The impact exercise has on my mental health

Sometimes I underestimate the positive impact exercise has on my mental health. Throughout the past 5 years or so, I have been to the gym, taken part in gym classes, workouts at home and recently started the couch to 5K program again. Every time I begin exercising after a few weeks or months off, I instantly feel the impact it has on my mind and mental health. It really is true when people say how much exercise can help you feel better.

I only started the couch to 5K 2 weeks ago but honestly, considering how down I was and how much I was struggling with lockdown 3.0 before I started running, the change I have felt within myself after doing a half an hour walk/run is truly impressive. Also, getting fresh air and blocking out the world with my headphones is another thing I love about going for a run! Plus the alone time after being in my house for the majority for the past year…

I’ve always enjoyed walks and have understood how much a walk helps me clear my mind and relaxes my anxiety or stress. So, I did have hope that doing a running program would be a positive decision. I think sometimes, we sit there and think how much we can’t be bothered to exercise, whether that’s a quick 15 minute ab circuit at home, or getting dressed to go for a gym class; it can feel like so much effort, especially on the days that are harder than others.

I remember when I used to do my clubbercise class at 8pm on a weekday. I’d get in from working up London at 7pm, quickly have a slice of toast for dinner and then walk round to the gym for 8. It felt stressful every single week trying to make sure I was home in time, and sometimes I would dread going. But the second, I stepped foot in the class, I felt better. My mind was busy copying the teacher on what moves to do next, the music was blasting and I did it with my bestie. It almost made me feel like I had just been to therapy for an hour. I’d leave the class and feel 100x better than what I did beforehand. I felt refreshed and like all my problems had gone away (which I know isn’t the case, the problems are still very much there, but it was nice to have an hour of relaxation and sweating out my anger/issues).

So, even when it is the case that you may feel like you have no motivation or effort to even move off your bed, always try to think how you will feel during and especially after your piece of exercise.

For someone who loves shopping, another pro to exercising, is that it gives me a reason to buy new clothes…yes, I know this may not be a sensible thing, but it makes exercise more fun! I love buying new clothes to wear to go for a run, or a new pair of trainers (for comfort but also style). Treat yourself, look good to feel good! Plus, who doesn’t love buying a new outfit???

There’s so many ways you can introduce exercise into your life, or if you already had a exercise routine and have fallen off the road a bit (don’t worry, we all have, its been a pandemic), then figure out what works best with you. Switch it up if you’ve had the same fitness routine for a while and starting to feel yourself getting bored of it.

Some exercise ideas include:

– Running
– Walking
– 100 squats a day
– Weights
– Hula hooping
– Skipping
– Boxing
– Yoga
– Zumba
– HIIT
– Focus on one area for a while such as, abs or glutes

Find what you enjoy most, or try something new!

The message I want to get across from this blog post is that, if you’re debating a new fitness routine or even as simple as going for walks more often, exercise does wonders for your mental health. Take it from someone who has struggled with mental health for years, yet like I said, whenever I then do a workout or go for a run, I can’t even express the positive impact it has on my health. Not only mentally, but physically I feel so much better because I know I’ve done something good for my body. Exercise has a lot of pros to it and I do think that its worth giving it a go. Not everyone will love exercise, but it may be the case that you try and then you end up sticking to it for months because of how good it makes you feel. Think about it in the way that, there is no harm in trying.

How to become body positive

Becoming body positive isn’t something that happens over night. It’s something that takes time and effort to find it within yourself to be positive towards your body. Everyone responds differently to their body and how it makes them feel but I wanted to touch on a few tips that have helped me in my journey of loving my body for what it is. But trust me, it wasn’t easy for me to be body positive and I still have days where I dislike how I look, but that’s okay. It’s a journey and it’s about growing from the down days and loving your body even if the day before you cried over it.

Firstly, I want to say that your body isn’t just about what it looks like. Remember the real importance of your body and how incredible it is. Your body is there to get you through every single day, it experiences everything in your life with you and its there to allow you to live. Whether you’re a size 4 or a size 20, our bodies all have the same reason and meaning behind it. It carries and creates babies, it changes every single year, it grows as you grow. So, remember that your body, everyone’s body has such a bigger meaning in life than just how it looks.

