Happiness, happiness and more happiness is what we all strive for in life. What is happiness? According to oxford dictionaries, happiness is a state of being happy. In my opinion, most if not everything we do in life is aimed at happiness.
In a stressful and some what depressing world like ours, sometimes happiness seems like a luxury only few can afford. People work hard and play very little and end up stressed or depressed. Some people think material things like houses, cars, and lots and lots of money will make them happy but plenty of times it doesn’t. This is why we sometimes hear of celebrities who commit suicide.
We very often look for happiness in all the wrong places like for example stuffing our bodies with sugar, alcohol or drugs as a means to escape anxiety, depression and stress. Over time these things end up making us sadder since they only offer temporary distraction and in the long run lead to many health problems.
There is a better and healthier way to happiness, exercise! It is well know that exercise is directly related to positive mental health. Regular exercise changes our brain chemistry in very amazing ways that all can contribute very substantially to our overall health. Exercise also have health benefit to other organs in the body other than the brain.
It is recommended in North America that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity to vigorous exercise a week in other to reap the full health benefits of exercise. In North America only about 30% of adult say they get that much exercise or more in a week.
With parenthood comes changes in social life, sleep cycle, physical fitness and emotional health . Many people manage these changes well while many others do not. Many people experience a lot of stress, anxiety and even depression during this time. Some people turn to alcohol and sugary foods for relieve while others go as far as isolating themselves from society. All these actions only makes anxiety, stress and depression worst.
There is a healthy alternative to reducing anxiety, stress and depression; exercise is a great way to stay healthy, active and happy. Exercise can be a great distraction that stops a trend of bad thoughts thus reducing stress, anxiety and depression. During prolonged exercise, the brain produces happy chemicals called endorphin; this is what causes the runner’s high ( a state of euphoric feeling or a state when one feels a sudden burst in energy).
Exercise and mental well being (anxiety, depression and stress)
Anxiety is a situation where one worries about something that is about to happen or an unknown event. Many of us worry every now and then but for some people it is pathological. These people have a hard time controlling their anxiety to a point where it affects their ability to function properly in life.
Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by feelings of severe and persistent sadness and lack of interest in activities that use to make happy before. Many people with major depressive disorder have a feeling of worthlessness and feel life is not worth living. They cry a lot and tend to isolate themselves from friends and family.
Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed; it often happens when we feel things are going out of control or when we are under some kind of pressure. In America, stress seems to be a new normal.
Mental well being is a big aspect (or most important) of overall well being and health. Many people can’t hold a job or have a social life because of poor mental health. New moms are especially vulnerable to mental healthy issues because a lot of changes happens in their life after they have a baby; some of which are anticipated but others not. The physiological, social, physical and psychological changes can be overwhelming for these moms especially those with little or no support system.
New moms and many other people can benefit from exercise because according to Nursing & Health Sciences. Mar 2015, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p 42-48. 7 p, common physiological explanations for these effects include:
- Increases in blood flow; changes in brain neurotransmitters
(e.g., nor-epinephrine, endorphin, serotonin).
- Increases in maximal oxygen consumption and delivery of oxygen to cerebral tissues
- Reduction in muscle tension
- Structural changes in the brain.
Psychological explanations of the positive well-being outcomes associated with exercise include:
- Enhanced feelings of control; exercise as a “time-out” or distraction from distressing tasks
- Improved self-concept and self esteem and opportunities for
fun and enjoyment
How can I approach exercise
Choose something you will enjoy doing
Since we are talking about mental well-being here, I think you should start by picking out an exercise routine you will enjoy doing; this way, you won’t feel like it’s a chore. It does not have to be structure; it can be a long walk or run in the park.
Set reasonable goals
Take it slow at the beginning and increase speed, intensity and duration as you get better and stronger. If you set a goal that is too difficult to reach, you might become disappointed and quit before you even started.
Make it a routine
Arrange to exercise at specific times during the day and stick to this routine; soon enough it will become second nature and you will find yourself doing it without giving it much thought. Exercise is good for your health but it is even better when you stick to it for as long as you can.
Before exercising especially if it is going to last for longer than 20 minutes, eat something that your stomach tolerates well. You should eat something low in fat, moderate in carbohydrate and protein and drink plenty of fluids because your muscles need carbohydrates, protein and plenty of fluids.
After exercise, it is also good to replenish nutrients especially proteins. A glass of milk or protein shake can do the trick.
People are faced with many challenges in life that can leave them stressed, anxious or depressed. Instead of letting your mental health deteriorate, you can do something to make life relaxing and fun. Exercise has many mental healthy benefits; both physiological and psychological. Get out there and jump, walk or run to better mental health.