Exercise for Better Mental Health
The thing all of the self-help has in common is leading to having a healthy mind. Exercise can sometimes seem daunting to people. Often related to sport or going to the gym.
Maybe a better title would be 'being active'.
Being active is more of a broader spectrum and there are plenty of ways of being active which can help our well being.
In my experience, I lost all enjoyment in participating in sport. The gym became somewhere I found incredibly difficult to go to and I more or less became a bit of a recluse. My bed became my best friend and it was easier to stay in the comfort of my own home.
My level of activity was at an all-time low and coincidentally so was my mood. It could well be just how things fell but I'm pretty sure the two had something in common.
Being active has many benefits. As we said above it can lead to a better well-being but more specifically, it can improve your mood.
It has been a great tool for me through my depression. At times, it is a half an hour release, even a walk when the sun is out with the fresh air and beautiful scenery can put a smile on my face for the first time in several days.
Also if I'm not too far in the depressive hole, I can sometimes drag myself back out through a gym session and release those good endorphins.
Sometimes it doesn't though and that's okay.
Many times I will be that far into the hole, no matter what I do I can't shift it. I have walked in the gym and left after two minutes. I've been for a walk and it's not changed anything and I've gone back and got into bed and that's okay.
Being active can also have an impact on our levels of stress, anxiety, depression and self-esteem. Impacting all of those will lead to other areas of your life improving for instance sleep, which I wrote about last week.
Words Of Wisdom
My biggest piece of advice is to keep trying and keep going!
There may always be those days where it is unbearably bad but if we keep trying, the bad days will become fewer and far between. The good days will outweigh the bad.
It took me a while to come to terms with the fact is it may never go fully away. So I want to build a life where I can manage it as best as possible and it doesn't control me.
Where To Start
You need to find what it is you want to do to be more active.
You can make some small changes in your everyday life like walking to the shop instead of driving or taking the stairs at work and then slowly progress into something more. This could be going for a walk, running, cycling, signing up for a gym or even a sports team.
It is important to start small and build slowly.
Going from a very low or non-existent level of being active to a very high level may have a negative effect.
Your body isn't used to it and if you are anything like me and have high expectations and are self-critical you may end up feeling low and depressed for not being able to achieve what you initially set out to do.
What I recently learnt is to have compassion for yourself. At the end of the day, it is your mental health and you need to do it for yourself.
For much of my life I have done stuff to please everyone around me and now I'm learning to do it for me. If I can't do something right now, it is okay. I can work towards it. I still tried and I will get there. I'm moving in the right direction.
Do it on your own or ask a friend to join you if you need to. There is nothing wrong with asking for help and some support.
If money is an issue there are plenty of ways of being active which don't cost a penny. Walking is 100% free.
Make it a part of everyday life. It will become second nature before you know it.
Set some goals to measure your progress. Also great to look back at how far you have come and everything you have achieved.
Make some time, a small investment in your physical health can significantly help your mental health.