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Mental Health and Physical Activity

Study finds that physical activity may be the next best prescription for psych patients.

“The more that you believe that you are in control of your life, your actions, and your future, the happier and more successful you’ll be.”

-Mel Robbins

In light of recent researchdone at the University of Vermont exposing the benefits of exercise as treatment for those dealing with mental health diseases, I feel like it’s only fitting to dive deeper into why physical activity and exercise can only improve your mental health. 

The National Institute of Mental Healthreports that 1 in 5 adults live with a mental illness. That’s 46.6 million people. The number of people across the world dealing with mental health issues has only increased over time, maybe it’s that more people are talking about it, but in my opinion I feel like social media has had a HUGGGEEEE impact on this. Those who are 18-25 are reporting the highest percentage of mental illness. Constantly worrying about where your phone is, what your friends are doing, and or what your celebrity crush is up to, only leads to a life of constantly being anxious. Then again, maybe this was just my experience. 

Given these facts about the prevalence of mental illness, let’s talk about some things that we can all do to either prevent or alleviate some of these symptoms and take control of our lives a little bit at a time. In fact, whether you suffer from mental illness or not, the things that I am going to talk about here are good for everyone to do because they give us more control over our lives.

There are a number of chemicals that our bodies release when exercising that can only help improve the function of a large number of body systems. The most commonly talked about chemical messengers in respect to exercise are endorphins. These neurotransmitters allow you to reduce your perception of pain and relieve stress. It is the release of endorphins that allows some to experience a “runners high” when working out. Dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are the specific neurotransmitters that are released during a session of exercise that help to regulate mood and increase a sense of well-being. (1)

As a person who has dealt with anxiety, I have learned to use exercise as a focal point to clear my brain and just simply concentrate on one or two goals for the day. Whether it be a walk around the neighborhood, a lifting session in the gym, or simply stretching at home, sometimes completing that task allows me to feel like I have accomplished something and am capable of completing the next. That positive feeling helps to grow the next positive feeling.

Similar to the rise of these chemical messengers and the beneficial balance that they bring about, there is a homeostasis or stability that is maintained by your body through the effects of stress hormones like adrenaline. We have all heard that a little stress in our lives is a good thing, but too much causes us to become burnt out. Exercise acts as an outlet for you to relieve stress. (2)This chemical reaction coupled with the physical exertion you put forth also improves sleep quality. (3)Although I feel like my boyfriend would argue this assertion what with my recent “sleep talking” episodes J.

Here are 5 things that you can do to help improve your mental, behavioral, or emotional well-being:

  • Go for a walk!
    • Bonus points if you have the chance to get outside and get some sun exposure. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
  • Stretch! 
    • Turn on some of your favorite music and just spend time exploring what stretches feel good to you. Never push yourself into pain!
    • We all get so stiff moving from our bed, to our office chair, and then home to the couch and back to bed.
  • Find a group exercise class that peaks your interest. 
    • Zumba could be your thing if you love to dance. 
    • Yoga is always a great option for those who are looking for a more insightful and slow paced practice
  • Do something you love that requires you to move. i.e. gardening, dancing, washing your car
  • Make lifestyle choices to work your physical activity into your daily life.
    • Park further away from the store, take the stairs or see if you can get a convertible desk so you can switch between standing and sitting.

As always, check with your doctor to ensure that you have clearance before starting a different activity or beginning an exercise program.

With all this being said, if you ever feel like you are in a dark place and simply need someone to talk to, reach out to someone or one of the many outlets that I have listed below. Always know that you are wanted, needed, loved, and appreciated. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 1-800-662-4357

National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264

XO Mo

Be Kind. Be Patient. Be Present.

Whole30- Day 1

Starting today, my boyfriend and I will be starting the Whole30 Program. Let me preface this by saying that my ever so talented partner is currently completing a holistic nutrition consulting program (check him out here) and we eat fairly healthy to begin with. However, we recently got back from vacation to CO and this past weekend we were able to celebrate the first of his 13 cousins getting married, which was an absolute blast. So our cleaner diets have been a little bit more lenient. This switch up of our diet through the majority of July has caused my skin to do some funky things and overall my mood has been a little less than pleasant 🙂 It’s time for us to mix things up!

The Whole30 Program is a dairy-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free, legume-free, and grain-free diet that acts as a reset for our body systems. It focuses on eating whole foods that have very very limited amounts of processing. Giving our bodies a break from having to break down all the junk and allowing for the best absorption of quality nutrients.

I am interested to see how my body does with cutting out sweets completely (not looking forward to that withdrawal process) as well as dairy as I have had a longtime issue with it but ice cream… oops. This morning was already a little bit more difficult with a headache from the missing sugar and caffeine spike that I typically get from pre-workout. Based on this calendar from the Whole30 website, I have a fun month ahead.

Throughout this process, I will be using this blog as an accountability system and a tracking method to notice differences about my body. At the end of the 30 days, I will post before and after pictures as well as measurements. I am keeping my caloric intake at the same amount and therefore should not lose any weight, but want to experience a clearer headspace, relieving allergy symptoms and clearing up my skin a bit.

Have any of you done the Whole30 Program? What are some tips you have?

Here is to the next 30 days!

Hi there!

My name is Maura and I am a 26 year old simply trying to figure out life. From family, friends, health and career I am just taking it day by day.

I love music, health and wellness topics, adventure, and truly anything that allows me to get lost in the present moment. I am a firm believer that life is truly what you make of it and your mind has all of the power in the world to make your dreams a reality.

I have such a passion for helping others and currently work as a chiropractic assistant. However, like most recent college graduates, I also work a second job as a bartender.

Hopefully this space allows me the outlet to fully delve into my future plans and dreams and you can find something to relate to in the process.

Thank you for stopping by!

Be kind. Be patient. Be present.

xo Mo