Exercise and Mental Health

We know the physical benefits of exercise – helps us lose weight, helps reduce risk of high blood pressure, helps prevent some cancers and helps get rid of fat – but the mental benefits are just as important too.

Mental health means different things to different people, so each person will have different experiences of how exercise can help them. A severe bout of depression won’t miraculously be cured by ‘going for a little jog’, but physical activity might help with the symptoms and lessen the impact when they do occur.

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which are feel-good chemicals that can reduce your perception of pain and trigger  a positive feeling in the body, in a similar way to morphine.

Not only do you have the chemical benefits, you have other psychological benefits to think about:

  • Confidence – in yourself and your abilities. Thinking that you can’t do something, and then going ahead and proving yourself wrong! Lifting heavier weights, running further than you thought possible etc.
  • Self esteem – evaluating your self worth. Losing a bit of weight can make you feel better about yourself and your appearance. It doesn’t have to be a significant weight loss either, but it can make an impact.
  • Motivation – to carry on. Moving from one objective to another and feeling able to completely smash it.
  • Sleep – quality of sleep improves, which can influence other aspects of your physical and mental well-being.
  • Stress reduction – endorphins and serotonin levels can increase, which usually means that stress levels decrease.
  • Time out – can help put things in perspective, or allow you to think about things whilst being away from the situation. Going for a walk, run or a swim can give you the time you need.

Naturally, if your body feels better through exercise, so does your mind.  I find that if I need a bit of time out, or there’s a particular problem I need to work through, going for a run or walk gives me the time to process all the options I have and then choose the best course of action for me. Sometimes it’s just the action of shutting out the world by putting my music on loud, but leaving my phone at home when I do this means that I’m not tempted to procrastinate further.

As I said before, people have different feelings when it comes to mental and physical health and its not always easy to prioritise things when you think you need to.
I’m always on the lookout for new stress relieving tips, so feel free to comment below with yours.

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