Brittany Thomas, MS, MSW, LICSW, Outpatient Counseling
People are impacted differently by life stressors and may have significant differences in how each symptom is presented. If a mental illness is present, there are several forms of mental health treatment that can be beneficial. Often mental health professionals and providers will make recommendations for treatment in some form of counseling, psychotherapy or maybe medication management. However, continuing research shows that exercise and physical activity doesn’t just have physical health benefits but also positively effects a person’s mental health. Engaging in some form of physical activity has shown to provide the following benefits:
- Boosted self-esteem
- Enhanced mood
- Sharpened memory and thinking
- Increased blood flow to the brain
- Curbed addictions
- Increased energy
- Minimized anxiety
- Boosted creative thinking
- Improved sleeping habits
- Minimized physical tension and stress
- Improved coping mechanisms to negative behaviors (such as drinking and substance use)
While exercise has its perks, it can be quite difficult and challenging for a person to get going. Here are some pointers to help you get started:
- Start small and work your way up. Engaging in smaller activities for a shorter amount of time is the best way to start, especially when you are trying to overcome bouts of anxiety, depression or stress. Engaging in 15 to 30 minutes of physical activity can go a long way. Moderate intensity and frequency has shown to be the most effective. Ultimately, try to build up to 30 to 60 minutes, three times a week to see the best results.
- Focus on things you enjoy. Exercising and engaging in any physical activity can be difficult especially for anyone who is not use to it. So start with the things you love, like walking your dog or, walking through the mall.
- Schedule physical activity at times of day when you have the most energy. Some people might be more energized first thing in the morning or half way during the day. Find the optimal times your body is more motivated to engage in physical activity. This will increase your success rate of sticking with it.
- Partner up with a friend, a family member or a coworker. Having someone to engage in fun activities with will increase your likelihood of enjoying it and continuing it.
Don’t forget to reward yourself. You deserve it! You worked hard to try something new and to get going. The incentive to watch an extra episode on Netflix or a nice bubble bath can help motivate you to push through it and to keep going.
Exercise in any form can be beneficial especially if it motivates you. Try yoga, meditation, walking, aerobics, strength training, playing with your pets or children, gardening, sports and other activities to find something you like. Regardless of what you choose, just have fun doing it and enjoy the benefits it will have on your mind and body.