Lockdown is getting tough for a lot of people and the low mood which accompanies it is becoming a sad part of our day to day life. It is an understandable reaction to what is an extremely damaging time. If you are experiencing severe mental trauma or depression, then I would strongly recommend referring to a mental health professional, a therapist or a mental health charity.
However, for a lot of us the lockdown feeling is one of general lethargy and a low mood, and this can be improved by taking some action yourself in the form of exercise.
Everyone knows that exercise is beneficial to the body, however it also beneficial to the mind in a number of ways.
In combatting depression, exercise can help by increasing neural growth, reducing inflammation in the brain, and releasing endorphins which promote a feelgood feeling. A small amount of exercise can have this effect. If you are feeling depressed, then forcing yourself into a full, energetic workout, may be beyond what you want to do, but just a 15 minute walk¸ or an activity such as gardening or even housework, can trigger these positive mental effects.
When you are feeling under stress, the body can tense up, and you can hold a lot of this tension in your muscles. Exercises such as those found in yoga, pilates, or even just some gentle stretching, can serve as muscle relaxant and as the body and mind are linked, relaxation in the body will lead to relaxation in the mind.
Exercise can improve mood by providing a distraction, and a focus elsewhere, in a similar way to mediation. The slow movements of yoga can have a meditative effect, quietening the mind of negative thoughts and allowing you to focus on the movement of your body.
A group exercise, like Zumba, can also be a great way of distracting as the varying combinations of movement involved in a dance fitness class require a focus which means you are less able to think about other things.
As well as boosting your mood, some of the other mental benefits of exercise include:
Sharper memory and thinking – as exercise promotes the growth of brain cells this can also prevent age related mental decline.
Higher Self Esteem – as a result of feeling a sense of achievement when you see small changes to your body, and by the feeling you get through committing to and persevering with, exercise.
Better Sleep – exercise can regulate your sleep patterns.
More Energy – although you may feel you don’t have the energy for exercise, just a few minutes a day that increases your heart rate will also increase your ‘get up and go.’
Stronger mental resilience – exercise can help you cope with mental trauma in a healthier way than resorting to things like alcohol, drugs or excess food.
If January has been more difficult for you than you thought it would be, or if it has been every bit as difficult as you were anticipating, why not use February to restart the clock and begin some exercise. Even a short walk, or a class a week, can help you boost your mood and make you feel happier, mentally stronger, and able to cope with the ongoing challenges we are facing.
A lot of this information has been taken from HelpGuide and I have linked this whole guide below as it is well worth a read.
If you are struggling at this time, I would strongly urge you to speak up. There is always someone who will listen.