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Why exercise is good for your mental health.

Author: Tiia Turkulainen
3 Minutes

Why exercise is good for your mental health.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We all probably know how and why exercise is so good for us. We hear it and see it everywhere, and for the most part, if you’re like me, you believe it and agree with it! Exercise is so great for general health, your gut and immune system, your mental health, and feeling like you’re connected to nature.

But how many of us actually utilize exercise as medicine for our bad moods? I know I don’t. I seem to have two moods: veg out of the coach in a horridly irritated mood for two weeks trying to satisfy and ease my irritation by any means possible, OTHER than exercise. After a solid couple of weeks (sometimes a couple of days if I’m feeling like Wonder Woman and manage to kick myself in the behind hard enough) of pure frustration, I finally get frustrated by my own frustration and channel this into exercise!

Why do I always have to go through this same extreme battle!!

I exercise on a weekly basis, mostly doing things like kickboxing, long walks or hikes, and weightlifting. Exercise is mostly a habit and something I need and value in my life, but why can I so diligently go to my exercise classes all week but not go outside for a walk when I KNOW my body and mind need it and instead do everything else to try satisfying my needs with other trivial things?

There’s something called instant gratification and the serotonin levels that are directly produced from this. We get so much more satisfaction from the immediacy of eating a bag of chips compared to the effort of having to put on your exercise clothes, go outside, and endure a good 15 minutes before your body start moving and your endorphins start pumping. Worst case, you hate the entire workout and don’t get those endorphins UNTIL AFTER you’ve done your workout! That’s like an hour of misery before you feel better!? For me, that seems unbearable sometimes compared to eating 5 bags of chips and watching 7 different YouTube videos. Why? Because they release those endorphins immediately even though they don’t last, my attention span fades very quickly, and the endorphins don’t last nearly as long as a workout would.

For me, there’s a difference with viewing exercise as another tick off my “to do” list and viewing it as medicine. Medicine for my irritation, boredom, agitation from sitting at a desk job all day, or whatever else is the matter that week.

Exercise without an agenda is when I go outside and exercise, NOT because I need to tick something off my to-do list or because I know it’s good for me, but because I WANT to. This for me usually means walking. Walking and chatting with a friend,c listening to a good podcast or lip-syncing to the music I’m listening to and not caring what passersby think. THIS is exercise for the sake of grounding myself.

For me, exercise as medicine involves walking, but for you that could be completely different! For you, it could be yoga, dancing, or mountain biking. I love yoga but I find it hard and not exactly something I voluntarily do if I’ve already ticked it off my weekly to-do list. I do it cause I know it’s good for me, to be more flexible, to practice mindfulness, and to rick it off my to-do list but it doesn’t bring me joy like walking does. Find what pure joy in the form of exercise is for you!

So, here is a reminder for you as much as it is for me, to go outside. Be gentle with yourself. Respect yourself enough to listen to your body when it’s telling you it wants a walk. Trust and believe enough to remember that the walk, run, or gym class IS worth it and you’ll pick yourself up from whatever overwhelming feeling you’re feeling that week, MUCH quicker by being outdoors and moving.

With humbled love,

Tiia

Photo by: Quan Nguyen, Arek Adeoye

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