Walking for your mental health
Friday 5th April 2019 is Walk to Work Day.
Being physically active can give us better mental health or maintain/improve any positive mental health we already have.
Physical activity, such as walking can help with mental health in many ways:
- It can help us to sleep better - having good sleep facilitates positive mental health;
- It makes us feel happier - physical exercise activates the hormones in our bodies that boosts our mood and also increases our energy levels;
- Release of cortisol - exercise also enables the body to release a substance called cortisol into our bodies and this substance is what the body used to manage stress and anxiety;
- Coping strategy - exercise can help us to focus on something else which can act as a positive coping strategy;
- Reduces depression - there are numerous scientific studies that have proven exercise to be effective in reducing the signs and symptoms of depression;
- Connecting with others - doing exercise with others can lead to new and positive relationships developing and a support network can increase our positive mental health.
I often hear that this is all well and good but when experiencing negative mental health or even physical ill health, it feels impossible to get active and exercise. I also hear from clients sometimes that they are fed up of being told to get some exercise as if it is a quick fix for the poor mental health they are experiencing. Exercise isn't necessarily going to fix the problem completely as other things such as counselling, GP support etc may also be important. However, exercise can contribute towards increasing our positive mental health.
I often suggest to try to stay in the moment with things. If you are able to do some exercise then do so but if in that moment you don't feel able to then try not to feel guilty about this or beat yourself up as this can cause a vicious cycle with the negative mental health you are trying to overcome. It is really important to find a balance of what works best for you. If this is just 20 minutes of exercise once a week then that is ok. You may do find that you do this and realise the benefit it has on your well-being and how you are feeling and decide to do some more. Building up slowly can be the key and not beating yourself up if you don't do it.
Perhaps a starting point could be to walk to work on 5th April.