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Why Being Physically Active Is Good For Your Mental Health!
You’ll no doubt know that exercise is good for your mental health, but I want to explore this connection in more detail, and examine just what affect our physical health has on our mental state.
Our physical health and mental health are two very separate, very different entities. They have their own definitions, and their own distinct set of qualities and ailments. And yet, they are more inextricably linked than one could perhaps imagine.
To separate one from the other, especially when we talk about “keeping healthy”, is not only wrong, but can be dangerous too. So just how are they linked?
The ‘mind’ and the ‘body’, fundamentally, are different in nature. One is physically real, while the other isn’t visible, and can’t be touched. But on every other level, the mind and the body are two sides of the same coin. They’re yin and yang.
However, traditionally, health has never been viewed in this way. We’ve been brought up to prioritise physical health. Tragically, mental health issues have historically taken a back seat, and so we can be forgiven for holding perhaps outdated views.
But, the trend is changing. Mental health issues have found themselves at the forefront of conversation, not least because of the huge impact that they can have on physical issues.
For example, mental health issues can Increase the risk of death from heart disease by 67%, from cancer by 50% and from respiratory disease by three times as much.
Similarly, a lack of exercise has been shown to have clear links to issues like depression and stress. The latter is a term that has become so part of the modern lingo, its value and impact as a word has decreased. “Stress” has just become part of the daily routine for many.
And yet, it acts as a silent killer, being responsible for a wave of physical illnesses such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, headaches, Alzheimer’s and gastrointestinal problems.
As we can see, the mind and body are firmly bound together. For this reason, it’s crucial that you maintain both your physical fitness and mental fitness in good working order. We often spend time getting fit down at the gym, but do we place the same importance on keeping our mind healthy too? Most likely not, perhaps because we can’t see physical results.
So, how can you ensure that you keep both your mental fitness and your physical fitness at a good level?
Exercise and meditation
Exercise regularly, at least three times a week. Alongside this, adopt meditation into your daily routine. Just 10 minutes a day has been shown to reduce stress and aging, while benefiting our immune system.
Eating healthily is a given. But consider superfoods which can impact both areas. For example, foods such as avocados, which lower our blood pressure, while also decreasing the chance of our cognitive functions declining.
What internal language do you use?
Monitor your internal thinking and the language that you use to speak to yourself. Are you a positive or negative person? Do you look at a situation as “I can”, or “I can’t”? It’s a small and subtle change, but the way in which you talk to yourself will dramatically impact the way in which you view the world and the way in which you carry yourself.
Begin to frame the fitness exercises that you wish to undertake in this positive way. Maybe you aren’t quite fit enough yet to run a marathon, but tell yourself that you can do it rather than you can’t.
What body language do you use?
Tying in with the above, consider the fact that your body language mirrors your mental state. Walking hunched over, avoiding eye contact and staring at the ground are typical psychical representations of depression. Combat this by trying to walk with confidence and happiness (not always easy I know, but it’s something to be mindful of).
Ensure you stay rested
You’ll no doubt know that sleep is important, so I won’t labour on about this too much. Just know that good and regular sleep has huge benefits, with it helping to repair our muscles and brain cells, while also combating mental health issues.
Have a routine or schedule in place
Like with most things in life, the best way to ensure you complete the task at hand is to have some kind of schedule or routine in place. We’re more likely to stick to habits if they are tied to triggers. We’re also more likely to stick to them if they’re written down in front of us, say on a calendar for example.
Consider doing your fitness routine at the same times and days each week, and have this written on your calendar or to-do list.
Remember, fitness doesn’t just have to be about going to a gym three times a week. There are plenty of ways you can keep your fitness in good working order. Including some of the themes above, you could:
- Go for a walk
- Do yoga
- Lightly stretch
- Use fitness DVDs or online tutorials in your home
- Play a sport
- Eat healthily
- Join a gym
- Hire a personal trainer
- Drink less alcohol
- Sleep smarter
- Go for a swim
These are just some of the steps that you can put in place that can help to bring you a healthier and happier life. Remember, your mind and body are linked in more ways than one, and it’s crucial that you remain focused on both areas!