Exercise and Mental Health

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I was completely overwhelmed by the response to my January blog post about depression.

Lots of lovely messages from people saying thank you for such an honest post.  I have to confess I took a deep breath before sharing it, but I’m glad I did.  The more we talk about it, the better.  On that note, Andy got in touch to share his blog about living with and managing depression.  It’s written from the heart and will strike a chord with many I’m sure. You can find it here.

Continuing to explore the same theme, one of Jenny’s friend’s – Jo – is a Mental Health Nurse.  She has kindly put together this guest post for us about exercise and mental health.

Exercise and Mental Health

Everyone knows that exercise is good for your body, but did you know that it is important for your mental health too?

We often talk about the mind and body as though they are completely separate.  But the mind cannot function without the body and the body cannot function without the mind. The state of your mind affects your body – if you feel low or anxious, you may do less and become less active which can make you feel worse and so the cycle begins.

You feel tired,
So you do less,
You feel more tired and depressed,
You do even less and miss out on things you might enjoy.

Exercise and Depression

Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. It promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, it releases endorphins – a powerful chemical in your brain that energises your spirit and makes you feel good. Exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break away from all negative thoughts.

Exercise and Anxiety

Exercise helps release the tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. By exercising you will not only improve physically, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head.

Exercise and Stress

Notice how your body feels when under stress – your muscles are tense, you may have headaches, a pounding heart, stomach problems, and disturbed sleep patterns.  Exercise helps relax the muscles, releasing endorphins in the brain and relaxing tension in the body, improving sleep and overall feeling of wellbeing.

There are many other mental and emotional benefits of exercise, such as a sharper memory and thinking, improved self-esteem, better sleep pattern, more energy, stronger resilience.

Starting Small

There are many reasons people avoid exercise.

I’m too tired, it’s expensive, I’ve never done it before, I wasn’t good at sports at school, I would feel silly/worried about what others may think, I don’t have the time – the list is endless.

But exercise can simply be about being more active each day. Walking, taking the stairs, dancing, gardening. Building more physical activity each day can boost your morale, give you a greater sense of achievement and help you feel better about yourself.

It is smart to start small, focus on activities you enjoy, be comfortable in your environment, involve friends and family if you can. It should be enjoyable, give you a sense of control and help you escape for a while. You don’t have to join a gym. Exercise can be great in and around the home too.  Make it fun and varied.

There is help for people who suffer from depression, stress and anxiety, but remember to contact your GP in the first instance who will be able to discuss the different options and the support you need to see real changes.

Joby Jo Perruzza
NLP Practitioner