Exercising for Mental Health - by Amanda Bryen, Clinical Psychologist
We all know that we want to (or, need to!) improve in the exercise department. It can be helpful to use the term ‘activity’ rather than ‘exercise’, as it helps us to appreciate that keeping more active in many and varied ways can provide physical and mental health benefits. The current health recommendation is that we keep physically active for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. The mental health and wellbeing benefits of physical activity are numerous - some important benefits include:
As a busy mum however, it's often easier said than done! So what are my top tips for ensuring mums are keeping active not only in order to keep up with their kids, but to ensure their mental well being? Below I have outlined three of my top recommendations for keeping active!
1. Choose activities that you actually like! Don't sweat it out in an environment you don't like, doing exercises you loath! Find what you enjoy – and do it regularly. Find an activity that works for you – and fit it into your life in a way that will work for you. If we like the activity, then we are more likely to do it – and we are more likely to feel the mental wellbeing benefits flow from it as well. We have to actually make time for the activity and schedule it into your diary so that it gets done. Then…just do it! So, if you enjoy walking, walk. If it’s dancing, dance. If it’s swimming, swim. If it’s running, run. If it’s cycling, cycle. Maybe it’s yoga. It is good to mix your physical activities around – change things up occasionally to keep life interesting. Make time for you – it’s called self-care. And as a mum, you are doing something most important - Caring for the Carer!
2. Get active outside in the great outdoors! Outside activity can be particularly good for our mind. Benefits of getting outside for exercise include an increase in sensory stimulation, connection to nature, and production of feel-good hormones (endorphins). Being outside meets our human need for sensory stimulation, and helps to keep us mentally optimistic and motivated. Think about the benefits of feeling the wind against your face and in your hair, seeing and listening to the birds, ducks, kookaburras, and other wildlife in the neighbourhood, smelling the jasmine and fragrant flowers in season, noticing the gum trees and eucalyptus leaves, being in the bush and near waterways, and acknowledging & smiling at others as we pass each other by. When we exercise outside we can practice living in the moment and being aware of what is around us in the natural environment (mindfulness). Our body produces feel-good hormones (endorphins – natural mood lifters & pain relief) when we are enjoying our activities. Being active outside has wonderful benefits for our mental wellbeing as we feel in tune with nature, and more connected with other humans around us.
3. Do it for confidence and wellbeing benefits! Keeping physically active boosts your confidence day by day. When we complete an activity that we value, it improves our self-confidence and overall self-acceptance. By doing a physical activity on a regular basis (e.g., three times a week) we gain a sense of achievement. Little successes add up and help towards feeling a sense of accomplishment and control over your life. Success after success builds confidence in yourself and bit by bit you will become more able and productive in your life. We all need a healthy sense of self-mastery, and keeping physically active can be a good way to achieve it!
Amanda is a Clinical Psychologist and owner of Caring 4 Mums. Amanda offers a dedicated perinatal service for expectant mums and new mums & dads (antenatal and postnatal care). Her services range from caring for the carer (new mums), infant care, parenting information, education & strategies, through to therapy for anxiety, sleep deprivation, birth trauma, anger, and ante/postnatal depression (PND).
Amanda's focus is to provide mums and their families with an approachable, sensitive, and professional service and her home-visit service provides a truly convenient option for new parents. For more information: http://caring4mums.myob.net/ or http://www.gomumgroupfitness.com.au/go-mum-advisory-board.html
At Go Mum! we are constantly learning and seeking out the best women's health advice and local practitioners. In this blog you will find articles from women's health practitioners that are passionate and experienced in their fields. We hope you enjoy the blog and encourage you to support these local businesses.