January 25, 2023

How can Exercise help our Mental Health?

It stands to reason that improving our physical health would also impact on our mental health. However maybe we should stop and realise just how important it is.

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It stands to reason that improving our physical health would also impact on our mental health. However maybe we should stop and realise just how important it is.

Exercise causes our body to release the hormone serotonin, which is otherwise known as our ‘happy hormone’. Different people need different levels of exercise to prompt our bodies to produce this hormone. Therefore, experiment with your own body to find your own unique needs. It can be a very rewarding process to get back in touch with your body, to enjoy the movement of your muscles, and work out how much exercise your body needs to start to release serotonin.

Different exercise suits different people. I, for example, hate running but really enjoy walking. We also often find that whilst we enjoy one exercise when we are younger, this changes over time as our bodies and lifestyles change. Have fun experimenting and finding the exercise that works for you. Remember that exercise should be fun and not a chore, and it should fit easily into your daily routine.

Generally being more active in your daily life is also a great idea and is much easier to fit into our busy lives and so we are more likely to keep the change. Try walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift, parking further away from the shops, taking a walk in your lunch break. All of these little changes add up over time and can make a real difference to you both physically and mentally.

In addition to releasing serotonin, exercise helps us to feel better about ourselves as we gradually get fitter and slimmer. It therefore boosts our self-confidence. Self-confidence is essential for good mental health, and a lack of self-confidence can lead to depression and anxiety. Exercise can also give us a purpose, a goal, and so it can be very motivating. This can be a goal of walking around the block more frequently or quicker than you did last week, or it could be to run a marathon next year. It doesn’t matter what that goal is, the point is that you have something to aim for. Humans are very goal orientated, and it makes us happy to know that we have somewhere to aim for and that we have a purpose. A lack of purpose can lead to depression and frustration.

Exercise also helps to get rid of pent-up emotions, most specifically anger. We all get angry; it is natural emotion which is essential to our lives. However, we are often given the message that it is wrong to be angry, and that we have to control our anger and push it down in order to be nice people and accepted by society. However, pushing down your emotions usually leads to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It is therefore essential for good mental health to find a way to release those emotions, and exercise is a good way to do this. Boxing and running are especially great for getting rid of anger.

Doing exercise also often means a change of scenery, getting out and about. These days we are often indoors for a large portion of our days. We sit at desks to work, we sit in cars to travel, and then we go home to sit on the sofa. This can lead to us feeling a bit hemmed in, frustrated, and bored. Therefore, we should not underestimate the restorative effect on us of simply going outside. Opening our horizons, connecting with the world.

We often hear people talk about ‘grounding’ yourself. This is when you go out into nature and feel connected with it. This is why gardens can often be sanctuaries for people who live in busy cities. Being in nature causes us to relax. Our primitive instincts kick in and we can see all around us that there is no danger, therefore our fight or flight drive starts to calm down. Therefore, it is wonderful for anxiety. We also start to notice the beauty of nature which then helps to pull us out of our heads and our own thoughts and connect with things around us. Therefore, it is also wonderful for depression.

Therefore, we should all include exercise in our daily lives for a healthy body and a healthy mind.

For more information, or just a chat, please contact me on 07742 209312 or nicole@greenoaktherapies.co.uk

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