We are continually reminded that there are many mental health benefits of exercise.
The problem is that when you are in the middle of a mental health struggle, sometimes that last thing you want or indeed can be bothered to do is exercise.
After I had my little boy, I was living in a new country and I didn’t know a lot of people. I had zero support and my husband was continually travelling with work.
My days were filled with just trying to get to lunchtime then free falling towards tea time in a blur of sore breasts, anxiety and dirty nappies
All I wanted to do was eat and hide myself away. The state of my mental health didn't come under scrutiny. I was a terrible new mum and I couldn't look after myself, let alone a new human being, how pathetic was I?
I was just trying to get to tomorrow. It didn't even cross my mind that perhaps my mental health was suffering.
Hindsight however, is a wonderful thing.
As someone who had only ever associated exercise with weight loss, it didn't even cross my mind to lose weight. Even though I hated how my body looked. I could barely make myself three square meals from one day to the next let alone trying to add in a run or an exercise class.
Exercise was the farthest thing from my mind.
So, it was quite some time before I could even think about getting myself together to workout. And, it didn't even start with the notion that I was doing a workout. It started because I couldn't bare going another day feeling how I felt.
I was trapped within the confines of my home.
I felt claustrophobic and needed fresh air.
I needed to feel I could breath.
I had to get outside.
However, the roads where I live aren’t safe nor conducive to pushing a pram around.
So, it wasn’t just as simple as deciding to go and then going. It was a mission.
To bring my baby for a walk, on the days I just needed fresh air, involved packing everything up into the car. I then had to take a 10 minute drive to the local town. I would unpack everything and start my walk where there were footpaths and pedestrian crossings. And, dare I say it people.
And, this is what I did on the days I could muster the drive and energy to do it. I would set off.
I downloaded my favourite tunes, had my headphones at the ready and as soon as the morning feed was finished I bundled baby into the car and I WAS OFF.
I’d park up outside a local chemist, get the pram out, strap the baby in and I'd walk. Headphones on, world shut out and tunes blaring!
I walked the legs off myself around the perimeter of the town, I went up hills, down hills and every which way I could go that would lengthen my time outdoors.
And, what soon happened was that this ritual became my life source. It became my daily routine. Something that I started to look forward to. Every. Single. Day.
I had become addicted to the feeling. To how I felt at the end of my walks.
I felt alive, I felt myself and most importantly I felt happier.
Then as time progressed I returned to fitness classes and then suddenly I realised I ONLY THOUGHT I FELT GOOD because now I felt AMAZING!
And I mean AMAZING!
This buzz started inside me and I couldn’t let it go. I scheduled a second and then a third class into my week.
This slowly became MY LIFELINE, MY TIME and MY HEAD-SPACE.
It became three moments in each week where I wasn’t a mummy.
I wasn’t someone's partner, I was me, I was Lynne.
One evening we were returning home and got caught behind the slowest driver in history. I started to panic as I was going to be late for my class.
Then we hit roadworks and I literally turned into a crazy woman.
It was this moment, right there that I thought “Oh my God” not only did exercise make me feel better, it kept me sane.
Exercise had become my escape and it made me a better mother and most definitely a better partner.
It was through exercise that I found myself again. That my body started to feel like my own again.
My mind, my productivity, my coping mechanisms, my sanity, my well being and my happiness soared.
Then I made it my life mission to help as many people as I could feel better within themselves through exercise.
It’s not about weight loss, it’s about feeling good and feeling well.
Being happy and coping with everything that life throws at you.
I see it all the time, I see women begin to flourish within their own space, their time out and their freedom for the little snapshots of time they allow themselves to be themselves. Caught up in the music, making new friends and physically achieving more than they ever imagined they could.
There are a million different clinical studies which prove, and I mean PROVE that exercise has a positive effect on mental health.
Here are a few of those positive effects:
- Exercise eases the symptoms of depression and anxiety
- The psychological and physical benefits improve mood and decrease stress hormones
- It releases happy hormones, which by default, increasing your sense of well being
- It detracts you from the cycle of negative thoughts that continually swirl around in your head
- Exercise increases confidence, so get ready to hold your head up high and smile
- It creates an environment where you can be socially included, so if you are feeling lonely it is a great way to meet people
- Exercise is a coping strategy. A healthy coping strategy, something you can call on when you feel the chips are down
- It is also something you can do regardless if you are starting out on your journey or restarting where you left off.
You don’t have to be running laps around the track or pounding the treadmill at the gym. Just think about moving your body.
Think about a brisk walk, playing a game of football, taking the stairs at work, learning how to dance.
This is all considered to be exercise.
Anything that gets you up, gets the blood pumping and the feel good hormones flowing is going to improve your mood, IT IS GOING TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER.
You may find it hard initially to establish a routine. So, take it easy on yourself.
Set yourself small attainable goals. Ask a friend to buddy you on a walk or join you at a class. Don’t put yourself under pressure to be amazing or even to be good. Just be you, do what you can do.
Move your body.
Get out in nature when you can because exercise when tied in with fresh air and blue skies has the most invigorating results on the mind.
Move your body.
Co-Founder of Pepper Hustle
Check out Pepper Hustle's FREE download here, it's a wonderful introduction to movement.