Exercise comes highly recommended in the treatment and support for mental health difficulties such as depression and anxiety and helps us to increase our resilience towards stress in life. There are of course so many physical benefits to doing exercise, but as a counsellor id like to concentrate on the mental aspect.
I asked some friends to describe to me why their exercise helps their mental health. I will be writing a few articles on this topic to inspire you! Exercise might be the prescription but the effects are all so unique to each individual.
The first recommendation by Lucy, Dave, Rob and Dave is Cycling.
Cycling has been such a massive part of my life for so long now. I’m always told that I ‘live to fast’, and ‘need to slow down’ etc etc… But I find that cycling is the time I slow down the most, it gives me brain space and gives me a chance to mull over and get rid of everything I might keep squirrelled away in my head in my own time!! I also find being outside and in the countryside healing (for want of a better word) – whatever is going on in life, there’s always some beautiful surprise round the corner!
I’ve found that I’ve come to enjoy endurance sport in my adult life. I love cycling the scenic route to the swimming pool. I’ve never been into swimming but have gradually improved from breast stroke to freestyle and gradually built up the distance week by week. It is the best thing for a good night’s sleep!
On a long bike ride, rotten week in work, feeling really down wondering what’s the point in life, why should I carry on. Hit a hill, really nasty long climb that is going to hurt. Hit the hill, it hurts, hurts really bad, wonder why I’m doing it. Carry on.
It still hurts, lungs hurt, heart is pounding, starting to feel a bit emotional, starting to think that I’m a failure, why can’t I do this, I used to be able to do this, why am I so crap. Carry on.
It still hurts, legs hurt, feel sick, carry on, no point turning round, just got to shut up and get on with it. Carry on.
Feeling truly crap but not long now. Starting to think I’m getting near the top. Still bloody painful though. Carry on.
Top is in sight. Not sure I can make it but just dig in and carry on. Not long now. Carry on.
Get to the top. Totally shagged out, finally got there. Need to rest, need to recover. Spin legs out. Looking down at the bike, shoulders heaving. Can feel heart rate slowing, and starting to recover.
Realise I haven’t thought about work, life or negative thoughts for the last 3/4 of the climb, in fact couldn’t give a crap about the bad things in life anymore, every day worries seem totally insignificant. I got to the top of the hill.
Carry on. Rest of the day is much much better. Feel much happier. 🙂
I cycle almost every day as my main method of commuting and take it for granted sometimes. I love the fact that I can propel myself along – powered by whatever I’ve eaten that morning. If I cycle a long way, I always treat myself afterwards to a nice bun or cake! I find on those days where I don’t cycle, I’m quite sluggish and don’t really wake up fully. The cycle gets my blood pumping and my brain into gear.
The worst part of cycling is other people: from pedestrians crossing without looking, to busses not giving enough room. Sometimes, I catch myself swearing at people and then come to terms that maybe I was at fault! It’s actually quite grounding to realise that everyone suffers from road rage and everyone makes mistakes. We don’t have a perfect road system and we’re all human, struggling to get along and caught up in our own lives and thoughts.