How your body can help your brain...

Last week I wrote about my struggles with depression and anxiety.  I told you all about the way in which my depression and anxiety manifested themselves, and what I did to seek help to get through the issues I was having.  

One element which I failed to mention was the part that physical activity played in improving my mental health.  

Being active through my struggles helped me a great deal.  I always noticed on the weeks that I didn't hit the gym or play some indoor football I felt the impact of my depression more keenly, and I was also more anxious.  Now there is a double edged sword with physical activity, especially with depression.  One of the symptoms of depression can be (not always) a lack of motivation to do regular everyday things.  

This is a problem when it comes to getting into, say, a gym routine where you are trying to keep to a schedule, as some days even getting out of bed can be a struggle.  This is where having a gym buddy or a team that is relying on you to show up for football/rugby/
netball/tiddlywinks can be helpful.  It gives you a little more motivation to get yourself up and moving.  Of course if your team or workout partner understands what you are going through this can help them to help you too.  Again, talking about mental health is important!

Studies have shown that regular exercise is beneficial for our mental health.  It boosts our mood through a release of endorphins, a "feel good" hormone.  It can also relieve stress and help you to sleep more soundly - which can also be big problems when suffering from anxiety and depression.  And the best thing about using exercise as a part of your mental health routine is that there are only good side effects (if you don't push past your limits and end up injured that is!).  

It also doesn't really matter what form of exercise/activity you do, as long as you get up and get moving.  The important thing especially when you have depression or anxiety is to pick something that you will do regularly - it has to be something that you enjoy, not something that you see as a punishment.  It is hard enough sometimes to do things we enjoy, if it is something that you loathe doing, even in the best mindset you will avoid it.  

So make it fun, go kayaking, rock climbing, do yoga, walk around the block, walk around the zoo, walk around the waterfront, play football, play tennis, play paintball.  Whatever you choose, just make sure you do it.  And you will feel the effects, just remember that exercise is not a quick fix, nor is it a magic bullet.  But it is a starting point which is for the most part free, has no side effects, and can be done anywhere you feel like doing it.


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