Exercise: Keeping my emotional roller coaster car moving
When Ronan Keating sang ‘life is a roller coaster’, he wasn’t exaggerating. We’ve all been there. The ups and downs of work, relationships, coursework, exams – sometimes we need a break from feeling fed up, sad, or lonely. It has been this way forever, and people have dealt with it in various ways.
But I think as soon as you put a label on something, it becomes a bigger issue. Which is why I don’t like the fairly recent phrase ‘mental well-being’.
I struggle with stress and anxiety. Thankfully, the research and attention that mental well-being has received in recent years has given me access to support. But as soon as I was given a label and told to improve my ‘mental health’, I felt sorry for myself and thought I was a ‘special case’.
So instead of thinking of my mental well-being, I try to take a more simplistic view - of happiness. I ask myself, ‘What makes me happy?’ ‘What can I do as a welcome break from studying?’
Exercise is the break I need, as it is for so many others, because it kills two birds with one stone by improving my physical health and my happiness.
Here are some of the reasons exercise makes me happier:
- Reduces anxiety. Exercise is known for releasing endorphins, or ‘happy hormones’ as I like to call them. This can help reduce anxiety and lift your mood. Whenever I’m feeling particularly anxious, I find that just getting my trainers on and going for a run or walk in the fresh air always helps.
- Lowers stress. The same situation applies to dealing with stress, as when you exercise, your body is better able to manage your cortisol levels, reducing feelings of stress and tension.
- Tires me out. As fit as I’d like to believe I am, I still feel shattered after a good run or a session at the gym. After a shower though, this tiredness changes into relaxation, which gives me a clearer perspective in which to gather my thoughts.
- Increases self-esteem. Naturally, the more you exercise, the easier it will become. It’s all about perseverance. Eventually we’ll start to notice improvements in our fitness levels and achieve personal goals we set. This in itself will give our self-esteem a boost, which has been said to increase life satisfaction.
- Eases depression. Depression is not something to be ashamed of. It’s how to tackle it that’s the important thing. Studies have shown that exercise can ease the symptoms of depression for both men and women. You can find out more about exercising for depression at the NHS Choices website.
To me, it’s amazing that a simple physical activity can have such a positive effect on the mind, and I would 100% encourage anyone feeling at a low-ebb to think about doing regular exercise.
If exercise isn’t something you enjoy, try going out for a short walk in the fresh air, nothing too exerting. Whatever makes you happy and gets the blood flowing.
Whatever you do, remember that the way you feel right now is just a temporary dip, and all roller coasters go back up again.
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