Is Exercise Good For Your Mind? 5 Workouts That Are Perfect For Your Mental Health Day
You don't need me to tell you how important it is to take care of your body through regular workouts. However, with busy schedules and extensive to-do lists, it's easy to fall into the trap of prioritizing only your physical health and placing mental health on the back-burner. Having said that, it's so, so important to find a balance between these two, and to make time for strengthening both. Yes, working out is obviously good for your physical health, but is exercise good for your mind, too?
Studies show that regular exercise improves your overall mental health and self-image. Working out and moving your body in ways you love can help to reduce the intensity of anxiety and depression, and it can even improve your cognitive abilities.
The first full week of October marks Mental Illness Awareness Week, which focuses on the reality of understanding how mental illness feels and informing people about the very common symptoms that anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other mental health conditions can bring.
According to its website, Mental Health America — a nonprofit, leading organization devoted to the cause — encourages you to have the same kind of check-ups you might get for your physical health for your mental well-being. This definitely means not shying away from allowing yourself to take the occasional mental health day.
Overall, informing yourself about mental health and learning how you can manage a mental illness through an active lifestyle and self-care is imperative to leading a healthy, balanced, and fulfilling life.
For now, if you're just looking to make the most of a mental health day, here are five workouts that are perfect for when your mind needs a little TLC and a lot of love.
1. An Energizing Yoga Flow
Yoga helps you tune in to your sense of self and establish a sharpened awareness in both your body and your mind.
Basically, you get to know yourself better, all while strengthening and lengthening your physical body in the process.
Yoga also results in a shift from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, according to Yoga Journal. This is also known as your body getting out of "fight-or-flight" mode and shifting to "rest-and-digest."
Taking time for a calming, yet strengthening, juicy yoga flow will relax your nervous system, and you'll feel any stress and tension slowly melt away.
2. A Sweaty HIIT Circuit
An intense HIIT workout releases loads of endorphins that'll leave you feeling positive vibes for days after the fact.
Essentially, these circuits are so challenging that there's no room to really think about anything else except for your goals and the exercises at hand.
So, basically, for the length of time that you're doing the workout, you can let go of any and all feelings of anxiety or worry in the name of simply sweating it out.
3. An Impromptu Dance Session
Dancing usually puts a smile on just about anyone's face, and you can do it literally anywhere. (My personal favorite includes an impromptu salsa sesh in my underwear, but you do you.)
According to Huffington Post, dancing increases your self-esteem and is highly recommended for those living with mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.
Shaking it out and allowing yourself to be silly and playful is honestly therapeutic AF, and it doesn't even feel like you're exercising.
Put on your all-time favorite jams, move your bod to the rhythm, and simply lose yourself in the sheer joy of the moment.
4. A Long Walk
Walking is an amazing place to begin if you're not used to incorporating exercise in your routine. And TBH, it's still incredible even if you're a self-proclaimed gym rat.
Leisurely long walks can help you fight symptoms of depression and greatly improve your overall mental well-being. Plus, neurotransmitters are released in your brain when you walk, which improve your mood and lift your spirits, proving the physical and psychological benefits that a nice stroll can provide.
So, for your next mental health day, lace up your shoes and grab a friend, or pull up your favorite podcast and get walkin' solo style.
5. A Hike Through Nature
According to Health.com, being surrounded by plants, trees, and nature in general can help reduce anxiety — not just because of the oxygen filling your lungs and brain, but also because plants emit certain chemicals to slow down their decay, which in turn apparently slow down your racing thoughts, as well.
So, if you're feeling adventurous and want to take your workout outdoors, hiking is sure to make you feel rejuvenated and totally stress-free.
Bottom line: Caring for and being aware of your own mental health is cool as hell, and exercise is an incredible way to take the matter into your own hands, have some quality "you time," and center your mind and body when you need it most.