depression
- Boosts Self-Confidence
Exercise keeps our hearts and bodies healthy. But how?
We often talk about the mind and body as though they are completely separate – but they aren’t. The mind can’t function unless your body is working properly – but it also works the other way. The state of your mind affects your body
So – if you feel low or anxious, you may do less and become less active – which can make you feel worse. You can get caught in a harmful cycle:
Why bother with exercise?
To work properly, your body needs regular exercise – and most of us feel good when we are active.
Until the last 100 years or so, you had to be quite active to just live your everyday life. Now, in modern Western societies, so much of what we used to do is done by machines. We drive cars, so we walk less, vacuum cleaners make cleaning easy, and washing is done by a machine. At work we may not even have to move around in the office – it’s enough to sit at the computer. It doesn’t help that modern high-energy foods make us put on too much weight – or that, (in the West at least), food has never been cheaper or easier to buy.
So how can you start to get more active, day to day? You may be turned off by the word ‘exercise’ because:
- I’ve never done it
- I wasn’t good at sports at school
- I would feel silly
- Other people would make fun of me
- It won’t help unless it hurts – ‘No pain, no gain’
- It’s sweaty and uncomfortable
- I’m too tired
- I would rather do something else
- It’s expensive
- I think it will make me feel worse
- I don’t have anyone to do it with
- I don’t know where, when or how to start.
But – it doesn’t have to be about running around a track or working out in a gym. It can just be about being more active each day – perhaps just walking more, or taking the stairs rather than the lift. If medical problems stop you from doing one thing, there may be others that you can do.
What happens if you don’t do very much?
Some people can get away with doing very little and live to a ripe old age – but most of us can’t. Broadly speaking, the less you do, the more likely you are to end up with:
- low mood / depression
- tension and worry.
If you keep active, you are:
- less likely to be depressed, anxious or tense
- more likely to feel good about yourself
- more likely to concentrate and focus better
- more likely to sleep better
- more likely to cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you try to give up a habit, such as smoking or alcohol
- more likely to be able to keep mobile and independent as you get older
- possibly less likely to have problems with memory and dementia.
So – don’t worry about not doing enough – get started by building a bit more physical activity into your daily life now. Even a small change can boost your morale, give you a sense of achievement and help you to feel better in yourself.
What might work for me?
- Be enjoyable – if you don’t know what you might enjoy, try a few different things
- Help you to feel more competent, or capable. Gardening or DIY projects can do this, as well getting you more active.
- Give you a sense of control over your life – that you have choices you can make (so it isn’t helpful if you start to feel that you have to exercise). The sense that you are looking after yourself can also feel good.
- Help you to escape for a while from the pressures of life.
- Be shared. The companionship involved can be just as important as the physical activity.
Why does exercise work?
We are not yet exactly sure. There are several possibilities:
- Most people in the world have always had to keep active to get food, water and shelter. This involves a moderate level of activity and seems to make us feel good. We may be built – or “hard wired” – to enjoy a certain amount of exercise. Harder exercise (perhaps needed to fight or flight from danger) seems to be linked to feelings of stress, perhaps because it is needed for escaping from danger.
- Exercise seems to have an effect on certain chemicals in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin. Brain cells use these chemicals to communicate with each other, so they affect your mood and thinking.
- Exercise can stimulate other chemicals in the brain called “brain derived neurotrophic factors”. These help new brain cells to grow and develop. Moderate exercise seems to work better than vigorous exercise.
- Exercise seems to reduce harmful changes in the brain caused by stress.