The Link Between Mind and Body
Your physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing are inextricably linked. Psychological issues can affect you physiologically and vice-versa. For people that are prone to or suffer from depression and/or anxiety, your physical wellbeing can become easy to overlook, creating a vicious cycle of unhealthy habits that feed off each other.
When you are depressed or suffering from anxiety, proper exercise can feel trivial or impossible. Getting motivated to work out can become difficult and lead to more anxiety and negative feelings. It is during these times that it is crucial to begin or maintain some form of exercise regimen.
Though the links between exercise and your mental wellbeing aren’t completely understood, the research and evidence has shown great promise and can no longer be overlooked.
How Exercise Can Help
Exercise has been proven to help improve and prevent a variety of physical health issues, but can it really improve your mental health? Below are some of the ways that routine exercise can help to improve your mental wellbeing and mitigate depression and anxiety:
- Build Your Confidence – Setting and completing exercise goals can be a significant boost for your confidence. Regular exercise will also help you to look and feel healthier, improving your appearance and adding to the boost of confidence
- A Healthy Distraction – Concentrating on a positive goal or activity like exercise will help to keep your mind focused on the task at hand. If you are having trouble shaking a negative thought or feeling, try jumping into an exercise routine to keep your mind occupied on something beneficial
- Endorphins – Working out helps your brain to naturally release feel-good chemicals like endorphins. Ever heard of a runner’s high? Redirect your feelings of dread and anxiety into a fun exercise routine and help your body to produce and release helpful chemicals
- Meet New People – Working out can be a great opportunity to meet new people and forge healthy relationships. It’s can be easier to slip into depression when you are isolated. Gyms and parks are a great place to meet new people that have similar interests. Meeting like-minded people in a neutral setting can be a great place to work through social anxiety issues.
In a scientific study, presented by Clinical Psychiatry News, researchers monitored the effects of physical activity on the subject’s mental health. They determined that there are a number of connections between the exercise, your body’s reaction and how they affect your mental state:
- Changes in neurotransmitters—noradrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine—are associated with improved mood
- Increased steroid reserves become accessible to counteract stress
- Exercise reduces tension by lowering resting muscle activity potential
- Increased body temperature is associated with sedative effects
- Exercise releases endorphins, neuropeptides that bind to opioid receptors in the brain and have potent analgesic activity
How Intense Do You Need Exercise to See Results?
Exercise is a somewhat ambiguous term. While some of us picture lifting weights at a gym, others imagine running for miles or playing an aerobic sport. While those can be great ways to exercise, sometimes, physical activity as simple as a casual walk can be enough to help mitigate depression and anxiety. Everyone is different and when it comes to depression and anxiety, those needs can become even more specific. Finding the right exercise routine is an essential part of using physical activity to improve your mental wellbeing.
If you don’t normally exercise, it may be best to begin by taking small steps. Trying taking your dog on a walk or join a friendly pickup game. For people that need more structure, signing up at a gym, rock climbing facility, martial arts dojo or yoga studio can be a great fit. If you aren’t sure what might work best for your needs, ask some friends or family what they do to exercise or just get out there and try something new.
The most important thing is to get out there and try to find a system that works for your needs. Procrastinating and avoiding the issue will often exacerbate your depression or anxiety. It is also important to not put too much pressure on yourself to exercise and risk turning it into a trigger. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with your exercise routine, consider scaling back and finding a less stressful activity. Know your limits and when it’s ok to ease back, without sliding back into bad habits.
Seek Out a Professional
You don’t have to fight this battle on your own. Mental health professionals can help you define a healthy exercise routine that fits with your needs and personality. If you or someone that you know could benefit from the mental benefits of exercise, but you need help, please get in touch with the team at Warriors Heart. Healthy physical activities are a core part of our rehabilitation process and we would be happy to help you too!