5 Ways an Active Lifestyle Supports Mental Health
Sometimes, the best way to deal with the weight of a mental health condition is to physically lift weights. It may sound a little backward, but it works! When you go to the gym (or do some form of exercise) what you’re really doing is getting into a positive, healthy headspace.
Committing to an active lifestyle and taking care of your body teaches you valuable lessons about the mind. Exercise shows you how to be patient, listen to your instincts, and let go of strict expectations. It shows you how to slow down and enjoy the process but also how to work hard and overcome obstacles.
These are just some of the ways an active lifestyle supports mental health. Keep reading to discover everything that regular levels of activity can do for things like depression, anxiety, addiction, and more.
1. Improves Your Energy Levels
The more you workout, the more energy you actually have. This is because regular exercise boosts your resting heart rate. It increases the beat at which your heart pumps and tells the brain to produce more endorphins, too.
Together, these reactions refresh you. They help you feel energized and awake throughout the day, helping you fight the negative symptoms of living with mental health issues. Plus, working out on a regular basis supports better sleep – which Transform Personal Training experts say is an important part of a well-rounded, active lifestyle. When you’re not tossing and turning throughout the night, you’re able to get the full rest your mind and body need before taking on the following day.
2. Clears Your Mind
As you’re working hard during whatever kind of workout you prefer, you have to focus. You can’t afford to be thinking about what’s going on at work or how to heal from your last relationship. If you do, you’re compromising the power of your workout by not concentrating on the movements and mind to muscle connection.
Your mind becomes more clear when you tune deeper into your workout. Yes, regardless of your mental health struggles, such clarity is possible even if only for a little while. At the end of the day, we’re all battling something – diagnosed or not. When we take the time to tap into the body, though, the mind quiets. We’re able to make better sense of our lives and what we’re dealing with, then face the challenges on our path.
The repetitive motions of weight sets or running strides or swimming laps calms the thoughts. These movements (and all other forms of exercise) leave no room for negative or discouraging thoughts to pop up. When such things do happen to come up, they quickly fade away because you’re not able to attach judgment or an emotion to them in the middle of your workout. By the end of your workout, you feel calm, refreshed, and most importantly, like yourself.
3. Shows You How to Listen to Your Body
As your fitness journey progresses, you start paying more attention to the subtle nuances in the body. You’re able to recognize basic human experiences – like when you feel hungry, thirsty, or tired. You also learn how to notice when anxiety is bubbling up in the body or when something that’s got you down is affecting how you physically feel. This is crucial for improving your mental health with an active lifestyle.
Your mind and body are connected. The state of one affects the condition of the other. When you live with mental illness, it’s easy to feel sluggish, sad, or some sort of lack of energy. When you start working out and pushing the body beyond its limits, though, the mind learns a thing or two. The positive stimulation of your bones and muscles turns into positive thoughts.
From there, you’re better able to catch when something like an anxiety attack is about to happen or notice when depression is you hitting hard. This level of physical awareness does wonders for your mental health. It helps you create good, healthy habits to combat the effects of mental illness as they come up in everyday life.
4. Gives Your Life Purpose
Another thing that happens when you become more active is you realize a deeper sense of purpose for your life. Mental illness often makes the people it affects feel complacent with who they are and how they’re living. Exercise changes that.
As you start to feel progress in your workouts, you realize the energy inside you is made for something greater. This sense of purpose is life-changing. It takes the things that are weighing you down and starts to chip away at them little by little. Before you know it, you feel more excited to take on challenges and conquer your fears. You’re able to face the things that used to make you incredibly nervous or so anxious you couldn’t function.
In time, your day-to-day life evolves. You go from just passing through the motions and feeling nonchalant about things to feeling more excited and, better yet, deserving of the good things in your life. The endorphins your workouts release help you look on the bright side and stop dwelling on the bad so much. It’s not like an hour of exercise a day can totally take away your mental issues, but it does significantly improve your perspective on life – and your mental illness.
5. Welcomes You Into a Large Community
The thing about mental illness is that it makes people feel alone. You’ve probably found yourself feeling like no one else understands what you’re going through or that no one even cares. Of course, you know that’s not true, but it’s easy to confuse what’s real and what’s in your head when you’re dealing with depression, or PTSD, or coming out of an abusive relationship.
Most workout environments give you a community to lean on, though. Whether you’re lifting weights, doing yoga, or even cycling or running, you’re bound to meet others who share these interests. These are people who encourage you to push your physical limits while working out, and without knowing it, comfort you as you work to overcome your mental health issues. A handful of these people may even become close friends that you can open up to. When you find these people, let them in. It can only benefit you.
Discover the Difference an Active Lifestyle Can Have on Your Mental Health
Don’t let mental illness keep controlling your life. Maybe you’ve already sought counseling or tried taking medication, and maybe, there has been some improvement in your mental health condition. Exercise could be what’s missing from the equation, though.
Try it out. Commit to spending at least a half an hour or an hour a day doing some form of physical activity. Set a routine and stick to it for two weeks and notice what changes occur.
For more ways to improve your mental and physical well-being, click here.