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The Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health

The Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health

The Importance of Breathing Correctly

Did you know that how you breathe can majorly affect how you feel?

The connection between your breath and your mental wellbeing has been well-researched. It's found that many of us are breathing incorrectly, and we're not even aware of it. So, it's no surprise that activities such as meditation and yoga, where the emphasis is not just on moving our bodies but also on how you inhale and exhale, are championed by mental health experts.

Our respiratory system plays a crucial role in our mental health, as understanding how to control our breathing is one of the best stress-busters available to everyone.

When we're stressed, our body triggers the 'fight or flight' response, which often leads to rapid, shallow breathing, fuelling stress and anxiety. This then creates a vicious cycle that is hard to break. By noticing this change in breathing and taking a step back to try and correct it, you can break free from the cycle and encourage your body from the typical stress response into 'rest and digest' mode.

How To Control Your Breathing

If you've heard someone say diaphragmatic breathing before, they are referring to deep, abdominal breathing. This breathing style encourages a full oxygen exchange, which helps reduce tension and brings on a sense of relaxation.

As your breath slows down and deepens, a message is sent to your brain, promoting a feeling of calm and tranquillity, significantly lowering your stress and anxiety levels.

Incorporating mindful breathing into your everyday life is quite simple.

Find yourself a comfortable and quiet spot. Some people find lying down best.

Close your eyes.

Place one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen.

Breathe in slowly for a count of five. Hold. Then, exhale slowly for a count of five.

Only your abdomen should move. Ensure that the hand on your chest stays still while the hand on your abdomen slowly rises and falls as you breathe.

Starting your day with a few minutes of mindful breathing can help set the tone for a more balanced day. Similarly, taking the time out of your day for 'breathing breaks' can help keep stress at bay. This focus on your breathing is a simple, natural and effective way of managing anxiety and promoting general wellbeing.

By embracing breathing breaks, yoga, Pilates, meditation and mindfulness into your everyday life, you may gain a stronger sense of control over your stress and anxiety. So, when you feel the tension starting to creep in, you'll have this fantastic tool ready in your arsenal to get you back on track.

How Exercise Helps Control Your Emotions

We're regularly told that exercise can be beneficial for anyone suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. Many runners, gym goers, swimmers and cyclists say they exercise to destress and clear their heads after a long day.

In our fast-paced world, where we're all balancing many plates at once, we can all fall back on exercise. Taking the time to 'break a sweat' is a great way to turn pent-up emotional energy into something more manageable.

Our body releases endorphins when we exercise, no matter what activity we choose. These chemicals act as natural mood lifters. They're feel-good hormones found to reduce stress and alleviate anxiety. So, when we're feeling distressed, anxious, low or burnt out, engaging in regular exercise can be particularly beneficial.

Team-based sports or ones such as dancing also give us a safe space for self-expression. This positive way of expressing our feelings can be a powerful tool for managing our emotions, especially when feeling overwhelmed.

And, of course, the benefits of exercise don't stop when we leave the gym or take off our trainers; it also massively improves the quality of our sleep.

Good sleeping habits are essential for our emotional wellbeing, and poor sleep worsens feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. By helping us achieve a night of more restful and restorative sleep and providing us with a healthy daily routine, exercise supports a more stable emotional state from day to night.

So, when you're considering taking part in some form of exercise, whether it's a solitary jog or a game of tennis with your friends, remember you're not just doing something great for your body. You're also taking part in an activity that will help you manage your emotions, boost your mental wellbeing, improve your sleep, and increase your self-esteem and body positivity.

Achieving Goals for Self-Esteem

Self-esteem isn't just about feeling good about oneself. It's a cornerstone of our mental wellbeing.

The key to boosting our self-esteem lies in setting and conquering our personal goals. However, for that boost to happen, our goals must be aspirational and achievable, too, and exercise emerges as a fantastic avenue to making that happen.

Exercise supplies a solid framework to set measurable, achievable goals. Whether it's running a 5K, mastering a yoga pose, or achieving a personal best in the gym, these goals provide a tangible target to aim for. By setting this goal, your motivation and dedication levels improve. Once you achieve your goal, or even surpass it, you should see a significant boost to your self-esteem as well.

At first glance, your goal might appear to be just about boosting your physical health, but remember, the better we feel in our bodies, the better we feel overall.

Additionally, exercise provides an opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth. It offers a space to connect with ourselves on a deeper level. It allows us to acknowledge our strengths and work on areas of improvement. This can result in a more profound understanding of our mind, body and soul, helping us better appreciate our abilities and further enhance self-esteem.

It's clear that exercise is not just a tool to improve our physical health but a crucial pillar in navigating our emotions and improving mental health*. By embracing a form of exercise, alone or with friends, into your everyday life, you might find the transformative step you need to sustain a healthier, more harmonious emotional state.

*Clicking links on this blog will take you to an external website which is independent of Bannatyne.