Are you lost for ideas on how you can help your mental health? If you?re feeling stressed or anxious here is a highly effective A ? Z guide on exercises for the best mental health.
Having a rough day and need to de-stress and unwind? When you?re amid anxiety, depression or feeling stressed it can be hard to see past the brain fog.
Finding something to improve your mental health can sometimes be trial and error. This guide will give you simple ideas and tips on how to look after your mental health.
After reading this self-help guide you will increase your knowledge of mental health exercises and be able to give yourself the self-love you deserve.
This blog post is an A-Z guide on how you can help your brain health.
Aerobic exercises can decrease your anxiety and stress levels by reducing muscle tension, releasing the ?feel good? chemicals in your brain called endorphins, create better quality sleep and improve your mood. Even just 5 minutes of aerobic exercises can start to stimulate these effects.
Try to create a routine that includes aerobic exercises as regular participation will show a much greater effect on your mental health than just doing aerobic exercise sporadically. You will start to feel fitter and when you start to feel fitter you will find you can overcome challenges much more adequately.
Aerobic exercise outdoors will also assist your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D helps to build and maintain healthy bones, supports our immune system, regulate our mood, reduce depression and it may support weight loss.
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Breathing techniques can help improve oxygen levels, alleviate anxiety symptoms, and decrease stress. Breathing techniques for anxiety can promote a relaxation response to combat the stress response which is triggered in times of anxiousness.
Here is a deep breathing exercise which is easy to follow. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Then exhale slowly through your mouth for 6 seconds. Try and repeat this for at least 2 minutes. But even better would be 5-10 minutes.
For both immediate and continuing results from this breathing technique it needs to be practiced regularly. So try scheduling this exercise into your daily routine.
Challenging negative thoughts
Negative thinking can change our whole mindset. If we keep focusing on the negatives that is all we will see and feel. This is why it?s so important to challenge those negative thoughts.
Often our negative thoughts are irrational, and this leads to poor self-esteem and anxiety. For example, if you say to yourself ?I?m not smart enough? immediately you start to feel unhappy and defeated.
Often we have what?s called automatic thoughts. Before you realise it, a negative thought has popped into your mind. So start to become aware of what you?re thinking. As soon as you notice the negative thought it?s time to assess it. Think about ?what evidence is there that this thought is true?? ?Am I judging this thought before knowing all the evidence? ?What would my friend think about this thought?? ?If I look at this thought from a positive perspective, what does it look like now?? ?Will this thought matter in 2 years, 5 years or 10 years from now??
It?s important to challenge those negative thoughts to change your negative thinking patterns. Challenging your negative thoughts is an exercise for good mental health.
Drawing for mental health offers so many benefits. It can bring you back to the present moment and distract you from heading down the rabbit hole of intense stress and anxiety.
Drawing creates distance between those unhelpful thoughts and overthinking, and it can help with expression of creativity which can be soothing and calming.
You don?t need to be the next Picasso and even just doodling can move you to a more relaxed state. So try keeping an exercise book handy as drawing is a good exercise for better mental health.
Food plays a massive role in how we feel and is vital for a healthy mind. Look for food for the brain. Foods such as salmon, eggs, yoghurt, nuts, avocado, berries and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will help provide you with the nutrition needed for a healthy gut and mind.
Try and stay away from highly processed foods, high sugar foods and drinks, refined carbs, unhealthy fats and limit alcohol and caffeine.
Enjoying a fresh wholefood diet will give you so much more energy and clarity and will improve your mood. Eating healthily is not just an exercise but should become a way of life.
Family and friends
We all need someone in our corner and having family and friends that you know support you and are your biggest cheerleaders will boost your confidence and help you feel safe. Knowing you have someone to turn to can help combat loneliness, improve self-esteem and create good mental health.
Family and friends can help when life?s challenges create more anxiety and depression than you feel you can handle and can help you to find solutions and help you see the positives.
Grounding techniques can help to stop panic attacks from triggers and can help you focus on the present moment rather than being lost in your own jungle of thoughts.
Overthinking can lead us to place of chaos and feeling out of control. Using grounding techniques brings us back to a state of calm by separating you from the stressor.
Try this grounding technique as your coping strategy. It?s called the 5,4,3,2,1 technique.
Think of 5 things you can see. Look around ? what is something you haven?t noticed before? Next 4 things that you can hear. Is it a loud noise or something small in the background? Then 3 things that you can touch. What does the object feel like? Think of 2 things that you can smell. It could be coffee from the caf? or bread baking etc. Now 1 thing that you can taste. You may have a mint in your bag that you can eat. When it?s in your mouth how does it taste? What does it feel like?
Grounding techniques are a good exercise to keep on hand when needing a coping strategy. Grounding techniques do not require any materials and can be done in public places.
Do what makes you happy. We hear this so many times in our life! But what does specifically make you happy. It seems we?re all in pursuit of happiness.
Think about what brings you the most joy. It may be something that makes you feel alive and fills you with energy. Happiness can be reading a good book whilst relaxing in your favourite chair with a coffee. Or happiness could be going out to dinner with friends.
