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The role of mental health in your overall health

Let me start by saying that I’m by no means an expert in mental health, this is purely my personal experience and thoughts on the subject and I would highly encourage anyone who resonates with this article to seek professional guidance.

We’re lucky enough to live in a day and age where help is readily available and I’ve included some links at the bottom of the page for anyone who’s interested.

My experience

Interestingly enough, the subject of mental health is something that's quite prominent in the health and fitness industry. I've casually spoken with many personal trainers about it over the years as a lot of their clients have come to them with these issues tying into their body image and self esteem.

I've actually delt with this a lot myself too. My OCD nature has strangely made me an ideal bodybuilding competitor when it comes to counting my food and macros, training and measuring my progress and sticking to my long term plan. I can certainly feel the pinch of a stressful day and with a history of depression/anxiety in my family I know these traits are present in myself to varying degrees. I can honestly say if left unchecked it can actually become pretty overwhelming as some of you might already know. I’m lucky however in that I have a really solid support structure of close family, friends and colleagues I can lean on.

How is mental and physical health linked?

Living a healthy lifestyle can be such a lifeline. Apart from the obvious benefits of overall physical health, it gives you a medium to literally pour your energy into. Hitting the gym is your ‘me’ time. It’s the time of the day where you can totally dedicate to working on yourself and your own personal goals, and because you're doing it for yourself you can go as hard or easy as you like without any guilt associated to it. It also means that no matter what else is going on in your life at the time, you always have something that you're working towards. It’s an assured feeling that at least in some way you're always growing, learning and striving towards something that’s important to you.

Having been quite involved in the fitness/gym scene for most of my life I’ve seen many other fellow gym junkies experience the exact same thing, in fact, I know a few people who originally joined the gym purely for an outlet and then have became hooked from there!

Benefits of physical health on mental health

Let me just stress that exercise is NOT a cure all for mental health. It won’t magically rid you of anxiety but for many people (myself included) it can help in giving you a really positive outlet to channel from. A few benefits I have found have included:

Benefits of physical health on mental health - sleep It helps you sleep better (and more deeply)
Benefits of physical health on mental health - happy Gives you an improved sense of control, coping ability and self esteem
Benefits of physical health on mental health - distraction Provides distraction from negativity and a chance to have new experiences
Benefits of physical health on mental health - socialise Offers an opportunity to socialise and get social support from likeminded people
Benefits of physical health on mental health - brain It can change the levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins (substances that can block pain and may also enhance feelings of wellbeing).

There’s no hard evidence to say what type of exercise works the best or even how much you should actually do. More intense exercise could have better results but it’s always recommended to start off at a lower, more realistic pace and slowly build up. Setting a goal that's unachievable will lead you to fail fast which and only set you back in the long run. Even starting off with a 30 minute walk/jog a few days a week would be enough to get the ball rolling and it give you a great starting point to begin from.

Where to from here?

Start by setting yourself a goal, something small and achievable but also something you can be proud of. Thinking too long term can be a daunting aspect and it can put you off even trying. That's where a lot of people develop the mentality of "If I don't try, then technically I won't fail".

If mental illness is something you've ever experienced or you're interested in learning more about it I highly recommend speaking to a professional about it. I've pasted a few links on more information below for anyone who is interested...

Live healthy, live happy!


Medical Professionals

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
https://www.wesleymission.org.au/

More Information on Exercise and Mental Health

http://healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-and-wellbeing
http://www.helpguide.org/articles/exercise-fitness/emotional-benefits-of-exercise.htm
https://www.thebxngclub.com/blog/mental-health-impacts-working-out-gym