Most people think of exercising as this exhausting chore to lose or gain weight because we’re unhappy with our body figure. And while that may be the case for some, I want you to consider making that priority last – and putting mental and spiritual health first.
Now I have had my fair share of weight fluctuation. The largest I have been is 30 lbs overweight, and honestly – I didn’t mind it. I wasn’t too happy with how I looked in pictures, but I felt better than ever.
I go through periods of consistent exercise routines throughout my life, and when I met my fiance, I stopped working out, started medication, and gained happy weight on top of it all.
My back is the death of me it literally always hurts and I’m always cracking it 57 times a day and asking my fiance to massage it – and when we had to start working from home with my company due to COVID19, I was able to work in my favorite place in the world- my bed.
Unfortunately, my back hated that, and I was getting less movement than I already was working in a cubicle.
I also noticed that my mood was deteriorating. I was taking mental health days, switching medication, and constantly irritated.
So, for my back and for the serotonin, I decided to buy a gym membership again, and I wish I had done it a lot sooner but I have now been consistently working out for a few months several times a week and I feel great.
The thing with exercise that people should really understand is that it simultaneously affects your physical, mental and spiritual health – they go hand in hand and improve each other in exchange.
So physically, it’s obvious what the benefits of exercise are, but what we fail to remember is that physical activity carries over benefits to mental and spiritual health.
So let’s talk about how physical exercise helps our mental health first:
-When you exercise regularly, especially on said day, your brain’s biological clock needs to rest in order to recover from the physical strain you endured. So if you struggle with insomnia like I do, this is a huge bonus. Exercising makes you tired, and not just physically exhausted because you just ran a mile, but overall. When you’re able to sleep through the night, especially 8 hours, you’re less likely to wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Cranky, because you couldn’t sleep or slept on your neck wrong. You wake up fresh and ready to take on the day. Starting the day off on a positive note is apt to bring more positive energy towards you the rest of the day.
-As I’m sure most of you have heard, exercising also increases our serotonin levels. Serotonin and dopamine are the chemicals in our brain that make us happy, motivated, and receptive. So quite literally, working out allows our brain to properly release these chemicals – and for those of you who need instant gratification, I can validate that yes, even one sufficient workout sesh will give you noticeable results.
For me, this is vital. And the main reason I exercise. Mental illness is becoming more an more prevalent in newer generations. I suffer and shine from bipolar 2, and the lows can be debilitating sometimes. I, like most people, need to have a foreseeable future in order to plan and control my schedule. So an unforeseen day of crying in bed all day and getting 0 house chores and errands done can screw my whole week up – not to mention, it’s not a fun time.
Since I have started working out again, my mood journal has been 99% happy which has not happened in about three years. So like I said, this is incredibly rewarding and addicting. My back hurts less, but not where I’d like to be so we’ll have to check back on that another time. But anyways,
Depression is reduced due to the serotonin your body is creating.
Anxiety is reduced due to the fact that your focus is on other things like exercise and positive emotions. Not to mention, once you find an exercise routine you enjoy, you become more confident having mastered a routine, and most likely – more self esteem due to endorphins and physical health.
-Physical exercise is also an oxymoron in the way that it actually gives you more energy. Especially with cardio exercises that allow the blood in your veins to pump – the organs in your body are being replenished at a healthy rate – allowing your body to give you more energy. Having more energy means getting more done. Maybe it’s the simple chores around your house, that project you’ve been working on or wanted to, friends you’ve been avoiding, or an extra shift for more money. Whatever it is – the energy you’ve been lacking to get things done that you want and need to get done, is now there. And accomplishing these things on your to do list reduces your anxiety and stress.
So, now that we understand that physical activity benefits mental health- let’s talk about how this benefits spiritual health.
If you’re a normal person who’s ever been angry, sad or even blinded by love, you probably know that you can’t think straight when you are. That being sad, how can you possibly focus on spiritual health if your mental health or even physical health is going downhill?
How can you meditate and empty your mind if you have mental and physical stressors that are impeding your focus? How can you listen to your inner self if your inner self is too wounded to be heard? How can you connect to other entities if you are moving through a mucky swamp of negativity?
Yes- Physical, Mental and Spiritual health do exchange benefits with each other simultaneously- but it’s easier to start that chain reaction with physical exercise.
If your spiritual health is great, it might be easier for you to see how to tackle your mental health and physical health. But it’s easier said than done. Just like if your mental health is great, it might take some extra inner strength to tackle physical and spiritual health.
Externally exerting your body in physical exercise allows your inner strength to kick into gear. Which is why I suggest to start exercising whatever duration, intensity or frequency that works for you – to allow yourself to prepare for mental and spiritual exercise much easier.
Personally, I exercise 2-3 times a week for about an hour to an hour and a half. I always start with cardio to help my blood flow by running a mile -and then I target the day’s muscle group with strength training to help my back. Like I said, immediately I noticed a significant improvement in my mental health- and my back hurts less but is still on the road to recovery.
The biggest issue here is the motivation. If I don’t feel like working out, i’m not going to do it. I don’t care personally how big or small I am – at this point in my life – but I do care about my mental health a lot and I know that exercise is the easiest way to begin tackling that. So for me, that is what got me addicted to working out, even on days I really don’t want to. The other thing that helps me stay on routine is the fact that I pay for a membership.
A lot of people would rather work out for free in nature or work out in the privacy of their own home and I admire that immensely, but for me personally, if I am not held accountable – I will slack. I need the public eye to notice if I’m just moseying at the gym – which by the way, no one pays attention to you at all but In my mind, I’m the main character, so If I dont work out at the gym – then I feel like people are like what is she doing here? I’m not just going to show up and lay on the floor for an hour staring at my phone.
And then of course the other accountability is that I’m paying for the membership and money doesn’t grow on trees. So I make sure I go at least twice a week, and that I put my undivided attention towards it so that I’m getting my money’s worth. Obviously, I wasn’t sweating bullets my first couple workouts, but after scoping out the different machines and trying different exercises to see what I like to build my own little routine, I went from – at least I came today- to , I want to feel like I did my best and put my all into today’s workout.
So yes, a gym membership works for me and keeps me going- the other motivation I have is a gym buddy. Like memberships, not everyone needs or wants one and I admire that, but again, it’s the accountability thing for me. Not to mention, if you can see your buddy’s results physically, mentally and or spiritually over time – you’re looking at a mirror of your own progress which is hard to observe so I think that’s really cool and a rewarding experience and bond for you and your buddy so kudos!