We all know exercise is good for our body. But did you know that it’s also good for our mental health? Keep reading to find out what exercise can do for our emotions.
If we exercise for at least 15 minutes with an elevated heart rate it makes us feel good. The body releases endorphins, which is a hormone that improves our mood. So exercise has a positive impact. And this can last for a while after making us feel better about ourselves.
Doing focused exercise keeps the mind active and doesn’t allow space for those anxious thoughts to drift in. Concentrating on anything is good but with focused exercise there’s the physical benefit from it too. All those good bits mentioned in the previous points.
How do we focus on exercise?
Take note of what’s going on. Feet hitting the road, or treadmill. The weather going on around us and how it interacts with us. The sound of our breathing. Feeling our heartrate. It’s adding a layer of mindfulness to what we’re doing.
Want to feel less stressed? Let it out physically. By doing exercise it relieves tension that is built up when we get stressed. It’s all of the good points from above again!
When we do it right, exercise will help us get in shape or stay in shape. But there are additional benefits to exercising as well as being in shape and improving our mental health.
Doing exercise, you might think drains energy. And it does because it uses energy. However, when done with good hydration it can reenergise us. We can find that we have more energy throughout the day the when we do regular exercise.
How much do I have to do?
Doing exercise doesn’t have to be hours. It doesn’t have to mean we need to shower afterwards.
What is evidenced is that moderate exercise is enough to begin to feel the positive effects physically and mentally. What that means is you should feel warmer, but not overheating and pumping sweat. And your breathing should be slightly heavier, still able to talk but probably not sing (not that I often get the urge to sing when I’m exercising!).
Start small too. Don’t go in with the expectation of working out for hours. Maybe just 5/10 minutes to kick it off. The key is to make it regular and routine. Even just little adjustments like taking the stairs instead of the lift. Doing a couple of laps around the house whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.
This is often the hardest part! It takes time and effort. So make it easy on yourself.
Think of the positives. Set a goal or target and have a reward ready when you hit that. Start with activities you enjoy doing. We all have times in the day when we know we will be more energised, so set the exercise for then. Do it with friends/family. It’s great for everyone!
Don’t stress when you miss a day. Tomorrow is a new opportunity and a new chance to use that energy.
Whatever our age and fitness level it doesn’t take much exercise to reap these benefits. So let’s give it a go!
Counsellor and Psychotherapist
It’s that time of year lots of us are taking a break. People are jetting off over the world now restrictions are gone – if they can get through the airport queues! Kids have finished the school year. Clubs and activities finish up for a while. Over the summer it is good for us to unwind.
It might seem obvious that this is good for our mental health. It is good for our mental health. But there’s more to it than just having a holiday in the summer. For me it comes down to how we spend our time before we get there.
Let me explain.
Here’s my tips on how to slow down so when we’re on holiday we’re not just thinking about the next one. Doing that means we miss the holiday we’re having.
Building to that holiday feeling
Every so often
There are long weekends scattered throughout the year that are ideal for putting into our calendars as times to take a break.
I get work schedules don’t always allow for these times. The important aspect is that this next instalment is longer than every week. Take a day, a weekend, or even a long weekend to do something for you.
This is the walls.
Each of these elements build on one another so that when our holiday comes we’re not trying to do everything all at once. We already have the basis there.
You are allowed to do this
We need to give ourselves permission to do this!
When we do this we are in a much better mental state to be able to engage with our holiday. And we are then more capable to connect with the day-to-day. The list will still be there when we get back. There will still be things on it if we spent the time doing items from it when we are not doing.
Let’s give ourselves permission.
When we do this we can enjoy our holidays, and life, so much more!
Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Did you know we can only go 36 hours without sleep before it starts to have drastic effects on our functionality as a human? Sleep is very important for us, yet something that we often neglect.
We need sleep
When we sleep our brain and our body do amazing things.
Our brains process the day that we’ve just had. it organises our memories and shuffle things around from short-term to long-term based on what we might need.
During sleep our body doesn’t need to function at the same level as when we’re awake because we are resting. Therefore, it can help to repair any damage done. When we sleep we can recover from illnesses and other ailments quicker than trying to stay awake.
If we don't sleep...
We need a certain amount of sleep each night for us to be at our best for the day ahead. This changes with age:
If we don’t get enough sleep then it can have a bad effect on how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.
A lack of sleep does not allow our brain to regulate moods efficiently. The knock-on effect of this is that we can easily find ourselves becoming depressed quicker and easier.
There have been studies carried out on adults and kids that show a lack of sleep leads to weight gain. When we sleep it balances or hormones that help us feel hungry and full.
There could easily be a domino effect because obesity can also cause increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and strokes. All of which is linked to our sleep!