Happiness can depend on your personality type and if you?re an extrovert or introvert. Happiness also depends on your own core values and what it is that means the most to you.
If you?re not sure what makes you happy then start keeping a journal of the times you feel happy. You may start to discover patterns of when you are the happiest and like wise what makes you feel unhappy.
Incorporating times in your life that brings happiness is an exercise which is imperative for good mental health.
Intensive exercise gets the blood pumping, the endorphins moving and improves your mood. Not to mention that it?s great for our overall health and wellbeing too.
Intensive exercise doesn?t mean you need to spend every waking hour at the gym. Even just 1.5 ? 2.5 hours of vigorous exercise a week will help. Exercises can include running, jogging, cycling or a team sport.
For moderate physical activity try aiming for 2.5 ? 5 hours a week. This may be brisk walking, swimming, golf or mowing the lawn.
Journaling can be a good exercise to reduce the overthinking and to just do a brain dump. If you would like a free brain dump journal you can download it here.
Journaling can also assist you in identifying solutions to your problems that you haven?t recognized before. If we keep our thoughts swirling around in our head it can manifest itself into anxiety, depression and stress.
If you?re not sure of what to write in a journal then journal prompts can help you get started. Journal prompts help to get you thinking about things from a different perspective. By doing this you start to understand yourself, your values and your thoughts more which can bring a sense of inner calm.
By knowing more about your triggers you can identify how and when you need to intervene before reaching the state of panic attacks etc.
Journaling is a practical exercise for better mental health.
Here is a link to my free Month of Journal Prompts.
If you?re looking for a stress buster then you can?t go past kickboxing! Kickboxing is an intense exercise that can help release anger, stress and frustration whilst at the same time will release the ?feel good? chemicals helping improve your mood.
Learning complex kickboxing moves requires cognitive effort which assists you to become more focused and to practice muscle memory. You?re learning balancing and co-ordination skills and also developing spatial awareness.
Kickboxing is a great exercise to promote good mental health.
Lifting weights offers an array of benefits for your mental health.
? It reduces anxiety and depression.
? Helps you to sleep better.
? As we age it can help to delay the reduction in memory and assist concentration.
? Boosts self-confidence.
? It assists in building the connection between mind and body.
? It can reduce stress and relieve you of brain fog.
Lifting weights is great exercise for good mental health.
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Meditation can help to calm a busy mind. Sometimes it feels like our thoughts are like a treadmill that never slows down. Instead circling our minds with intensity.
Meditation has the capacity to increase self-awareness which in turn can help us to observe a new perspective on things. When we?re caught up in the stress and anxiety it?s difficult to just stop and focus on the present. This is where meditation helps.
Meditation can engage us into a deep relaxed state and a more restful mind. As we start to focus more on the present and tune in to ourselves our resting blood pressure and heart rate drops.
If you have never practiced meditation before then I would recommend starting with a guided meditation. Find a quiet and restful place to either sit or lay down and take a few deep breaths to wash away some of the tension before starting.
Youtube offers many free guided meditations that can direct you through the process.
A nature walk can transport you to a place of serenity. Whether you?re walking through the botanical gardens, doing a hike or walking along the beach.
Use your senses to really get into the moment. What can you hear, see, feel etc. Can you hear birds chirping or a river running? Can you see aged, large trees or an animal? Can you feel the fresh air or the cool breeze on your face?
A nature walk is a relaxing exercise.
Being outdoors could be working in the garden, washing your car or sitting in the sun. Just being able to have a quiet moment to yourself can calm your mind and rejuvenate your energy levels.
Think about the outdoor activities that you enjoy doing. How often are you engaging in them? If not regularly, look at your schedule and work out where it can be slotted in. It may require you getting out of bed earlier or not doing as much overtime at work.
Spending time outdoors can totally change your mindset and help you to feel more positive and vibrant towards life. Being outdoors is a worthwhile exercise.
Setting personal goals can be done in a variety of ways. You can use the SMART strategy. This is:
S = Specific (What do you want to accomplish?)
M = Measurable (How will you measure the goal?)
A = Achievable (Do you have adequate skills/resources to achieve the goal?)
R = Relevant (Why is the result of this goal important?)
T = Time bound (What is your timeframe for achieving this goal)
Or you can be broader and think of health, relationships, work, finances and the ?fun stuff?. I personally believe the more specific you can be then the better the potential of positive results. I always try to use a number. This way it removes the grey area.
For example: ?by December 30 2022 I want to lose 5 kilos.? Or by January 15 2023 I want to have read 20 books on self development.? The more precise, the clearer in your own mind of what you want to achieve.
Quit unhealthy coping strategies
Drugs, alcohol, smoking etc can be a ?quick fix? to anxiety and depression but the problem is it doesn?t solve anything. The drinks after work may help you unwind but that night you don?t sleep well and tomorrow the same underlying issues are still present.
Instead look for healthy coping strategies. For example talk to a therapist, get some exercise, meditate, take a bath, engage in a hobby, practice relaxation techniques, eat healthily and catch up on sleep.
