If you thought by exercising you are only building muscle, losing weight, toning your body, getting fit, or improving your general physical health, well, I have some more good news for you. You are shooting so many birds with one stone.
In fact, if you are not a fan of working out and you are reading this, consider rethinking your choices. Physical exercise does not only give you the above benefits but also makes you emotionally and mentally stronger, more stable and healthier
Emotional strength is the ability to manage and control your emotions in situations of stress and extreme joy.
Mental strength is the ability to take productive action in uncomfortable situations.
Miss Catherine Maale, who I often find at the gym, says the gym is her go-to place to regulate her emotions. When she was pregnant and depressed after being dumped by her husband for someone else, it is physical exercise that made her feel stable.
In fact, research findings show that people who often exercise are emotionally and mentally healthier than their sedentary counterparts.
Without further ado, here are the benefits of exercise for both your emotional and mental health.
Benefits of exercise for both your emotional and mental health.
Exercise produces feel-good hormones.
In periods of stress, the body produces the fight-or-flight hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Long periods of stress make the body accumulate so much cortisol which can result in an emotional breakdown, mental breakdown, and sometimes shutting down of some organs.
Exercise makes the body produce feel-good hormones called endorphins which interact with brain receptors to reduce your perception of pain and stress. Endorphins lower the amount of cortisol in the body and regulate it returning you to an emotionally or mentally stable state.
Daily exercise accumulates endorphins in your body that keep you feeling good about yourself and able to manage any emotional triggers of stress.
Poor sleep or long periods without sleep can cause emotional irritability and mental malfunction. To feel emotionally and mentally stable, you need to have sufficient sleep at night. Exercise is one of the natural and healthy sources of good sleep.
When you go to the gym, run or swim, your body is subjected in a healthy way to some kind of exercise that requires a lot of energy. This makes it tired and in need of sleep. In addition to that, the feel-good hormones produced after a workout, relax the body to easily fall asleep without any struggle.
When you work out, you sleep deeply and then wake up energized. This makes the heart, the source of emotions, healthy and the brain, where the mind is, well supplied with blood and rest to function well.
Exercise is one of the best ways to boost your ability to control your thoughts and emotions. Research shows that people who do not exercise are more impulsive than those who do. It takes a lot of sacrifice, self-control, and persistence to convince your body and mind to exercise later on persist until enough is done.
When you are lifting weights or running, there is a voice in your mind telling you to stop running and walk or lift lighter weights, or even to just give up. To resist that voice and push on is the ultimate exercise for your willpower and self control.
It puts you in control of what you think (mental strength) and what you feel (emotional strength). The more you do it, the more self-control you gain. This then goes on to affect other areas of your life that require you to exercise that kind of control.
Self-esteem and cognitive function boost.
Self-esteem means how you feel about yourself. Most of the time, how you feel about yourself has a lot to do with your physical appearance, body strength, and productivity. When you exercise, your body changes into a healthy, fit, and in shape body with a glow on your skin.
This greatly improves your self-image and how you feel about your appearance.
In turn, it boosts your self-esteem. You feel good about yourself for the better looks, high energy, fitness, and ability to do more things than you could do before. Feeling good about yourself puts you in a stable emotional state.
Your cognitive function is also greatly boosted since exercise requires maximum concentration and focus. While exercising you are forced to focus and concentrate. You can’t run on the road or lift heavy weights with your mind somewhere else.
With the high concentration and focus, your attention span extends and your memory is boosted as well. It also strengthens your decision-making abilities since you choose to do the hard staff despite the influence of small voices telling you to give up.
A break from negative emotions and thoughts.
Come to think of it, exercise is not a feel-good activity. You only feel good after successfully finishing a set or the entire workout. But at the point of pushing your body up while squatting with weights on your shoulders, you feel a lot of stress and pain in your body.
The body gets so strained to the extent that it pauses any negative emotions and thoughts in your heart and mind to focus on the new challenge at hand. This gives you a break from the negative emotions and thoughts you hate to the positive and beneficial stress during workouts.
After the workouts, your body will be filled with endorphins that will make you feel much better than you did before the workout.
Building a social life (Social capital).
We are human beings more interconnected than we actually think. We love to have a social life to feel a sense of belongingness. Without that, we can get lonely and even sink into depression. One of the best and most effective ways to network and meet new people or make friends is by going to the gym.
I have met many people from gyms that have gone on to become great friends. I have also gotten a lot of clients and business deals from people at the gym. The interaction during and after workouts is something a lot of people that go to the gym enjoy.
To improve your social life and enlarge your network of people, the gym is a great place to go. If you feel lonely and want to interact with people please go to the gym.
Increased energy levels.
If you lack the strength and motivation to do your daily tasks try working out. A sedentary life weakens the body’s muscles and other organs. The weakness in your body affects your emotional and mental health.
Take, for instance, if you feel weak, your brain will decide to not do tasks since there isn’t enough energy to execute them. Then you will feel bad because you are less productive.
This lowers your mental strength to do hard tasks. With exercise comes high energy levels that enable you to accomplish a lot in a day that makes you feel good about yourself. In turn, your emotional and mental health is boosted.
Release of unnecessary energy and tension.
When you are anxious you feel a load in your chest. That is built up negative energy or stress that needs to be released. One way to do that is by exercising. Physical exercise is an excellent remedy for anxiety.
It transmutes negative energy to productive workouts. Mental stress, brain fog and high arousal are also a form of energy. Physical exercise rids the brain of stress and allows one to focus with mental clarity.
How to get started.
If you are planning to start working out for the first time or have not been doing it for a while, one of the best and most effective work out to boost emotional and mental health is running. The other is resistance training.
Running takes a lot of commitment and persistence. However, the benefits are as much as the investment. In case you have any health issues, visit your doctor first to advise you accordingly.
Start with walking for the first week, upgrade to light jogging for the second and then run in the third week.
Increase your distance gradually. You can start with three kilometers and add one or two per week.
Do not start with running if you are not fit enough or have sufficient endurance. You will burn out so fast or even get a heart attack at worst. Walking prepares your body for jogging which gives you the ability to run.
Endeavor to warm up first then stretch before and after a workout.
In case you can afford a gym membership, subscribe to a local gym. This comes with the benefits of being under the guidance and supervision of a professional instructor, using gym equipment for better workouts, and socializing with other people.
There are also community clubs of people who come together to jog or run. Check with your community for one.
You can also make use of online content of workouts from professional instructors. YouTube has plenty of them. This can help you work out from home in case you can’t make it to the gym.
Proof of impact.
Monitor how you feel and think before committing to physical exercise. Write down a description of the two and keep what you have written in a safe place. Then plan a workout program and commit to it for at least a month.
After that month, write a description of how you feel and think. Compare this to what you wrote down a month back before committing to your workout program. I promise you the two will be different. You will feel much better and think much better.
Conclusion. You do not have control over the things that happen outside your body. You do not have control over what happens to your environment. However, you have control over how you respond to your environment or the people around you. How you respond or react will influence how you feel and think. To be able to respond with the best response, you have to be emotionally and mentally healthy or stable. One way to do that is by exercising to make yourself emotionally and mentally strong, stable, and healthy. Has exercise changed your life emotionally and mentally? Share with me in the comments.