Positive Mental Health

Let’s Get Physical: 5 Tips to Kickstart Positive Mental Health

December 2, 2018

“Increase your physical activity”. A phrase thrown at us by doctors and other health professionals, TV and media representatives and social media platforms. By now, most of us probably know the physical health benefits of exercise. The following are just to name a few:

  • strengthens our heart and lungs
  • prevents against many chronic diseases
  • reduces blood sugar levels and manages our weight
  • strengthen our bones and our muscles
  • improves skin health!

But did you know that exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health? Various research has found that regular physical activity is just as effective in treating mild to moderate depression as antidepressant medication – wow! Also, exercise can help to manage anxiety. Now, I’ll walk you through (no pun intended!) some more of the benefits of exercise:

  • improves our sleep
  • increases our energy during the day
  • releases “feel good” chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin that block the transmission of pain signals and elicit a positive feeling in the body
  • helps us feel connected to others through group fitness classes, walking buddies etc.
  • relieves stress
  • improves memory
  • improves self-esteem

So, the experts aren’t telling fibs – exercise has amazing physical and mental health benefits for us! But how do we kickstart our exercise routine?

5 steps towards positive mental health

1.Start small

Start small – it sounds simple doesn’t it – but I must agree that starting is the most difficult part! I value exercise and try my best to incorporate it into my routine. However, more recently I have noticed that my motivation to exercise has absolutely gone out the window!

Motivation is an interesting concept. Many believe that once motivation is lost, it will miraculously appear out of nowhere. If you are waiting for motivation to fall into your lap you might be waiting a long time. Motivation is like fire… you must add more fuel to it in order to keep it alive. Just like fire, motivation can fade if it is not kept alive, and just like fire it is normal for motivation to occasionally burn out. It doesn’t mean it’s lost forever! Therefore, often our action must come before motivation and then motivation can start to build momentum. Sharing this blog with you is my attempt to start small and begin to incorporate my love for exercise back into my life! What will your first step be?

Just for your knowledge, the Department of Health (DOH) guidelines recommends that adults engage in 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity exercise per week or 1.5 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity exercise per week, or an equivalent combination of both. But please don’t let this put you off! If you haven’t hit the gym in a while or your current idea of exercise is walking to and from the coffee machine from your work desk – that’s okay! Any exercise is better than none. Start small and try to incorporate more activity into your day slowly. This might mean going for a light walk up the street or taking the stairs rather than the lift.

2.Identify your reason

Saying you want to exercise more is all well and good but finding your reason for doing so makes exercise feel more meaningful and important, and therefore helps us to feel more accountable. Ask yourself “what will exercise add to my life?” For me, I have three main reasons: 1) it helps me release stress and tension, 2) it helps me stay connected to others and meet new people, and 3) it gives me a sense of accomplishment. What are your reasons? Write them down so you can reflect back to them when you need to add more fuel to y
our motivation fire.

3.Find a routine that suits you

If you’re not a morning person and the sheer idea of getting up at 5am to go to a gym class makes you feel queasy, that’s okay! Choose a time that works best for you. It might be going for a light jog before work, taking a relaxing 15 minute stroll during your lunch break, or hitting the gym after work. Try and fit exercise into your daily schedule as best as you can.

4. Do something you enjoy

This one is important. If your motivation is already low and you choose an activity that you absolutely despise, then it’s likely that you won’t keep it up! Choose an activity that you enjoy and increase your chances of moving toward your goals!

5. Find a buddy

We often feel more motivated and accountable when we have someone who is sharing our experience, someone we can connect with and who can help us to stay on track! This could be a friend or family member who might also be struggling to get started. It could be that you join a fitness community page or a group class. Social connection is another factor significant to maintaining positive mental health and it is important that we stay connected!

If you need some extra help getting your exercise and motivation on track a psychologist can help. Mental health concerns can also get in the way of reaching goals and feeling on track which can cause additional distress and frustration. If you can relate or you know someone who might need some extra support, contact us here to book an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists today.

Ashleigh Stodden
Psychologist


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