Physical activity offers us as humans a unique opportunity to get outside of our minds and implement a physical response to our mental struggles.
Often, we get caught up in the mental battle so much that it can be good to go outside and do something a little less in-our-heads.
Physical activity helps us in three incredibly important ways in our fight against mental illness. It helps our biology, our psychology, and our interpersonal relationships.
First, and most evident is the fact that when our bodies are experiencing the proper amount of physical activity, it helps regulate our neurochemistry naturally.
Research has repeatedly shown that physical activity helps strengthen our brain and produces chemicals that naturally combat the effects of anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
While this is in no way a replacement for medication or counseling, physical activity is a significant portion of what our bodies were created to do.
When we remain stagnant and sedentary our brains do not function as they ought to.
Additionally, physical activity serves a type of stress inoculation. It trains our bodies and minds to withstand controlled amounts of stress, helping us manage our anxiety.
Second, our psyche is significantly enhanced by physical activity in a way that isn’t simply a biological runner’s high.
By setting goals and completing them we enhance our self-efficacy. This is basically how we feel about our ability to complete tasks.
By setting our mind towards these goals of completing daily regimens of physical activity we feel better about ourselves and our capabilities.
Lastly, many physical activities are done in groups.
Whether it’s a traditional group sport like soccer, or a running club, physical activity can serve as common ground to meet new people and build community.
As research has shown time and time again, the better social support we have, the better we are going to be able to handle life stressors and mental health struggles.
Physical activity is an excellent way to augment your own mental wellness by doing something that isn’t just in our head.
It allows us to take control of our neurochemistry by doing something in our power.
For more information you could also check out the book Spark by John Ratey. He explores physical activity’s impact on our mental health in more depth and details what the optimal regimen is for mental wellness.
Adolescent | MA, LPC
I provide a safe environment for pre-teens and teenagers to process life’s twists and turns so that they can remain resilient and thrive. I work with parents and their children to create a plan to answer the big life questions, to heal broken relationships, and nourish deep connections.
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