As humans we are built with natural rhythms. Often we are good at enforcing that on kids because we see the importance of it. When we get to adulthood we lose this because we can do whatever we want. Whilst we can do anything we want it doesn’t mean that everything is good for us. So think about the sleep rhythms you keep. If you feel they might not be the best, we can always change our rhythm.
This is one of those things that are often given to kids but we don’t do as an adult. But in making a bedtime routine it helps our brain to adjust so it knows we are getting ready for bed. Whatever it looks like for you think about what you do before you go to bed.
It’s recommended that any shows/movies we’re watching we finish at least 30mins before we go to bed. That gives our brain the chance to absorb what we’ve been watching without it keeping us awake.
Not all screen use is bad and we use them for so much, it’s what we use them for. If we’re using it to read or play a game that activates our brain but doesn’t stimulate us visually then that’s ok. For example, it’s ok to read a book on an e-reader or do a crossword but it’s not great to be scrolling through social media or playing other games that have lots of visual effects.
Think about the drink you have or don’t have. Is your body ok with a coffee after dinner? Would a glass of warm milk help?
Eating a large meal before going to bed might not be helpful either due to the way our body breaks down what’s in the food. Try experimenting with dinner at lunch time and then something light in the evening if that fits with how life operates.
There are so many benefits to doing a bit of exercise (another topic for another day) and sleep is one of them. It doesn’t have to be much and whatever ability we have most of us can manage something. But doing something helps to use up the energy in our bodies so that we are more naturally and physically tired when it comes to the end of the day.
With all that said I’m off to bed.
A priest, a guru and a rabbit walk into a bar. That rabbit turns to the others and says, “I think I’m a typo!”
The saying goes that laughter is good for the soul. I don’t know what you think about that but the research is showing that this is truer than we might have thought. It’s not just a good pick-me-up line to excuse a good bit of a laugh.
Why we laugh
Benefits of laughing
There have been studies done that show laughing strengthens our immune system so can reduce us getting sick. And it can improve the function of our blood flow. This is never a bad thing and does wonders for our hearts.
When we laugh it releases endorphins (the feel-good hormone) into our brains. Endorphins can give a boost to our overall sense of worth and wellbeing. Other studies show that it can even temporarily relieve pain.
As we laugh we relax too! It doesn’t mean we let our guard down in that kind of relaxed way but the tension leaves our muscles. And we can stay relaxed like this for about 45 minutes.
It has also been shown that the effects of laughter work fast in bringing our mind back into balance whilst releasing anger and allowing us to forgive quicker. When we laugh we can gain a new or different perspective on the situation to move on from confrontation that could otherwise escalate.
It may seem obvious but it boosts our mood. We cannot stay grumpy if we’re laughing out loud. When our mood has been boosted we are better able to function and be more productive in the things that we put our minds to.
And as I mentioned in the previous blog it lowers our stress levels.
How we laugh
There are those that laugh silently. Those that laugh with loud guffaws. Some snort when they laugh. Some howl, some cry, some even sound like they might be crying. There were times when I had to listen really carefully to my kids to work out which was which if I couldn’t see them.
We laugh in different ways and that’s all good. The important thing is that we laugh.
So here are some tips to help us laugh more in our lives.
“Talk less. Smile more.” Well I don’t know about the talking less – that might have just been the better advice for Hamilton, but we can all smile more.
I know it’s been difficult to see with everyone wearing masks recently. Now that this has basically finished we can see each other’s smiles. Go ahead and smile at others. It doesn’t cost us anything to do it and it positions ourselves mentally to be more inclined to laugh. And it gives the receiver of our smile something positive too! It’s a win win.
Be with fun people
Some people drain our energy. Some people energise us and we know we’ll have a great time with them. Get out with these people! Hang out with those who will give you some laughs and a good time.
Schedule a laughing time
I know this one sounds a bit ridiculous (and maybe it even sets you off laughing at the thought of it). But like anything we do we need to put the effort in and when we put the effort in we can get the rewards from it. If something is important to us then we make the time for it. If we want to get fit we don’t just expect it to happen. We schedule in going to the gym or doing exercise and that’s the same with laughing too! We can schedule a time to laugh. There’s so much out there online we can find that will make us laugh, whatever our tastes so find something and watch it.
The more we do it the more natural it will become and we will even be able to see them more in our day-to-day so we can find that we are naturally laughing more and more.
Fake it till you make it
Don’t find anything funny?! Well then fake it. Make yourself laugh. It’s not just a knee-jerk reaction. We can simulate laughter and it can have the same benefits as when we do it naturally. And you might even find that even in faking it, this can change your disposition to a more laughable one.
When was the last time you laughed? And I mean really laughed? If you can’t think of a time recently put some of these things into practice and let the advantages be felt.
And if you’re willing to share some jokes with me, like and comment and let’s have a laugh together.
Counsellor and Psychotherapist