Mental health: It’s a topic that’s been more on radar than ever before, but still not one we’re totally comfortable talking about. The fact of the matter is, one in six New Zealanders and one in five Australians experience a mental health problems in their lifetime, and the effects can be far-reaching. Common disorders can include depression, generalised anxiety, OCD and PTSD, all of which can impact on your physical health, dieting success and overall wellbeing. At Luxe Fitness we believe that what’s happening inside your mind is just as important as what’s happening inside your body, so taking steps to maximise wellbeing is crucial. Here are 7 of our top tips:
- Train your brain like you train your body
When you go to the gym, you use tools available to you to train your entire body from top to toe. This helps to prevent the onset of unwanted weight and keeps you in a shape you’re comfortable with. But are you doing the same for your brain? Mental health maintenance is just as important as physical maintenance, and can be achieved through practises like mindfulness meditation, counselling, hypnotherapy, life coaching or NLP. Partaking in a weekly activity solely dedicated to clearing your mind and focusing your thoughts can help to prevent the onset of depression, anxiety and other common mental health problems.
- Practise stillness
When you’re trying to get fit, lose weight and build muscle, movement is key. After all, those calories aren’t going to burn themselves! But stillness is crucial for the mind and costs nothing to achieve. Sitting for just 10-20 minutes each day in total silence, without distraction, can calm and focus your mind and help repair and regenerate neurones in the brain, giving you improved mental capacity and concentration.
- Exercise regularly
Numerous studies from around the globe have, without doubt, proven that regular exercise promotes better mental health. A group of neurotransmitters called endorphins are triggered through cardio exercise, contributing to a sense of wellbeing and positivity. Exercise also contributes to better alertness and concentration, as well as relief from certain chronic pain conditions which indirectly improves outlook.
- Practise mindful eating and drinking
What we put into our bodies can directly alter the way we think and behave. Alcohol, for example, might temporarily make us feel inhibited and relaxed, but too much alcohol can increase anxiety and depression levels, as well as the instinct to become aggressive and easily agitated. Alcohol can also worsen pre-existing mental health conditions like Generalised Anxiety Disorder, ultimately contributing to a cycle of poor health. Similarly, foods with massive quantities of processed sugar in them can cause a temporary high, but this is soon followed by an almighty crash, lowering mood, energy levels and creating cravings. Mindful eating and drinking is the practise of taking an active interest in what’s on your plate (or in your glass). Making a conscious decision to stop at 2 drinks on a Friday night, or swapping a morning cream cheese bagel for a bowl of vanilla protein muesli can potentially make all the difference to both your physical wellbeing and your mental health.
- Nurture your relationships
The benefits of good quality friendships and relationships should not be overlooked. According to Harvard Medical School, people with strong relationships (both platonic and romantic) have a reduced risk of developing dementia and other serious mental and neurological problems. Conversely, people who frequently experience negative relationships or are victim to domestic violence (in any of its forms) are more likely to experience illnesses like PTSD, depression and low self-worth. So, if you haven’t done so already, ensure you pick up the phone and nurture your existing friendships. Make regular dates to see the people who make you happy and cut ties to anyone who is impacting your life in a consistently negative way.
- Be part of something
Whether it’s a book club, a community activist group, a mother’s circle or a jogging class, being part of something can really give your self esteem the boost it needs. Feeling included and important can help to improve your sense of purpose and gives you something to focus on when other areas of your life are being challenged. You can use websites like Facebook to find networks of interest, or enquire at your local gym, library, medical clinic or community centre. If you haven’t done so already, join the Luxe Fitness Facebook Community and make some new friends!
- Prioritise sleep
Sleep matters. It is vital for overall functioning and mental alertness. A lack of it can have an impact on your diet, your mood and your energy levels. Studies have shown that prolonged periods of insomnia can contribute to the onset of illnesses like depression. A cycle can also emerge where pre-existing depression and anti-depressants can interfere with sleep, which then worsens the depressive condition. Practising good sleep hygiene is the first step to improving sleep cycles. This includes switching off electricals and phones an hour before bed, doing relaxing activities in the evening, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and perhaps even keeping a sleep journal to document any patterns or negative thought cycles.
Remember, your mind and body are connected. If one is neglected, both will suffer. Therefore, it’s important to nurture your mental health as much as you do your physical health, creating a greater sense of all-round wellbeing.