It is mental health awareness week and it has been highly talked about recently how mental health can be improved and treated with exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
Even those of us that have not been diagnosed with a specific condition can benefit. I for one have personal experience of this after experiencing a short period of anxiety and depression which all started after a few life experiences that all of us unfortunately will go through. “Unemployed” Blogging! New chapter! My heartfelt blog to the end of an era…
We tend to focus on the bad stuff in our lives rather than the good which has a very negative impact on our lives. Other peoples negativity and events in the news have a knock on effect that will effect those people around them as well.
I still have times where my anxiety towards stress manifests but over the months I have been finding ways to cope with this and my lifestyle is a big part of this.
3 areas of importance…
When it comes to “happiness” the areas that can positively and negatively effect our mental health are Sleep, Nutrition and Exercise!
When I have periods where I have a pig out I am left feeling sluggish and my mood drastically changes. I become very grumpy and stressed and I do not cope well with too much going on in my head. If I spend a few days not exercising I feel tired and lazy and spend days sitting on the sofa instead of getting things done. When we have very little sleep it effects our energy levels and how we are the next day.
Using positive lifestyle changes to treat mental health
Exercising sets me up for the day ahead and I know its hard to believe but it gives me the energy to get chores done and gives me the headspace to get on here and write these blogs.
Nutrition it goes with out saying if you spend the day eating good nutritious food you mentally feel happier and healthier. Sugar and junk food leads to sugar crashes causing tiredness and low mood. A come down after a sugar high is so depressing! Sugar! Why is it so bad for us? Nutritious food will give you the energy you need to positively energise your day.
A positive day with a clear head will in turn help us to sleep better…
The health benefits of exercise
We all know that exercise will physically benefit us and prevent ill health but it also has tons of mental health benefits too. The Charity Mind have a great section on how you can improve your mental health using exercise.
Reduced anxiety and happier moods. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins “feel good” hormones which help to lift your mood and reduce anxiety.
Reduce stress. Your body adapts to better ways of coping with stress and reduce tension due to controlling the cortisol levels which is a hormone that helps your body deal with stress.
Clearer thinking. Breaks up racing thoughts and leaves you calmer and better placed to process your thoughts clearly.
Increased self-esteem. It goes with out saying that exercise plays a massive part in improving your self esteem. I think at first it can be a little intimidating but once you start to improve on something and achieve your goals, see and feel the physical changes it has a huge positive benefit and a big boost in lifting your mood and attitude.
Reduced risk of depression. There have been studies to show that if you exercise at least 3 times a week you have less chance of developing depression.
Social and emotional benefits
Making friends and connecting with people. As they say its good to talk and being around other people is good for our mental health.
Having fun. If you enjoy the activity you are much more likely to keep doing it and enjoying something helps us to be more positive.
How exercise has helped me…
There are many days where I wake up really not wanting to do anything but these days are getting fewer and further between. I now plan my workouts at the beginning of the week and mentally prepare myself for what I will be doing.
I have a love hate relationship with running. Somedays I just can not face it especially if the weather is bad, but a good run helps me to make sense of my thoughts and deal with them in a less impulsive and chaotic way. It gives me the time and space to think about things. If I have lots going on in my head, wanting to go out for a run I always used to see as another thing to squeeze in to my already chaotic day, but if I make it a priority and schedule it in, once I get back I am a lot more focused and my time management is so much better. I do find working out first thing a lot easier to motivate myself than last thing in the day.
Taking part in races has really helped my self esteem and confidence. Its something I think all of us can be good at and see big changes in a short space of time. I can honestly say there is so much pride and reward in getting that medal at the end of a run even if its been a bad one.. believe me I’ve had plenty of those like my recent race, MK half marathon. But that medal lifts my mood instantly… And on those occasions where you surprise yourself with a new PB even better. Running doesn’t need to be about how quick you are or how good you are.. for me its about the sense of achievement you feel.
I find the running community so inspiring and as more and more people take up running it shows how it positively helps people with their mental health and how we all support and encourage each other!
Strength training and Lifting weights..
#girlsthatlift I started weight training when the weight loss came to a stand still. I used to go to a body pump class which I loved. It was never anything too heavy and looking back my technique was shocking and I saw very little change…but I really enjoyed it. I then had the confidence to try things in the gym but have and still do find the free weights areas of gyms a little intimidating… We all need to not be afraid or find someone to workout with because its really not that scary…
I started working with a personal trainer and my confidence grew and grew. I felt so much achievement each time I stepped up a weight and lifted more. There were occasions where I literally sobbed at the end of a session as it felt like a huge release of all the shit I was going through. Far better therapy than counselling if you find a good one you can feel safe with.
Chris always asks me why I want to be able to lift heavy weights… I can’t always answer him because its not just about physical changes although they are great and I have had them… again its how it makes me feel.
There is no danger of us girls turning into the hulk lifting a few weights in the gym believe me. But I am pretty proud of my shoulders, arms and legs and I’ve worked hard to get them that way. I no longer look at a picture of myself (not as often anyway) and hate the way I look.
Now that I am unemployed I can not afford the gym membership let alone a personal trainer. I am not seeing the results as quickly as I was but I still do it because now if I go a few days without doing something I really notice the difference in my mood.
Working out with friends and family..
There is a lot to be said for exercise classes and most areas will have something at an affordable price. I have just started going to a circuits class which for me its a chance to exercise with other people and maybe pick up a thing or 2 to try at home.
When you take part in a race you have the others around you to support and encourage you to the end. A gym buddy can be a good therapy session for a good chin wag but remember why your there!
I also love to train with the kiddies. This really helps to lift my mood to share the experience with Chris and my girls mainly because spending time with them makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world!
Making the leap..
Take it from me you need to get up, get moving and see for yourself. You may feel like it’s the last thing you want to do but take a chance, go and reap the benefits and rewards of exercise.
Walk, run, swim, go to a class, join a gym what ever you do make sure you enjoy it and give it a chance.
I feel more confident and energised in my body! Trust me you won’t look back.