I am so excited to be writing this because I started exercising two weeks ago. So you can truly believe all that you read in this case. You have my word(s)!
I have always been a lean girl, gaining weight would never scare me because it would practically never happen. And then, I started putting on weight, and not just weight, mass as well. It didn’t bother me at first because I didn’t pay attention to it – until I could no longer wear the clothes that had enough room for me during my growing years (I kept them because I could fit them!) Reality finally hit me – harder than I’d never imagined.
Did I have a choice? One hundred percent. I could keep binging on junk food I’d eaten forever and keep increasing my (now) growing belly. The other option was to limit the junk, eat healthy home-cooked food and start working out.
It was a little exhausting in the beginning, even climbing stairs would make me huff. But I carried on. I personally prefer to workout myself over going to a gym because it is more satisfying. Though I could hardly see any change in my body after the first workout, it’s my mind that actually surprised me. I could feel my own heartbeat. I could sense the satisfaction my body felt by working out just once. It wasn’t because it made any significant change to my body, but because I knew that if I keep working out like that, I will succeed in getting back in the best shape I could. Not to mention that now falling asleep is a breeze.
Everybody knows that exercising is good for the body and overall health. But we forget that our mind controls the body and workouts are often more mind-work than body-work. You can keep trying to do that one difficult exercise and not succeed, but once you make up and train your mind, you will be able to do that exercise in one go.
Mental health benefits of exercising
In addition to rewarding physical benefits, exercise is great for mental health. I exercise every day, see no difference in my body, but I keep working out daily. Is it my waistline that motivates me? No. I hardly look at it as a source of motivation. I do check for improvements, yet, not seeing a big difference doesn’t discourage me.
Full credit goes to my mind for being able to get up each day and work out after spending a whole day at work. My mind has to stay focused and have faith in the motto ‘no pain, no gain’. It rewires my brain and helps me push my boundaries, which otherwise wouldn’t be possible, given how difficult exercise can sometimes be on the body.
While we understand the positive impact exercise has on the body, there are equal benefits exercising can have on your mental health.
Exercise for Depression
Exercise can help you with mild depression. The good thing is that there are no side effects involved with exercising, unlike some antidepressants.
A recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that fifteen minutes of running or sixty minutes of walking a day lowers the risk of major depression by twenty-six percent. Relieving depression symptoms is one thing, exercising also prevents a relapse.
Exercising helps by promoting neural growth and reduce inflammation. It also activates new activity patterns developing a feeling of calm and well-being. It is also known to release endorphins, the potential biochemicals that make us feel good and energizes our spirit.
Exercise also serves as something to focus the mind, which is a very important factor in enhancing mental health. Interruptions in a daily routine help the mind relax and stay positive.
The release of endorphins plays a big role in reducing anxiety. Exercising helps you focus on everything that goes through your body while exercising, from concentrating on the movements to the temporary discomfort of strenuous exercise. The shifting focus on your body from your worries you distracts you and reduces anxiety.
Exercising makes you feel good about yourself. It can also help you boost self-esteem.
Exercise for Stress
You may feel your body muscles also tense in response to mental stress. Your neck, shoulders, back, and most commonly, your head, may start to ache. The worry and physical discomfort start to build up the stress.
The same exercising that reduces anxiety and relieves depression symptoms can also ease ongoing stress.
Exercise for ADHD
Regular exercising can also reduce the symptoms of ADHD. It can help you improve memory and concentration, and better your mood and motivation.
Physical activities boost dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels, which affect our brain’s focus and attention. Thus, exercising works very much like ADHD medication.
Exercise for PTSD and Trauma
Exercising shifts your focus to the sensations you feel in your body while you’re mental energy is focused on the exercise you are performing. It breaks your attention away from focusing on negative events, even for a little while.
Activities that offer a sense of enjoyment are the best for someone suffering from PTSD and trauma. You can choose to dance, walk, run, swim, or indulge in outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, skiing, rock climbing, or mountain biking – all of which have been shown to reduce PTSD symptoms.
Just get moving
You don’t have to aim too high. Start small and work on gradually exceeding your boundaries. You also don’t have to go to a gym – I don’t. You can choose other options that you find enjoyable. You can play sports or just take a walk. Even a fifteen-minute walk can help you clear your mind and ease stress.
If you’re a beginner or have resisted even the thought of exercising or working out, finding something or someone that motivates you can be the best thing to do.
Finding a driving force, especially when you’re depressed and anxious, is rather tricky. You just want to make excuses to avoid everything that could make you happy. But you have to believe that exercising can help you way better than any medication on earth can.
For reaping all the benefits of exercising, though, you have to learn to train your brain. So, train your brain before you train your body. That’s how you can start.