Hey how’s everyone doing?
I think we can all agree that its an understatement and almost cliché to say that 2020 HAS BEEN A WILD RIDE! I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been impacted at least in some way—and to some the effects have been devastating. My heart goes out to all of you. I wish I could give everyone a warm hug.
I personally have been able to find many blessings within the challenges, and while I can’t deny that I really miss being able to travel the globe and gather with all the people I have come to love, I am extremely grateful. The uncertainty of COVID brought my family home. Our kids who were once spread from Kenya to Boston to Vegas all came home for several months (our daughter Arielle stayed in LA where she could continue to safely receive dialysis.) My husband and I went from having one kid left at home to having 15 people (and 3 dogs) living under the same roof! 🤪 We welcomed a new granddaughter.
Dave and I were able to slow down and actually get reacquainted after what seemed like non-stop traveling (often in opposite directions) for several years. I was able to slow down and hear what my body was trying to tell me and let it heal from a back injury and some uncomfortable side effects of menopause…
And last but not least of what’s been going on with me on 2020, I finished my course work and began my clinical internship for my master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy!
Needless to say, I decided to take a little blog break. I’m now ready to jump back in!
And as a kick off, I thought it might be fun to feature a guest blogger.
Today’s post comes from Soul Clap Fitness. I was happy to feature them because of our mutual love of fitness and its many benefits. I know nutrition and exercise are the catalyst behind much that is good in my life!!
The mental health benefits of exercise
There are many potential benefits of exercise. However, it’s easy to focus only on how exercise can benefit the body – for example, by helping to increase muscle size, boost aerobic capacity and lose weight. For many people, it’s actually the psychological effects of exercise that most motivate them to stay active.
Exercise contributes greatly to our mental wellbeing. It can help us to feel more positive, relaxed and resilient about ourselves and our lives. You don’t need to be a fitness fanatic to enjoy a lot of those benefits, either – so let’s take a look at some of them.
Exercise is proven to help reduce mental stress. Whether you go on short walks, hit the gym regularly or take on something more unusual like a cardio dance class, it releases chemicals that enable your brain to better moderate stress.
Speaking of chemicals, working out releases the “feel-good” chemicals known as endorphins. The nervous system produces these chemicals naturally to help the body cope with pain or stress. The feelings of euphoria experienced after lengthy and vigorous exercise are often called the “runner’s high”, and occur due to an increase in endorphin levels.
Many of us are used to thinking about willpower as a purely psychological rather than physical trait, or as something that a person does or doesn’t have. But it’s actually a complex mind-body response that we can influence. Regular, physical exercise helps to boost willpower by making both the brain and body more resilient to stress.
Physical exercise is something that your body needs to recover from. This will cause your brain to make you tired earlier, so that you experience sounder sleep. Working out also increases your body temperature, which can have a calming influence on the mind, and make it likelier that you drift off to sleep at night.
Heightened self-esteem and self-confidence
You might not start exercising in the first place so that you can drop a dress size or increase your endurance when climbing a hill. These might merely be nice ‘side effects’ – but they’re side effects that can help you feel better about yourself. After all, who doesn’t want to look in the mirror and notice a slimmer and more chiseled physique?
Engaging in fitness activities helps relieve your anxiety in a number of ways. It diverts your mind from whatever you’re anxious about, while the release of endorphins further banishes anxious feelings. And as John J. Ratey MD of Harvard Medical School has observed, exercise alters your brain chemistry, making available important anti-anxiety neurochemicals such as serotonin and endocannabinoids.
Whether or not you begin exercising regularly to improve your mental health, you may find it’s one of the benefits that most encourages you to keep going. Even moderate physical activity can bring advantages like the above, so you can experience them even if you only set modest exercise goals at first.
If you’ve started a new exercise routine lately, what changes to your own mental health have you noticed?