Let’s go through some tips that have helped me on my body positive journey:

Tip 1: Understanding that every body is different

I think the first thing you want to understand is that our bodies aren’t meant to be the same. I know so many people have probably told you this before or you’ve heard similar things but how boring would it be if we all looked the same? Understand that your body is the way it is because that’s how you was created. You was brought into this world to be the shape you are. That doesn’t mean I’m saying to never exercise to make your body the way you want (girl if you want that but to be bigger, then do those squats). But what more of us need to understand is that all bodies are different and that’s okay. It’s okay to have a different body from your bestie or the person you once saw in a nightclub (do we even remember what a nightclub is…this pandemic has been long…). We are different and that’s what makes this world so beautiful and interesting.

Tip 2: Don’t look in the mirror

You may be sitting there reading this thinking ‘how can I be body positive if I don’t look in the mirror???’ Hear me out. A time in my life, I was looking at my body in every mirror and reflection possible.. Did this make me feel body positive? No. In fact, it was probably the lowest I felt about my body. It was constantly on my mind to ‘check’ what my body was looking like, asif it would change within an hour. I’d go to have a bath but spend 20 minutes staring at myself, picking my body apart. It wasn’t healthy. Therefore, if you’re finding that you are always looking at your body to try and find something wrong with it then please, I know it’s easier said than done, but try and take a break from doing this. Whether you decide to remove a mirror from your room, or you get dressed in the corner of your room so you don’t see your reflection; make a change to look at yourself less. You may be surprised the impact it has on yourself and your mind by taking some time away from a mirror.

Tip 3: Don’t buy clothes just because they’re on sale

I’m very guilty of buying clothes just because it’s a bargain. I’d buy a top for £3 because it was reduced. But did I actually like this top? No, not really. I know we all love to grab a bargain when we can and sometimes these bargains pay off SO well for us, but changing your shopping attitudes can really help you become more positive about your body. Take time in deciding what you buy. Try the clothes on. If you order them, try them on twice before deciding whether to keep it. Find clothes that fit you the way you feel most confident. If it’s the case that you love an item but it’s a bit pricey, instead of spending money on other ‘basic’ clothing just for the sake of it, save up and buy that 1 item that could become such an essential in feeling positive in how you look.

Tip 4: Write down what you love about yourself

Granted, I think most of you will read this tip and think ‘there’s no way I’m writing a list complimenting myself’. I get it. A while ago I would be thinking the same. However, don’t write a list of what you love about yourself when you’re in a down mood because it will most likely only make it worse and your mind will make you believe that there isn’t anything you can write down. Maybe instead, wake up one day and before you do anything else, you note down 3 things like you love. It could be that you love how long your eyelashes are, or the size of your thighs. Writing down positives about ourself will be a huge step into your body positive journey. Feel proud about the body you have and hunny, if you have 17 things you love about yourself or even 90 things, then write them down!! Express your love for your body.

Tip 5: If you think exercise will help, then do it

Exercise is an activity that massively helps with mental health and the way you feel about yourself. This isn’t me saying you have to exercise to be body positive because you don’t have to change your body at all to do so. However, some people may find that working up a sweat and buying new gym clothes or going for a 3K run, does wonders for their confidence. When you know you’ve done something that impacts your mental health but also your physical health, it gives you that boost, those few minutes or whole week of happiness because you put in the effort to motivate yourself to sweat it out. Exercise is something that grows my confidence more than I thought it would. But again, exercise isn’t for everyone but if you are debating doing it, even if it’s once a week, try it!

Tip 6: Unfollow them

I’ll leave this as my last tip, and probably for some of you this will be the most important and affective tip. If you are following people who don’t bring you happiness on social media, then get rid. Whether you unfollow them or mute them, if you’re constantly comparing yourself or feeling down when that person uploads a selfie, then do something about it. Stop yourself from feeling down because ‘you don’t look like them’ and unfollow!!! The impact this has is insane. Trust me, if you asked anyone who has gone through their following list and unfollowed the people who don’t bring positivity to their life, they will most likely say it was one of the best things they have done to help their mindset and views on themselves. Follow people who’s posts bring you joy, who make you feel good and inspire you. Stop scrolling through a feed that makes you unhappy. You’re better than that.

I hope these tips make sense and that you find at least one of them useful. I know these tips may be quite ‘common’ but they’re still just as important as the last person who may of mentioned them. These tips are here to help you find your way through your journey of becoming body positive. When you put the time, effort and trust in yourself, you will see a difference.

If anyone else has any other tips or ways that helped you become body positive, please comment them – I would love to hear!