We all have mental health, and we all know how much it matters. Some days we feel like we’re doing brilliantly and life couldn’t get any better. Other days we feel like its just a bit too hard, things happen, you feel like you’ve had a kick in the teeth and it can all seem too hard.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his/her community”.
A state of good mental health means you’re able to maintain a sense of calm, control and well-being, despite the ups and downs the week has thrown you. It’s this mental resilience that gets worn away when we don’t engage in activities to maintain our good state of mental health and well-being.
An important part of having good mental health is knowing that your mental health isn’t always good. It is normal to experience fluctuations in emotions and feelings in response to situations. Feeling the good and the bad moods makes us resilient, like exercising a muscle repeatedly, those mood fluctuations help to make our minds stronger, able to cope with what life throws. However, it’s when we experience these bad moods for prolonged periods that our mental health may be in jeopardy, that’s where exercise comes in.
Exercise is natures very own mood booster. Research demonstrates that exercise is great for ones mental health and in fact it has been shown to prevent a decline in mental health. As a personal trainer I am a strong advocate of exercise for mental health. 14 years ago I was on track to own a café or restaurant, that’s what I had spent 7 years at TAFE and some uni study preparing for, during that time I exercised twice a day 5 days per week, then life happened and I no longer had an interest in exercise or the café business. As time went on and I rode the waves of up and down moods, I started to exercise again. I noticed that on the days I felt least likely to want to move were some of my best workouts. Like the clients of TF I sought the services of a PT who helped me get my exercise back on track and subsequently my mental health improved. Don’t get me wrong I’m not going to say exercise will cure all but it will help when you’re feeling down.
Think about how many times you have been booked into the gym after work or early in the morning and didn’t want to attend, but once you completed the session you felt so much better. This is due to those feel good endorphins that come from exercise. When we exercise, we release around 40 types of endorphins (anti-stress hormones) which work on different parts of the brain, having all different effects. Exercise also helps regulate the same neurotransmitters that antidepressants target. Exercise does the following:
- Releases norepinephrine, which wakes up the brain and gets it going
- Dopamine is boosted; improving mood, feelings of wellness, motivation and jump-starts our attention system
- Increased serotonin acts on the limbic system improving how we perceive and regulate our emotions
- Improvements in self-esteem (a component of depression), thanks to norepinephrine but also because we feel a sense of accomplishment
- Social connection and a sense of community when we exercise in groups, especially amongst our TF family….Michelle