I am a big advocate of mental health and well-being. The subject of mental health is vast and the causes of mental illness are of course complex.
Our lives can be complicated, stressful, joyful and at times painful. Trying to maintain equilibrium throughout is not always possible but having some coping strategies in your toolkit is certainly something you can benefit from and build up your resilience.
What you do with your body can also have a powerful effect on your mind.
Mental Health refers to our social, behavioural, emotional and psychological well-being. It affects the way we feel, how we think and the way we behave.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it as ‘a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’
As it is such a vast subject I am only going to be talking about getting out and about, It may seem like such an obvious thing but its benefits on mental health are great.
Physical activity can have a positive effect on your psychological well-being like depression, cognitive function (means mental processes that lead us to acquire knowledge and process information) and mood.
It is estimated 25% of the population suffer from mild to moderate depression, anxiety and other disorders. Studies have shown exercise to have an antidepressant effect on those suffering from mild to moderate forms of depression.
Getting exercise can enhance your mood thanks to the endorphins released, producing a feeling of euphoria. The endorphin’s main function is to inhibit the communication of pain signals.
Now, I am a fan of exercise but not all forms of it! The key to enjoying exercise is make sure you actually enjoy the form of exercise you take then you are more likely to continue with it. I tried running as my brother does a lot of it but I absolutely hated it. I continued but then one day I asked myself why I was putting myself through it as the only plus for me was when I stopped. I prefer going to the gym (yes I actually like it!) and swimming or walking. I always take the opportunity to try something new as you never know if you will love it, such as kayaking. We took the opportunity to kayak on Loch Lomond and that was a great thrill, great fun and as we came across an abandoned house, an adventure I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
I would even say just getting out of the house or out of work on a lunchtime every day for a good half hour stroll gets the blood pumping, takes you to a different landscape and ‘clears the head’. It is a good idea to vary your walks too. Take a different route, walk past something you don’t normally see. I am lucky as where I live and work there is a lot to see such as York Minster or other historical buildings. Nice to take a break from work during the day to refresh your head.
My favourite walks are those that take you to the hills and the mountains. That is really something else. You can be totally in awe of the majestic beauty around you whilst benefiting from a clean environment, enjoying all of its elements and to finish off the day have a piping hot cuppa next to a roaring log fire.
Physical activity in a natural environment can be a great place to lift the spirits and of benefit to those suffering with mild depression.
If you feel more energetic, aerobic exercise is said to reduce anxiety, depression and stress and increases clear mindedness and vigour.
Aerobic exercise means it uses your large muscle groups, is sustained for at least 10 minutes and is rhythmic in its movement eg walking, exercise bike, jogging, dancing,hiking and swimming to name a few.
The psychological benefits of physical activity include positive mood, relief of feelings such as depression and anxiety, improvements in self confidence, greater alertness and clear thinking, an increase in energy and development of positive coping strategies.
So it is highly beneficial for you to get out with the dog or walk down country lanes on a nice autumnal day, breathe in the fresh air and as they say ,clear your head’. I find it is great thinking time.
As well as hiking, my husband loves to swim as he gets the benefits of the aerobic exercise, he is alone and for once he cannot be reached for half an hour!
I would not suggest exercise as an alternative to medicines or therapies as I for one am not a medical expert. I would say exercise and getting out is a great tool for your mental health toolkit. It has so many benefits and you can do as much as you feel able to. Even getting out for 10 minutes is beneficial.
For more information on mental health matters go to www.mind,org.uk
And Love your mental health.