Why physical exercise has been absolutely essential for my mental health

November 5, 2018

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It’s no secret for the last year I have very severely struggled with my mental health. I lost a considerable amount of weight, I wasn’t enjoying food, sleep was a non existent part of my life, my confidence was the lowest it’s ever been and I really didn’t enjoy who I was or what I looked like. 

7 weeks ago i decided to give the gym a go. I’m someone who used to thrive on exercise and cooking for myself. My confidence wasn’t that great and walking into a busy cheap gym wasn’t something that appealed with my state of mind.  One of my friends recommended a PT and after meeting him and talking on the phone I signed up to doing 3 sessions a week with him and this has been the best decision I’ve ever made. 

I set 3 goals:

1. Get my confidence back

2. Put on weight

3. Become stronger

At first we were both worried about my weight because if I lost more any progress would be out of the question. We do very little cardio and have been focusing mostly on weights and core strength. The exercises I most enjoy are all of them! Why you ask!? 

After 4 weeks I noticed some changes in my body, at the beginning I couldn’t even lift a 10kg kettle bell and I did a PB deadlift of 50kg at week 4 which is 1kg more than my body weight. 7 weeks later I’m getting stronger and stronger and massive progress is made every session. This type of exercise suits me, I always put in 100% effort, there’s moments when I knew I was pushing myself past my own boundaries, but I’ll tell you I couldn’t of done this on my own. Having a PT has been instrumental to my success and burst of positivity. 

What has it done for my mind?

After a few sessions the real me appeared and my confidence grew and grew. I am sleeping better than I ever had, my skin is looking better, I’m always eating, I’m in a good routine every day, I purposely have a session at the weekend so it gives me something to look forward to, I’m feeling positive and ready to take on the world. I feel like a completely new person so much so my friendship group has grown considerably because of where I am with my mind. I find exercise helps clear my mind, I often use this as an opportunity to realign my priorities. For the first time in a long time I’m putting me first. 

Has it made me feel happy? It’s a good question because I can’t actually remember how happy feels or when I last was but I’m really enjoying where I am right now. It’s funny, I speak to some friends quite regularly and they have noticed a huge change in me, they remind me how far I’ve come and to just do me and do it unapologetically. I still sometimes have a bit of a blip but the blips are less intense than they used to be and that’s just par of the course of having depression and anxiety. 

Science behind how I feel

One theory is that exercise increases serotonin(a neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants)levels. A second theory suggests exercise helps improve sleep. With better sleep, mood improves.
Other possible effects of exercise on the brain and mental functioning include the release of endorphins in the body (Endorphins are a chemical in the brain associated with positive mood); the break down of muscle tension through exercise can improve sleep and decrease physical pain and discomfort associated with depression; improvements in self-esteem, a feeling of accomplishment and feelings of self-worth; and an interruption of cycles of negative thoughts and rumination.

I believe that exercise should be prescribed by medical professionals for people like me. Whilst I accept physical exercise like what I’m doing is not for everyone, but I totally recommend a small walk every day as a positive step. (Tip: wear headphones to get in your zone)

Summary

What I am doing has been the best thing I’ve ever decided to do for myself. I surprise myself with my achievements so far and looking back this time last year I thought how I felt would last forever it hasn’t at all. I am incredibly lucky to have met a perfect PT who I now consider a good friend of mine. Having that push definitely helps.
I would recommend physical exercise to anyone it’s aided my recovery and there’s no reason why it can’t aid yours too.

 

If at first you don’t succeed….

September 9, 2018

This is my first blog post for a while and what a while it has been!

I’ve seen a number of people appear in my life new and old and warm to my openness and I’ve had people create a tornado in my life and vanish in a blink of an eye but that’s ok I wish you well.

A lot of people are not lucky enough to see the real me, but a lot more than ever before have recently and those people stick around, not because they feel sorry for me it’s because they value me and what I bring to their lives. One of my new friends said to me recently “you’re the most grounded person I know and that’s refreshing” those are the types of people I like to have in my circle. That value me for me not because they want something from me.

Which brings me on to the purpose of this post.

If I’ve learnt anything this past year is you can’t ever expect everything to go the way you planned, if that’s work plans, investment plans, home purchases, relationships or the economy you name it, life rarely does what we expect. Curveballs are normal and that’s the one thing that’s certain in life. I am of the personality who refused to accept this at first but it’s a lesson very well worth learning.

It’s important to use those curveballs to reinvent, reinvest in yourself and recover from those setbacks. It’s easy to start from scratch after a little personal evaluation. I have used the following three things as a way of doing that.

