I used to wonder, are exercise and mental health related? Can it improve your overall mental health and be as helpful as antidepressants? In my recent experience, I’ve found the answer is yes. I have been through anxiety, depression and depersonalization (feeling a sense of watching yourself and feeling disconnected to others and oneself) and exercise helped to lift my mood during the dark days. The problem is, like many others might find, it’s a constant struggle to stay motivated and develop a love for exercise for your mental health.
Realizing the Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
When there’s always so much to do – work, study, socializing etc., exercise might be at the bottom of the list of priorities and feel like a chore. As many young people do, I’ve always focused solely on the the external and how exercise can make me thinner. However, there’s recently been a shift in my mindset, and I’ve realized the health benefits it has on my mood. Once you make this connection, it can be an aid for a lifetime of health and happiness. Nine times out of 10, when you get to the gym, get on that bike or treadmill, start sweating and increase your heart rate, you must admit you feel better afterwards. I believe every mental health sufferer needs to make this part of their daily lives to stay well, no matter how difficult it might be to get started.
Exercising when Depressed/Anxious can help to Alleviate Symptoms
Some people don’t mind exercising when mentally unwell, however, some find it very challenging. In the midst of a deep depression it may be the last thing you may want to do, but something you should consider doing if it’s the only thing you do that day. It can be extremely helpful when feeling anxious as it can leave you with a sense of calmness afterwards. Studies show that regular exercise lowers cortisol levels and activates feel good chemicals like serotonin which promote a feeling of wellbeing . When feeling disconnected to yourself and others (depersonalization) or feeling like you’re not real (derealization), exercise can make you feel more connected to your body and real again. I believe we can all benefit immensely and see some incredible changes if we change our mindsets and develop a healthy association with exercise. We need to feel the best we can in our youth and not just focus on looking better. Let’s learn to love exercise so we can be energized, happy and let our souls shine.