I need to turn my attitude toward exercise on its head — literally.
Instead of busting a fufu-valve to punish my body with my only goal being losing weight, I’m going to try a new approach. I’m going to exercise to take care of my brain.
I know my mental health improves when I work out. I just feel better every bloody time. Yet exercise is the last thing on my daily to do list, and so often doesn’t get done. I just wish I didn’t fight against it so badly.
Psychologist Sandy Rea says one way to change the way you think about exercise is to consider it an investment in yourself.
“Any shape or size can have psychological benefits of exercise,” she explains.
“Exercise is not just for shaping our body but it’s for shaping our psychological health; investing in yourself as a protective factor for our psychological health.”
Rea says the physical benefits go way beyond weight loss.
“Neuro-hormones are released which boosts the brain’s dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine levels, which all together help us sleep, improves our mood and increases our sexual libidos,” she adds.
“It even helps with PTSD and adults with ADHD.”
I guess exercise is like sex — I hardly ever feel like it, but after I do it my first thought is, ‘Man, I should do that more often.’
Anywho, sorry for the overshare… back to mental health.
Rea says exercise doesn’t have to be exhausting to have an effect.
“There is a worldwide plethora of research on benefits of exercise. But for mental health it only takes a 10 minute walk to get benefits,” she says.
“Not only will you feel good, but you are decreasing depressive symptomology. Those depressive elements are things like feeling sad, or tired, or anxious, or stressed.”
The good news is exercise can reverse those feelings
“Think of it as an opportunity for distraction – just a walk around the block – an opportunity to disengage from that intense anxiety,” Rea continues.
“Hopefully you get more energised and it will definitely improve your mood.”
I guess 10 minutes isn’t much to pay when you’re investing in your brain.
Rea says this also works for people who are morbidly obese, who often don’t trust their body to do what’s asked of it.
“Just by walking, they can increase their confidence in the physical ability of their bodies. Gentle exercise is a great way to get back your self-esteem,” she adds.
“I tell clients to celebrate every small win when it comes to exercise ‘Bravo, body, you got around the block and I didn’t think that you could.'”
She says comparing yourself to models on social media is unrealistic and damaging to your mental health. It’s important to not buy into it.
“You’re very brave choose to exercise for your mental health. It takes courage to exercise and stay content with your body and as long as it can do what you ask it to, you can be happy,” Rea says.
“There’s an abundance of research that tells us what the value of exercise is – but you don’t have to break your arse.”
Yep that’s a direct quote. I love how Rea doesn’t sugar-coat it. Celebrate that you are exercising for your mental goals, not those often unrealistic physical goals.
“Be brave to match your own personal goals. You can make constant mental health investments,” she adds.
And your brain will thank you for it.