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How to work out for your mental health

Get physically fit while also paying mind to anxiety and depression

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Even with gyms reopening at limited capacity, it’s still safer to exercise at home or outdoors. Check out our other Muscle Month to help you keep up your fitness, power, and health in socially distant times.

It’s no secret that your bodily health depends on your mental health and vice versa. While lack of exercise might emphasize feelings of depression and anxiety, squeezing into your workout gear can lead to lots of benefits, like a rush of happy endorphins and a distraction from your daily worries. Over time, active people tend to be more confident and social, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Hillary Cauthen, a psychologist and board member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, calls exercise a form of “consistent coping,” which keeps our minds resilient and prepared for any stress or difficulties life may throw at us. But the type of exercise also makes a difference on the individual level, Cauthen says.

“Any movement is wonderful for your natural boost,” she explains. “But when you dive a little bit deeper into where you hold tension or what you’re struggling with, you can adapt those workouts, and that increases the motivation to sustain [an active lifestyle]”.

Here are two of Cauthen’s tips on choosing a workout that best supports your mental health needs in the short and long run.

Be mindful while working out

It’s true that high-intensity workouts can give you cathartic release through a rush of positive emotions and clarity. But it’s also important to take the time to check in with your emotions, Cauthen says, and choose an activity that matches your status quo. If you’re feeling anxious, think an exercise like yoga or pilates that helps you center yourself and focus mainly on breathing. If your mind is running in circles, dipping down rabbit holes, and seeing the worst in every scenario, Cauthen says these activities can be incredibly helpful.

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