EXERCISE AND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for the body. But exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better. Exercise and depression. Maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing. It promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression. Exercise and anxiety. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out. By adding this mindfulness element—really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster,
but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head. Exercise and ADHD. Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. Exercise and PTSD and trauma. Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma. Instead of thinking about other things, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints and muscles, even your insides as your body moves. Exercises that involve cross movement and that engage both arms and legs—such as walking around the house, running on a treadmill, weight training, or dancing—are some of your best choices. When you’re under the cloud of an emotional disorder and haven’t exercised for a long time, setting yourself extravagant goals like working out for an hour every morning will only leave you more despondent if you fall short. Better to set yourself achievable goals and build up from there.
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