Practicing mental health strategies is not just for psychology students, but can be beneficial for all lifelong learners. A regular exercise regimen will reduce your stress, lift your mood, improve your self-esteem and help you get a restful night’s sleep. Try some of these fun activities to help boost your brain power.
Take a Hike
If going to the gym seems daunting and dull to you, try moving your workout outdoors. Advertisers know that colors are powerful visual elements that can trigger psychological responses for the audience. Green exercise leverages a similar benefit to our senses and improves the way we feel and perceive the world. Fit Day, a weight loss and diet journal describes the effects:
"Green exercise has been observed to be very beneficial for people who are feeling sad or anxious. Natural environments filled with beautiful greenery, colorful flowers, mountains and bodies of water are ideal locations for physical exercise. Nature has an enlivening yet soothing effect on your senses. It helps to calm your nerves and quiet your mind. Green exercise is especially helpful if you consciously focus your attention on the beauty of the scenery all around you as you exercise."
Every state has dedicated parks to help residents stay fit with biking and hiking trails, find one that is near to you and set aside time to get up and get going. It can also inspire you to explore and travel the world. Both international and domestic destinations allow you to learn about different cultures, customs and beliefs, improving your knowledge and broadening your perspectives.
Aerobics is one of the most popular types of cardio exercises for good reason – it makes us happy. At a basic level it involves exerting a level of activity that causes a person to breath heavily while using large muscle groups at an even and regular pace. Fit Day dives into the details noting the benefits of aerobic exercise.
"Research shows that aerobic exercise has anti-depressant effects on the body. When you elevate your heart rate and increase your blood circulation, you will experience an increase in endorphins. Endorphins numb pain and improve your mood. To get these benefits, engage in aerobic exercise that you can sustain for a minimum of 30 minutes several times per week. It can also make people more confident and increase their self-esteem. Regular aerobic activities can make you feel full of energy and more youthful."
Whether you have danced for 20 years or never in your life, it is a great way to improve multiple dimensions of wellness in your life. Many fitness centers offer free dance classes to their members, ask the staff next time you are at the gym for a schedule of group classes. Working out with friends not only helps motivate you to keep going, but gives you a social outlet to connect with others. Studios are also available for those who are seeking a more formal environment for instruction, with many options to choose from including ballet, hip hop, jazz, modern and tap.
The popularity of Dancing with the Stars has also boosted the ballroom dancing market in recent years, with centers specifically devoted to learning swing, foxtrot and related forms of dance. This gives you the opportunity to flip date night from that carb filled dinner to a fun activity that improves your body and mind. Of course dance is just one example of aerobic activity, if it’s not your thing you can always try other activities such as cycling or running.
For those who are looking for a balance in their lives, yoga is a great activity to help them find it. Because there are so many styles of the activity form, it is available to almost everyone regardless of their level of fitness. My Yoga provides three benefits:
1 - It teaches you to live in the moment
"All thoughts about the mistakes you made yesterday and the things you have to do tomorrow fade away as you try to hold a pose and focus on your breathing; it’s meditative. When you live in the moment, even for the short duration of a yoga class, you’ll feel more positive about yourself, your day and your life. This positive attitude boosts your overall mental health in a powerful way."
2 - It can help with stress reduction
"There are many facets of yoga that also cause your overall stress levels to be reduced. The focused breathing alone has been shown to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and lower blood pressure. Additionally, when you exercise, endorphins are released. These endorphins help boost your mood and facilitate better stress management."
3 - It can help you achieve emotional balance
"A professor from Harvard University conducted a study that looked at 11th and 12th graders and found that teens that took a yoga class instead of a traditional physical education class reported feeling more balanced and in control of their emotions. Keep in mind that, during these developmental years, emotional balance is a large challenge for teens."
You don’t have to be Michael Phelps to bring your health up to the gold standard. Swimming and other water activities have physical and psychological benefits. For the supply chain managers out there it is even more efficient than land-based exercises. Around 30 minutes of steady, paced line swimming can burn over 200 calories and brings the same benefits as 45 minutes of on ground activity. Active breaks down the psychological benefits of swimming for us:
"Studies among both amateur and professional swimmers have shown that those who swim regularly experience less tension, depression and anger after a session in the pool, and they gain significantly more energy through swimming than through other types of exercise. It is easy to see how swimming can help to relax both body and mind. Being in the water can take you away from it all for a short while, and the feeling of being in the pool can be a refreshing, relaxing and liberating experience as the water takes your weight."
Water-based exercise improve mood in both men and women and warm water can decrease depression and improve your overall mood. Some studies even show that this type of exercise can improve the health of pregnant mothers and their soon to arrive kin. Experts also say that parents of children with developmental disabilities find that recreational activities such as swimming help improve family connections.
What's your favorite activity that improves your mental health?