1. Re evaluate

Sometimes curveballs happen for a reason, it’s the subconscious telling you that what you are doing right now might not be good for you in the future. Ask yourself these questions, is what I’m doing making me happy? Could I be more effective? Do I feel fulfilled?

2. Find a new solution

Is there a better more efficient way you could be doing things. I work in a job where efficiency means more productivity which then makes money. Is what you are doing in your life right now efficient and effective? Could you be doing it differently? Think outside your bubble and find a new solution.

3. Grow from your situation

Take action. The only people in the world who succeed are those that help themselves. Don’t give in to your situation. Work out how to improve. Set some goals, and a target of when to achieve them. It doesn’t have to be big. Work to move past your struggles you might enjoy it.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

#mentalhealth #anxiety #depression #life #positivity #friendship #life #expierence #progress

My playlist – the power of music in my life

March 18, 2018

111115_musicmental_THUMB_LARGE_UPDATE.jpgA few weeks ago I posted around the power of music in my life. Quite a lot of you have asked for my playlist and here it is:

Groove Armada – Paper romance                                                                                                       Emeli Sande – Highs&Lows                                                                                                                                No Wyld – Odyssey                                                                                                                                 Seal – Kiss from a rose                                                                                                                           Rudimental – Free                                                                                                                                               Jessie Ware, Goldie – Midnight                                                                                                                             Jennifer Hudson – Spotlight                                                                                                                 Rudimental – Powerless                                                                                                                                Paloma Faith – The Architect                                                                                                               Megan Trainor – Woman Up                                                                                                                       Beyonce – Run the world                                                                                                                                      Jessie Ware – Alone                                                                                                                                             Naughty boy – Wonder                                                                                                                                  Lisa Stansfield – All around the world                                                                                               Ariana Grande – Bad Decisions                                                                                                           Justin Timberlake – Say something                                                                                                     Jengi – Without you                                                                                                                                               Mabel – Finders keepers                                                                                                                       Groove Armada – Andhim remix                                                                                                                Jill Scott – Getting in the way                                                                                                                                                            Jill Scott – Golden                                                                                                                                              Jill Scott – Coming to you                                                                                                                       4hero – Les Fleur                                                                                                                                              4hero – Another day                                                                                                                               Sebastien Tellier – La Ritournella                                                                                                 Ludovico Einaudi – Night                                                                                                                                            Ludovico Einaudi – Expierience                                                                                                                             Ludovico Einaudi – Primavera

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The Power of Music in My Life

February 10, 2018

Music has always played an important part in my mental wellbeing. Anyone that knows me I always have my headphones in, always have something playing and my neighbours also have the privilege of sharing my varied tastes in music. In low points recently I forgot what impact this has on my brain, this is why its now on my self care list when I am feeling stressed.

The types of music I enjoy the most are, house, jazz, classical piano, soul, and R&B.

Today for example, I had a list of jobs I wanted to get done today, so I stuck Spotify on, and played some house music and I had a little shimmy and a dance round my living room. It certainly got the endorphins going.

Some people who are lucky enough to be very close to me know to make me put music on when they sense I am not feeling to great emotionally.

The Science

One of the ways music affects mood is by stimulating the formation of certain brain chemicals. Listening to music increases the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is the brain’s “motivation molecule” and an integral part of the pleasure-reward system. It’s the same brain chemical responsible for the feel-good states obtained from eating chocolate, orgasm, and runner’s high. Interestingly, you can further increase dopamine by listening to a playlist that’s being shuffled. When one of your favorite songs unexpectedly comes up, it triggers a small dopamine boost.

Conclusion

Music definitely is a huge part of my life and notably has a substantial effect on my mental health. It often helps me to make decisions for myself. I do recommend that if you are feeling low, stick something on loud and dance it off. Then decide what to do.

Making playlists is an excellent idea and share these with people in your life, I have done this for a few people, you never know, your playlist might just lift someone else mental wellbeing.

Its also worth noting too that I randomly found my iPod last week that has made me feel a bit more happy.

Mental Health: The Science behind low mood and anxiety

January 28, 2018

I have recently been considering the science behind mental health. I recently watched a documentary on BBC iPlayer about Charlotte Church’s mum which inspired me to write this blog around Serotonin and the affects on our body.

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Seretonin

Serotonin is a chemical nerve cells produce. It sends signals between your nerve cells. Serotonin is found mostly in the digestive system, although it’s also in blood platelets and throughout the central nervous system.

Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid must enter your body through your diet and is commonly found in foods such as nuts, cheese, and red meat. Tryptophan deficiency can lead to lower serotonin levels. This can result in mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression.

What does Serotonin do?

Serotonin impacts every part of your body, from your emotions to your motor skills. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer. It’s the chemical that helps with sleeping, eating, and digesting. Serotonin also helps:

  • reduce depression
  • regulate anxiety
  • heal wounds
  • stimulate nausea
  • maintain bone health

How to treat the deficiincy clinically

Low levels of serotonin in the brain may cause depression, anxiety, and sleep trouble. Many doctors will prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to treat depression. They’re the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant.

How to treat it naturally 

  • Exposure to bright light: Sunshine or light therapy are commonly recommended remedies for treating seasonal depression.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can have mood-boosting effects.
  • A healthy diet: Foods that can increase serotonin levels include eggs, cheese, turkey, nuts, salmon, tofu, and pineapple.
  • Meditation: Meditating can help relieve stress and promote a positive outlook on life, which can greatly boost serotonin levels.

Isn’t it strange that something found in my gut can lead to mental health disorders. “Eat more cheese, nuts and red meat, exercise and get some sun” I hear you say! I already do those things so it doesn’t seem that clear cut to me.

My conclusion:

It seems to me that GP’s go straight to the clinical solution of handing out medication rather than looking into the science behind some mental health disorders (specifically low mood and anxiety). Is it really conclusive after a 10 minute consultation to decide SSRI’s are the solution and a bit of CBT will be enough. It sounds like its a one fits all solution.

I would love to find out if I have low levels of serotonin in my body. It might help me to work out what I need to do more of to increase those levels naturally. Whilst I agree in some aspects medication is great, understanding how that works is even greater but we can all do natural things to help ourselves.

I then went on a tangent looking into how vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians get their natural sources of serotonin. It intrigued me because someone I follow on instagram has decided to go plant based vegan for a number of months and I’m not sure what impact that has had on his mental health. Maybe ill ask him.

As my yoga friend says “it just goes to show what you put in your body does lead to a healthy mind”.

Credits:

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin

It’s okay to ask for help

January 25, 2018

For those who know me or don’t at all I want to admit. I have been really struggling with my mental health.

Whilst I won’t go into the details as that’s personal to me. It got so bad I had to pluck up the courage to ask for help. Which brings me on to the reason for this blog.

One thing I have learnt is that it is ok to ask for help it’s also ok to not be ok! I’m not going to lie asking for help wasn’t a decision I came to lightly, I was in denial about how I was feeling as my pride and my future was at stake.

I have had some really good help from professionals that have guided me through this process. They let me do my thing but always made sure I had a hand to hold as and when I required it 24 hours a day. The work the NHS do for mental health under the strain of the demand is commendable. There are not enough people to help individuals like me in the NHS which is massively unfortunate and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have access to that support. I can admit though that unless you’re willing and motivated to help yourself the unfortunate reality is they can’t do much to get you back on track. It has to come from within and I can tell you there were moments I had to dig really deep to get out of bed, let lone have a shower and brush my teeth! But I did because I knew I had to.

Every single person within the NHS that I have met over the last few weeks made sure I focused on positives. They helped me write up a list of things to do when I get stressed and they encouraged me to find my love of music again and anyone that’s following me on Instagram will see I’ve found it again. Although losing my iPod with over 15 yeas of music on was disappointing but not the end of the world. They helped me work out that distractions were the key, and I found a bit of noise in the background, exercising and cleaning (my place has never been so clean) are good lengthy distractions. I also learnt that it’s ok to lay on your sofa watching box sets. I’m currently on season 4 of greys anatomy! I also actually started to love myself again!

I have had a really good week this week, which means I’ll also have a good weekend which in turn sets me up for next week. I have learnt that everyday is now becoming a win and although it’s only Thursday and a bit premature this whole week is turning into a win. Am I fully recovered and back to my best no! And I’m not disillusioned to think I ever will be 100% fine every day. But I have accepted that now!

Some of my family and friends have been hugely supportive and not once have they pushed me or forced me into doing something I don’t want to do. I did say to them I didn’t want you to fix me, just ask if I’m ok and listen when I need to talk. That’s important to build your own recovery, not to rely on anyone but yourself and that’s when you really do become successful!

Not enough people talk about mental health but As I mentioned above. It’s ok to ask for help and it’s ok to not be ok!

For help and support with mental health I recommend the following websites:

Mind.org.uk

Mentalhealth.org.uk

Turning-point.co.uk