I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I can tend to be an anxious person. I'm not talking about a little worry here and a little worry there, but real, diagnosable anxiety issues. I'm sure it is part personality, and that part I try to work on, but after years of dealing with it, I'm also convinced that is it physiological too; my brain, simply put, is structured differently than some other people's brains. Areas in my brain overreact much more quickly, I don't have as much of the calming chemicals that others have, etc.
While much research has been done in the areas of anxiety and depression there is still SO much that is not understood. I mean, after all, it's the brain; a pretty complex part of our bodies to figure out!
At the end of the day it does no good to focus on what is not known, but what is known. While my brain tends to react in these ways, there are actions I can take to help and exercise is one of them.
Having sprained my ankle almost two weeks ago I haven't done much exercise and let me tell you, I have felt it. I was feeling really overwhelmed last week, but about nothing in particular, just life in general; managing it all. I tend to have periods of really bad anxiety...it's almost like people who have dealt with acne, or arthritis, or migranes, they tend to have breakouts, or "spells" where it acts up. That's what was going on for me.
Whenever that happens I usually stop and ask myself, "What has been different this last little while to bring this on?"
Answer last week: NO EXERCISE.
Among other things, I realized I had been feeling pretty good for the last couple of months while I've been exercising consistently. I injure my ankle, don't exercise and boom, I feel it.
All that to say, I finally ran again yesterday (yeah!)- 4 miles on the treadmill. It was the first run I've done in almost two weeks and it felt SO good. Truly. It's like my body was thirsty for the exercise.
Anyway, I've babbled here, but it was just affirmation to truths I have read in the past, exercise does help to improve mood.
An article on the Mayo Clinic web site says that exercise helps to do the following:
1. releases more of the "feel good" chemicals in your brain (serotonin and neurotransmitters)
2. reduces bad chemicals in your body that can harm your immune system
3. increases body temperature, which can have a calming effect.
They also said it helps you to gain confidence, it is a positive coping strategy (allowing you to feel like you are taking control) and, at the very least, it is a distraction from your anxiety/depression or whatever other chaos you have going on in your life.
So, if you're needing a little extra motivation to exercise or pick up on your running this week and you've been feeling blue or overwhelmed or anxious, remind yourself that the exercise is not just good for the shape of your body but for the shape of your mind as well.
Happy thoughts to all! Cheers!