This month’s blog was guest-written by Rasathi, founder of Rasath1, a lifestyle brand created to take you on a journey of self awareness. For more information on Rasath1, do visit www.rasath1.com.
Fitness has become another reason to post selfies. Whether it’s the latest in gym gear, flaunting your physique or maxing out your muscle mass, you can’t deny the increase in Gym related pictures and videos. But beneath all the #wod #ootd hype is a serious connection between mind and body. The body is an extension of the mind: as you think, so you become; but in some instances, forcing your body to exercise can positively influence your mind. Here are 4 major wins for mental health. (Hint: Fitness is the key to each!)
Workout for a good night’s rest
In the dark ages, before WiFi, it was customary to go to sleep when the sun went down. Since the invention of the lightbulb, LED TV and iPhone, things have changed but not necessarily for our best health. Today 50-70 million adults in the US alone have a sleep disorder. The yearly workplace cost of insomnia is estimated at $63.2 billion. 1 in 4 women suffer from insomnia. Snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea which is a potentially serious sleeping disorder that causes people to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. Shift work and Sleep-Wake disorders are on the rise since business is now 24hrs a day. The statistics surrounding lack of sleep are staggering but what happens when the brain doesn’t sleep?
A lack of sleep tends to increase our focus on negative experiences, which results in a person becoming more easily angered, and also reduces our ability to creatively think our way through conversations and problem solving. We usually combat fatigue, lack of focus and general crankiness with comfort foods based in caffeine and sugar but there’s a better hack for all that! A 15-20 minute simple workout can be a great sleep hack! Since sleep is essential to brain function, and less than optimal brain function means a slew of mental health difficulties, a workout is a great way to physically tire out your body and reset your circadian rhythms.
Workout to keep your brain active and young
Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle, which means minimal physical activity, increases the risk of various health complications including clotting and cardiovascular diseases. Excessive sitting is becoming a precursor to major health problems. 300,000 deaths occur annually due to inactivity which is terrifying since we sit for an average of 11 hours each day. 20% of deaths among people 35 and over are due to a lack of inactivity. What you may not realize is that inactivity also contributes to struggles with mental health such as anxiety and depression.
Bottom line, sitting still for long hours doesn’t count as a life well lived. In fact it causes us to age faster and speeds up the deterioration of our ability to think. Binging TV leaves us wondering where the time went and tends to keep us socially isolated and feeling like we didn’t accomplish much. Enter the anxiety of deadlines you’ve successfully procrastinated, and depression over your life in comparison to your favorite RomCom character. Gym sessions or intermittent exercises in and around your desk during work are an easy way to supercharge your mind. Aerobic exercise enhances neurogenesis, or the growing of new neurons and neural pathways. Exercise obviously increases blood flow, and with blood flow comes oxygen ,which is crucial to critical thinking and memory, which means exercise can enhance confidence and prevent Alzheimers, and dementia. Sweating it out also helps the release of endorphins and enkephalins which help us feel good and protects against sensitivity to stress, anxiety and depression.
Workout to regulate your mood
Not many people talk about their inner critic who that has something to say about all your actions, instead we pretend that it only happens to other people. Other people have issues, moods, or mental health problems. We do our best to get over our feelings and put them away instead of really understanding them. According to Psychology Today, the rate of anxiety and depression are the highest they’ve ever been across the world. Countries such as India, China, US and UK are proof that our modern life results in generally uninspired routine life and are often numbed by medication, drinking or binge watching TV. This means that you get used to coming home after a hard day to veg out before bed but even that can leave you feeling worthless and empty.
Introducing 15-20 minutes of purposeful activity like lifting weights or cardio can improve so much in your life. The aerobic nature of the exercise gets your heart pumping and lungs breathing deeper. The extra blood flow and oxygen serve to energize your body and ironically, calm you down. While you may not see immediate waistline results, the release of chemicals like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin can help you feel more calm, confident, clear minded, and accomplished. Simply being able to complete a simple workout can make a world of difference for your regulating your mood.
Workouts lead to healthy appetite, healthy appetite leads to steady mental health
Today we have Food Panda, Grab Food and Tapao boxes. Singapore is a country of take away cuisine and we have representatives from all styles of cooking and all cultures within arm’s reach. But health isn’t just about your body. Mental health can also be affected by the food you eat. Working out tends to boost our metabolism and doesn’t just help our body goals but affects how we feel as well. 60-90% of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin are produced in the gut and they are essential to mental well-being.
Conversely, the way we feel about life can also affect how we eat. Some of us eat when we are upset and some of us are too nervous to even think about food. That queasy feeling when we are worried or in pain can overpower the message of hunger from our gut. When we are sedentary, we tend to ignore what our body is telling us, but an active lifestyle tends amplify what the body needs to replenish, repair, and refresh itself and overpower our mood. So keeping active helps regulate the brain-gut connection and in turn helps to steady our mental health.