If we keep using unhealthy coping strategies, then we will run into problems in the long run. Problems will remain unresolved, painful emotions will still be there, and anxiety and depression will only get worse.
So quitting unhealthy coping strategies is a smart exercise.
Personally I have tried running but let?s just say it?s not my favourite activity. In fact I?d prefer a trip to the dentist! But if running is your thing, then I take my hat off to you.
Ever heard of ?runner?s high?? I have friends that run and definitely agree with this. They tell me they feel amazing, and some have overcome their severe anxiety from running.
Running will release the ?feel good? hormones and will help keep you fit mentally and physically. It?s a great exercise to build resilience and stamina.
If you?re up for a challenge, then give running a go.
Never underestimate the importance of self care. Self care can reduce anxiety, depression, stress and can increase our happiness and overall wellbeing.
I think it?s vital to schedule self care into your day and to have a solid plan. It may be a bath before bed, reading, going for a walk, meeting a friend for dinner. The list is endless and is totally decided upon what fills your cup. If you would like my free self care plan then you can download it here.
Self care, in my opinion, is a non-negotiable exercise for good mental health.
Talk to friends, family or a therapist. Just don?t keep it bottled up. We need to be having conversations about mental health and normalizing that it?s okay to ask for help.
As a counsellor I?ve lost count of the amount of times I?ve heard ?I was embarrassed to ask for help?. So they waited and waited until life became so stressful that they felt they had no other option and eventually sought help. Please talk.
There is nothing to be embarrassed about. We all go through tough times in life and not one person on this planet could say that their life is perfect. I know social media can promote ?the perfect life? but that photo you see is just a snapshot of someone?s life. Most of the time the photo?s are staged and simply not a true and real image of their daily life.
So please keep talking. It?s OK to not be OK.
Unhooking thoughts (or the technical name is cognitive defusion)
Unhooking thoughts means detaching ourselves from our thoughts and seeing them for what they are. That is – just a thought. When we have a thought it doesn?t necessarily mean its true or actual. For example, how many times have you thought ?I?m not good enough?.
This is not a statement ? it simply is a thought or opinion you have made about yourself. The problem with these types of thoughts is the behaviours that follow. For example, if you think you?re not good enough at basketball you may quit then fall into a trap of becoming unhealthy and lose social connections.
But really what was happening is you were comparing yourself to someone who had played basketball for over 10 years and then believing you weren?t good enough after 1 year of playing. The outcome of this was you quit basketball ? all based on your own opinion.
One of the best exercises for unhooking your thought is called leaves on a stream. Leaves on a stream is an exercise which can help you detach from the thoughts that are not serving you any positive purpose but rather causing suffering.
Why do we need validation? Everybody wants to feel as though they are somebody and that they matter. When we?re validated we feel cared for, that we are accepted and that we?re being acknowledged.
But validation can also be attention seeking. For example if you?re someone who worries about what other people think and need to feel constant validation then this is like putting the keys to your happiness in someone else?s pocket.
The right validation can help a person feel worthwhile, feel supported, and give them the space to let them know that it?s alright for them to feel what they feel. They are not being judged.
Being well hydrated keeps your brain functioning correctly. Did you know that your brain and heart are composed of 73% water? When we?re dehydrated we tend to feel lethargic, sluggish and often a headache will follow.
The easiest way to make sure you stay well hydrated is to keep your water bottle on your desk so you can sip whilst you work. There are so many different water bottles on the market today that you are bound to find one that suits your lifestyle and budget.
What is your X factor? Everyone has a special talent or quality. What is it that makes you unique? If you?re not sure of what your X factor is start thinking about the things that you?re interested in. What excites you?
It may be that you?re passionate about a sport, love engaging in community service or something that you have accomplished. Here are a few tips on finding your X factor:
? What is your passion?
? What skill have you homed in on and developed?
? What makes you stand out from the crowd?
? What does your ?best self? look like?
? How would you go about bringing your vision of your ?best self? to life?
Once you have brainstormed your X factor think about how it can add value to your life.
This exercise can start you thinking about your purpose in life and how you can help others with your X factor.
So many clients choose Yoga for stress and anxiety management. The thing I love about yoga is that it helps connect the mind and body. Yoga can be calming, regulate your stress response and can boost your mood.
You don?t have to join a class. There are plenty of free yoga programs on YouTube so you can practice yoga in the comfort of your home. Yoga has physical benefits too such as becoming more flexible, increasing strength and improving your balance.
Yoga is a beneficial exercise for good mental health.
Zentangles is an art form focusing on creativity and concentration. Zentangles can be a good exercise for mental health as it can reduce your stress and anxiety, give you a sense of achievement and be an outlet for expression of creativity.
You do not need to be an artist to enjoy zentangles. But the rule is to never erase anything out. You use a combination of structured patterns consisting of dots, lines and curves. Because of the repetitive nature of this form of art it can be self-soothing, grounding and gratifying.
You have now read the exclusive A ? Z guide on highly effective exercises for good mental health.
So next time you?re feeling stressed or anxious you have a list to refer to.
Here is the link again for the free Month of Journal Prompts.
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