Our doctors and health professionals have long promoted exercise, and for good reason. Staying active improves your physical health and also your ability to fight disease, both of which help you to live a long and happy life.
More and more people (me included) are figuring out that exercise is also essential for their mental wellbeing. It reduces fatigue and improves your memory, alertness and overall brain function. Now that’s a reason I would get out for a run!
We’ve all experienced stress at one point or another. Stress causes fatigue and prevents us from concentrating. When stress impacts your brain, you will feel it in the rest of your body too. The benefit of this connection is that it works both ways! Improve how your body feels and it will promote a healthy mind. This is why we can use exercise as a cure for stress and anxiety disorders. Exercise produces endorphins, the chemicals that enhance mood, fight pain and elevate sleep quality. Movement also releases any tightness or tension that your body is holding and helps to disperse feelings of fear.
It doesn’t have to be an hour long workout either, a quick ten minute walk can be just as good. Obviously one walk isn’t going to cure you forever, but it could deliver short-term relief if you are feeling unmotivated, overwhelmed, or restless. Prioritising regular activity can lead to better mental wellbeing over time. In addition to reducing stress and anxiety, we may also find that we have clearer thinking, better self-esteem and an elevated mood!
Find what makes you feel good
We are all wonderful, unique individuals, and so the effects of exercise will be different on all of us. That’s why I live by this motto: find what makes you feel good. Sounds simple enough, right? All you have to do is find forms of exercise that make you happy in order to feel the benefits in your mind. If you hate the gym, forcing yourself to go there three times a week might be enhancing your physical health, but it definitely won’t be boosting your brain. Maybe you would prefer classes or group activities, making exercise more of a social event. Or if you prefer to go solo, perhaps running or cycling is more your thing.
I’ve seen so many people encouraging vigorous exercise as a remedy, and yes, for some people this might work a treat. I find that vigorous physical activity puts more stress on my body, so it makes sense not to add one on top of the other. This is another reason that yoga has become so massively popular in recent years.
Yoga for the body as well as the mind
Yoga stretches out the muscles through a wide variety of poses and this releases muscle tension. You’ll also see improved flexibility and a sense of relaxation bought on by the combination of breath, meditation and movement. Only mind-body practices like yoga create the state of calm that allows the body to relax at a cellular level. The focus on deep, fluid breathing has a massive effect on your mental state and also increases self-awareness, teaching you how to give your undivided attention to the present moment. Practice yoga regularly and it will help to bring calm to your daily life, giving you the tools you need to overcome challenges with less stress and anxiety.
There are endless forms of exercise that could work for you: jog, walk, cycle or dance your way to better mental wellbeing! Think outside the box and try something a little more unusual. I’m thinking rock climbing, aerial yoga or trampolining.
If you’re new to the exercise, be patient with yourself. It can take a while to settle in and enjoy yourself; set yourself small goals rather than aiming for the perfect performance every time. Put time aside to prioritise your wellbeing and through a regular fitness routine, you may soon notice that you have more self-confidence, reduced levels of anxiety and better physical health.