How Physical Exercise Benefits Mental Health

by Staff

One of the greatest crises of our age is mental health. There are millions of people all around the world with mental health problems. The amount of people with depression exercise, and other psychological issues has skyrocketed over the last decade. And it seems there’s no end in sight. 

Most people, especially politicians and those in the media, feel that the answer to this is therapy and medication. They believe that if everyone had mental health treatment, the world’s problems would magically disappear. 

Unfortunately, this is completely bogus and untrue. To solve mental health problems you have to discover what is causing the problem. You have to solve the issue by pulling it out by the roots. Whether that means coming to terms with past trauma, changing your life situation, or giving up things that are bad for you says Johnny K – owner of True Life Recovery drug detox program in Orange County, California. 

Medication and therapy are only a temporary band aid solution. Over the long term they do not work. It’s almost like you’re stepping on a rake. The solution isn’t to take painkillers, so you don’t feel the rake hitting you in the face. The solution is to STOP stepping on the rake. More specifically, to learn why you’re stepping on the rake and to eventually get rid of the rake for good. 

The other problem with medication and therapy is that it’s extremely expensive. Some medications may cost thousands of dollars per month, and therapists are equally as expensive. All of this money adds up over time. Then consider that you might have to take pills and visit a therapist for years. Very few people can afford this. On the other hand, most forms of exercise are cheap and many are free. 

The bottom line is that the best treatments for mental health are always alternative treatments. It costs nothing to walk around the block, and doing this will already make you feel better. In fact, here are a list of ways that physical exercise will benefit your mental health:

1. Exercise Is a Great Way to Be More Social

Exercise is an excellent way to socialize. This can be done in many ways. For example, maybe you’ll join some type of sports team. It can also include something as simple as going jogging or cycling with a friend, or even joining a running club. 

Entering sports events like marathons are also a great way to be social and meet new people. One of the reasons why this is important is because many people with mental health problems are extremely isolated. Whether you have depression or anxiety issues, mental health problems can alienate you from other people, and make you feel very alone. 

This is only one side of the story. You may have mental health problems because you’re isolated. Anyone who spends enough time by themselves will eventually develop mental health issues like depression. This is why it’s so important to socialize and make new friends. Exercise is a great way to do this. 

2. Exercise Releases Beneficial Chemicals

The reason why all people with mental health issues should exercise is simple. Exercise is proven to release all sorts of beneficial chemicals. When you exercise your brain starts to release various hormones and chemicals. Some of these chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. All of these can help people with mental health problems. For example, dopamine is a highly important hormone which is used by your brain. It basically makes you feel better. It also plays a role in certain psychological conditions such as ADHD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and has also been found to play a role in addiction. In fact, people with addiction problems have been found to have lower overall levels of dopamine. This is why people with drug or alcohol addictions are often said to be, “self-medicating.”

Serotonin is another hormone which helps with your mood and feelings of happiness. Did you know that serotonin is what most antidepressants target. Take for example something like Prozac. This drug is classed as an SSRI. This stands for selective serotonin uptake inhibitor. What these drugs basically do is increase the levels of serotonin in your brain, the goal being to end depression. 

Exercise also causes your brain to produce something known as oxytocin. This is yet another hormone which makes you feel happier, and lowers stress and anxiety. Not only that, exercise also gets rid of harmful chemicals in your brain. A good example of this is cortisol, which is also known as the “stress” hormone, and also things like insulin. 

3.Exercise Gives You Something Else to Focus On

Many people with mental health issues are extremely self-centered. If you’re depressed then you more than likely focus on very little other than your depression. It’s easy to see why. Some mental health issues are so overwhelming there’s very little else that you can focus on. But in order to get over these problems you MUST find something else to think about. 

Exercise can help you do this. Instead of focusing on how bad you feel, or how hopeless the situation seems, get out of the house and exercise. Movement affects your emotions and even walking around the block will help you feel better. 

Exercise also helps you set goals, which are a key part of recovering from mental illness. Maybe you could set a goal to walk around the block. Then do it every single day and start walking further distances. Maybe you could eventually build this up to running, and finally running a certain distance several times a week. This could finally reach the point where you’re participating in a marathon.  

Whatever type of exercise you’re doing, set yourself a goal and make the effort to achieve it. This might be something as simple as deciding to do yoga every day and sticking to that goal. Or may you’ll start lifting weights and get stronger. 

While this might sound crazy to someone with mental health issues, the facts are clear. To recover from your problems you have to set goals, and exercise goals are some of the simplest you can start with.

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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