Most of us feel like we should exercise more, we consistently hear from the medical health profession and through the media how much physical exercise will improve our mental health. It’s difficult to believe something so simple can have a substantial impact on how we maybe feeling. Finding the motivation to exercise can just feel like a mountain too high to climb sometimes. Research shows that people who exercise on a regular basis have better mental health and emotional wellbeing and lower rate of mental illness. This suggests increasing our exercise will help to treat anxiety, stress and depression.
Not having quality rest via a good night’s sleep affects our mental health in a chicken and egg situation. Poor mental health can affect our sleep and not enough sleep can negatively affect our mental health. A good night’s sleep helps to promote both mental and emotional resilience, helping us to cope better, to think more clearly and maintain higher levels of concentration. Whereas a poor night’s sleep can lead to irritability, negative thought patterns and emotional vulnerability.
Increasing our physical activity can lead to better quality sleep.
When we are more active and begin to exercise our body increases the levels of endorphins sent to our brain. These increased levels of endorphins help to boost our mood and improve our self-esteem, alleviating our levels of stress and anxiety.
Being active doesn’t mean we have to start training for the London Marathon. Finding an activity, you enjoy can give you a goal to aim for and a sense of purpose. It can also be a great way to meet new people, have a break from daily life and gain confidence.
Consider your current levels of fitness, how much time you have to exercise and what feels realistic and achievable for you. Finding the right time for you to become more active is half the battle. Decide on a time of day that suits you best, perhaps first thing in the morning before you become distracted by the routine of your day. Start your new routine gradually, one step at a time this way you are more likely to enjoy it and continue forward. If a 10-minute walk down the road seems manageable, it’s an excellent place to start.
Anything you choose to do to become more active and reduce the amount of time you spend sitting or lying down, can only be a good thing.
Exercising outdoors is even better. Research suggests that being in and around nature can make us feel more positive, happier and feel our lives are more worthwhile. It can further reduce our levels of anxiety, stress and depression. You don’t have to be exercising to feel these benefits, sitting in your garden having a cup of tea listening to the birds singing, feeling the breeze on your face and just noticing the things going on around you in that moment can boost your mood.
Please take care when becoming more active, the NHS has a webpage about becoming more active or if you have a disability or health condition, please find links below.
Just like regular exercise and a healthy diet getting enough quality sleep is an essential part of looking after our health, mental and physical.
If you have a lot of things on your mind and are struggling with your emotions, going over and over things in your head can often make it difficult to fall asleep. If you feel like you’ve been up all night worrying you start to see a change in your mood and a lack of sleep can leave you feeling low. This cycle can cause you to feel anxious and add to the negative thoughts about not sleeping, keeping you awake longer, making you worry more and sleep less. Try practising a breathing meditation exercise to give you a break from worrying about the past or future, please refer to my earlier breathing techniques blog. You could put pen to paper and write about your worries and concerns in a journal, please refer to my earlier journaling blog, this could help you to organise your thoughts and help you to get to sleep.