Of course, it’s not exactly news that exercise is seriously beneficial for our mental health. Physical activity affects the structure of our brain, and helps treat and prevent both depression and anxiety disorders, and researchers now believe it can benefit them with severe mental conditions. Among other emotional benefits it has proven to improve our focus and our mood (just ask my family members).
But there are times when exercise can also be reversible, and eating habits are not very helpful. For some people, working out can be another stressor in our lives, adding to the list of things we must do and one more thing to feel guilty about. Or we become obsessive and sometimes take it too far. For others, high-intensity workouts can trigger feelings of anxiety.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we spoke with Pooja Lakshmi, MD, A Member of the Peloton Health and Wellness Advisory Council, Who specialize in women’s health and perinatal psychiatry. She shared some tips on how we can make sure our workouts help our mental health – not harm it.
1. Practice a series of exercises
Although the psychological benefits of exercise are due in part to an increase in endorphins, Dr. Laxman explains that regular exercise creates a positive response loop. “It’s less about your type of work and more about being a regular habit,” he says. “Whether it’s cardio, or weight training, or yoga, we think more about the frequency of how often you engage in an activity.”
This is because continuity will give you a sense of control, as well as control and agency over how you spend your time, he says. Making fitness a part of your daily life gives you the satisfaction of setting your vision on a task and completing it.
2. Don’t wait for inspiration to hurt
“Often The times when you want to exercise the least can be the most helpful, “says Dr. Laxmin. But when you are not in the mood to exercise, you may be tempted to stop. In psychology we talk about a concept called behavioral activation. Basically, it means that when you feel bad, it’s really hard to motivate yourself to do something that you know is going to make you feel good. “
Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, however, the key is to try to force yourself to do at least some exercise. As psychologists want to put it, mood works. Showing, even when you don’t want to, will change your feelings.
If a long workout seems too much to deal with, move your body for a few minutes:
3. Focus on values instead of goals
While setting fitness goals can inspire us to push ourselves to new heights, they can also backfire. “When you get really hard, I have to workout 60 minutes a day, and if I don’t, I fail,” said Dr. Laxmin.
Antidote? Focus on your “why”. Whether you want to be healthy enough to get the strength to play with your grandchildren, or build a hobby of your choice, or connect with your community, remind them what is most important to you. In this way, you will be able to remember the bigger picture as you fit the exercise with the balance and flow of life. “Knowing exactly why you are taking fitness can save you from becoming inflexible or obsessive,” says Dr. Laxmin.
4. Lean into your workout when you are stressed
Exercise can be an extra helpful coping process during changes, or really any stressful period. “Endorphins have biochemical ingredients that are released, but bring you back to the feeling of agency, that you are doing something that is consistent with your values, that you are able to master,” he said. Lakshmin. . “It gives you a sense of control when you feel your external environment is out of control.”
Try this yoga stream that is literally designed to annoy the body:
5. Recognize when your problems are more than exercise can solve
While good sweating may make us feel good, it is not the solution to all our problems. If you find that anxiety or depression has reached a clinical level – meaning you are having trouble getting to work in your daily life, whether at work or at home – this is a sign that you should seek professional help. Laxmin says.
Also consult a therapist if you notice a pattern of obsession with your vision for work. “If it’s becoming something like OCD, there are specific therapies that are evidence-based, such as exposure therapy, that will work on exposure to not work in this case,” he says.
6. Emphasize rest and recovery as well as activities
Yes, regular fitness exercises can work wonders for both your mental and physical health. But remind yourself that rest is an equally important skill to cultivate. “Our culture is one that emphasizes and exudes productivity and success,” Dr. Laxmin noted. Prioritizing rest does not come naturally to most of us, but avoiding it can lead to burnout and high levels of stress. “It’s not our fault we didn’t learn to do it,” said Dr Laxmin. “But it is our responsibility to teach ourselves.”
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