How Exercise Saved My Mental Health
Learn how exercise can better your mental health.
My Running Story
I played basketball in high school, but when it came to conditioning time, I hated it.
I hated running!
I use to dread the 4 little words…GET ON THE LINE! Which meant the whole team had to line up on the end line and run down the court and back under a crazy short amount of time. (short to me anyway). I was never the fastest. If we didn’t meet our time, we ran it again. I also dreaded the mile, the 400, and anything that involved my 2 feet getting somewhere faster than my body would allow.
It wasn’t until college that I started running. My friend dared me to not gain the Freshman 15 by challenging me to run 1 mile four times a week, for the whole school year. 1 mile felt so long, but I did it! AND I started liking it. I also lost 15 pounds instead of gaining. It was great!
Running then became my outlet for everything. Whenever I was going through a hard time, I ran. Whenever I was mad, I ran.
One day I felt overwhelmed (probably somewhat depressed) with life, crying on my mother’s shoulder, and she said:
“You can’t control everything that happens to you or what other people do, so you have to focus on what you can control. Just pick one thing you can control, and start focusing on only that thing!'”
So I did, and that thing was running!
Running has been a constant in my life for the past 10 years, and I feel like it has saved my life. I started out running just 1 mile then in 2012 I finished my first full marathon. It was an amazing experience. One I may not repeat, but amazing all the same. I continue to run today and challenge myself by training for all different races because it is a great outlet from life.
When I became a mother, it was my saving grace. After having each one of my children, I suffered with postpartum depression and anxiety. So, after each child, I signed up for a race. It was a double whammy: I’d lose the weight and feel happy again.
I continue to struggle with depression and anxiety, and running continues to be that outlet. When things get overwhelming, I run. #itsbetterthanbecominganalcoholic
Now, I’m not saying you have to run, but I highly encourage exercise, for everyone, but especially if you’re depressed or anxious and here’s why:
6 Ways Exercise Can Save Your Mental Health
1. It’s in your control.
When it comes to anxiety and depression, you often feel like you’ve lost control of your emotions and your life. It’s easy to feel this way.
However, exercise is something YOU can control. It can be whatever you want it to be.
I can run 3 miles or 5 miles and I can run it as fast or as slow as I want. I don’t have anyone telling me what to do, or pressures to worry about, no kids demanding my attention or time. I just listen to my body and go!
2. You have more energy.
Sometimes I am so tired I don’t want to work out. Depression and anxiety are energy suckers! I day dream about my bed all day and the fastest way to get to it!
However, when I work out, I get more energy. The nights I don’t workout, I’m falling asleep by 9:00. When I do workout, I usually get about an hour of something extra done around the house and then go to bed around 11:00. It just gives you more energy.
And as a mom, I’ll take all the energy I can get.
3. Happy Endorphins.
It’s true! Running or exercise releases happy endorphins. You may not feel this way during the exercise, but it’s happening!
When you exercise you release a chemical called Serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate your mood. Higher Serotonin levels increases your happy mood! I have often come back from a run a completely different person than when I left. #Happypeoplejustdon’tshoottheirhusbands (name that movie).
4. You feel healthier and stronger.
Everyone strives to be more healthy. Exercise just makes you feel healthier. Like you’re progressing to a healthier you.
Your body becomes stronger because you’ve pushed it beyond it’s normal limits and it adapts to those limits, and it feels good. You feel good about yourself and your self-esteem and confidence increases!
Pair it with some healthy eating and you’ll definitely shed a few pounds.
5. It’s a break.
When I run, I just forget life. I just concentrate on me and my body and forget everyone else. It’s like I’m fighting the world when I push my body beyond it’s limits. It’s like I’m telling myself that I can do this; I can beat the world.
6. Sort through emotions.
Not always, but sometimes, I am able to think more clearly and see things in a different perspective. I’m able to sort through my emotions without all the distractions around me.
Whatever it might be, find an outlet that works for you. Something that helps keep you grounded, uplifts you, and can go to in times of need. You could start by running. Here are some tips on how to start.
Related: 9 Tips for Beginner Runners
Related: 10 ten minute Workouts for Busy Moms