The ways exercise and physical movement positively affect our bodies are countless: healthy heart, healthy muscles and bones, healthy energy levels, and also, a healthy mind. This means that a walk around the block not only helps with our physicality, but also our mental state. After all, they are connected, right?
Periodicals of research show how physical movement works to improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative thinking through improving the availability of positive self-talk and thoughts, self-confidence, and cognitive function. Thus, we exercise to look and feel better, but also to be happier and smarter! Win, win, win!!!
Exercise creates changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns to promote feelings of calmness and well-being. It also releases endorphins, which are powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Movement can also serve as a distraction, allowing us to break the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety and instead enter into a new, fresh mental space.
Start Small for Big Changes
The benefits of physical movement do not need to be overwhelming either. In fact, that would defeat the purpose of the psychological improvements exercise provides. Small bouts of activity, just about 10 minutes, two or three times, spaced throughout the day, can help us clear our heads. Raising our heart rates just a touch, not so much so that we are super-duper sweaty, but enough for our bodies to release endorphins and breathe a little heavier can and will really make our day better and brighter! And, if we split the sessions up, just as recommended, into shorter sessions, we reap the amazing benefits all day long!
More to Come
Other benefits of exercise that relate to mental health and overall wellbeing include:
- More Energy – expending just a little energy (not too much and not too little) actually provides us with MORE pep throughout the day.
- Better Sleep – exercise has been proven to improve sleep quality. That in itself should be a huge motivator for us!
- Greater Resilience – both physically and mentally, regular activity improves our ability to combat stress. Our immune system grows stronger and our capacity to cope with emotional challenges dramatically increases.
- Higher Self-Esteem – Regular activity is an investment in our mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster our sense of self-worth and make us feel strong and powerful.
- Sharper Thinking – Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
Thus, let’s get moving. Exercise, and movement seem to be that “magic pill” we’ve all been looking for!