We have all learned by now that exercise is good for our bodies physically, but did you know that exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself mentally? Exercise has been proven to reduce stress, fight depression, promote better sleep habits, improve your memory and better your mood overall.
I’ll let you in on a little secret – I HATE exercising. As a matter of fact, I avoid it most of the time because I have panic disorder and the “symptoms” of exercise (sweating, increased heartbeat, heavy breathing) mimic the symptoms of a panic attack and sometimes even trigger them for me.
This sucks, but I know that it is a mind over matter thing, and I need to push through it to get over the fear I have of it. So that’s what I’m doing now.
I used to exercise daily, without knowing that there was a direct benefit to my mental health. But I did feel happier and had a sense of less stress and more mental clarity then. Exercising was helping me to be a happier and more level headed person in every aspect of my life. Let’s take a closer look at some of the incredible “side effects” of exercise on our mental health.
Exercise Reduces Stress
Studies have shown that hopping on the treadmill or taking a brisk walk actually increases concentrations of norepinephrine in the body. Norepinephrine is a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress–pretty cool, right? I think almost every one of us could use a natural remedy to mental stress that also helps to reduce physical stress in the body. It’s like a massage and a trip to the beach, but a little more sweaty!
Exercise Makes You Happier
Did you ever wonder what was up with people and their sweaty selfies or what made those people smile so hard in them? It was the workout that they just did. Although working out sometimes sounds like a drag, doctors have found that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a few times a week releases happy chemicals called endorphins into your brain. These endorphins are your body’s natural way of fighting mental health conditions like clinical depression and anxiety. Doctors promote the use of exercise as an option for treatment and in some cases, exercise can produce greater results than the use of some antidepressants*. (*Be sure to consult your doctor before making any changes in medications.)
Exercise Creates Mental Clarity
Would you believe me if I told you that running on the treadmill or around your neighborhood has been proven to create new brain cells? It’s true! This process is known as neurogenesis and the cardio you’re doing is actually able to improve the overall performance of all of your brain cells! Studies have even suggested that a protein in your brain called BNDF, which helps with decision making and allows your to learn new things more easily, is released when you do a particularly tough workout.
This is just a short list of the positive effects that exercise can have on your life, but these things are at the core of your happiness in life. After reminding myself of all of these amazing “side effects” of exercise, I’m feeling a tug in the direction of the gym!