Physical Activity & Your Mental Health - World Mental Health Day
Each year, World Mental Health Day is celebrated on the 10th October, organised by the World Health Organisation. The overall aim of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues worldwide.
As we all know, the Coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on our mental health. We have experienced a lot of uncertainty, despair, sadness, losses, and many more emotions! A lot of people lost loved ones and were unable to say a proper farewell. Others struggled to process their feelings and perhaps still haven’t.
Although we are in a better position now, some concerns, uncertainties, and strong feelings are still very much present. However, it’s not just the pandemic that has impacted our mental health; many other inequalities also play their part.
What is physical activity?
Being physically active means sitting down less and moving our bodies more. Many people find that physical activity helps them maintain positive mental health, either on its own, or in combination with other treatments.
This doesn't have to mean running marathons or training every day at the gym. There are lots of different things you can do to be a bit more active.
How can physical activity help my mental health?
There are many studies which have shown that doing physical activity can improve mental health. For example, it can help with:
- better sleep – by making you feel more tired at the end of the day
- happier moods – physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy
- managing stress, anxiety, or intrusive and racing thoughts – doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times.
- better self-esteem – being more active can make you feel better about yourself as you improve and meet your goals
- reducing the risk of depression – studies have shown that doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression
- connecting with people – doing group or team activities can help you meet new and like-minded people, and make new friends.
What steps can I take to look after my mental health and well-being?
First of all, we must look after ourselves both physically and mentally as the two are linked. Research proves that physical activity can really help to improve our mood. Examples of physical activity could include going for a walk, dancing, or gardening. Being active also improves the quality of our sleep, which is a crucial tool for dealing with stress and looking after our mental health. Another tip is to try having a balanced, healthy diet as again, by looking after your physical health, your mental health will also benefit.