Archive for November, 2018

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.