Strength isn’t just what we feel when we lift weights, it’s the culmination of lifting a boulder over your shoulders that creates ease, comfort, and a sense of direction in life. In order to achieve this sense of being, your mental well-being has to be as fit and strong as your physical self.
Physical exercise is a powerful tool that can help combat depression, improve mood, and reduce stress. Engaging in mental fitness exercise is equally beneficial and can enhance cognitive abilities. Recent research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that certain memory training exercises can significantly improve “fluid intelligence,” which is the capacity to reason and solve new problems.
It’s a common misconception to look at mental fitness and physical fitness separately. However, the two are intricately connected. Your mental health directly impacts your physical health and vice versa.
Below, you’ll learn how these two affect each other and how you can improve your mental fitness by being more physically healthy.
How Mental Stress Affects the Body and How Does Mental Fitness Work?
Taking care of your mental health starts with learning healthy coping techniques and self-compassion. This can be done through mental fitness training, learning self-awareness and learning to have more control over negative thoughts that have become a form of automatic thinking. But why does this matter in terms of physical fitness?
Studies have found that any stress can adversely affect physical health. The potential risk factors depend on how severe the stress is, how long it’s endured and a person’s overall fitness level.
People living in high-stress environments are at a greater risk of developing chronic illnesses due to lowered immune system functioning. In addition, the heart and lungs can be affected, as can memory. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to manage stress for your overall well-being.
The Link Between Long-Term Stress, Disease and Chronic Illness
If you’re under mental stress, the body releases the chemicals adrenaline and cortisol. This activates your body’s fight or flight response, which can be very healthy in short periods when it’s needed. For example, this natural response can help you catch a child who’s tumbling off the couch or run faster than usual to avoid something chasing you.
However, long periods with elevated adrenaline and cortisol can wreak havoc on your physical and mental fitness. Mentally, this places you at an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression. Physically, an ongoing stress response can cause headaches, digestive issues, muscle pain, heart disease, insomnia, hypersomnia, diabetes and more.
The opposite is also true. Your mental fitness can be significantly affected if you’re under physical stress. Poor physical health can lead to blood sugar problems, increased heart rate, high blood pressure and obesity. In turn, these health problems affect your mental fitness by altering the way your body responds to stress or trauma. In turn, this can increase the risks of other chronic conditions.
Physical Exercise Releases Positive Chemicals and Hormones
The link between physical and mental fitness isn’t all bad, however. While it’s true that negative health on either spectrum can be harmful on the other end, the same is true for positive health. If you work on creating better mental fitness, you’ll see your overall health improve. Likewise, your mental health will improve if you exercise, eat right, drink enough water and get enough sleep.
Exercise does more than help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. It causes the body to release positive chemicals and hormones. These include endorphins, neurotransmitters, dopamine and endocannabinoids. These create positive emotions, create more confidence and even reduce blood pressure. In turn, you may find your self-esteem increases and you find it easier to handle routine tasks that were once difficult.
Healing Power of Yoga for Mind and Body
Mental fitness enhances your ability to obtain financial and life goals by allowing you greater focus. If you’re looking for a way to become fitter overall, consider yoga groups. Yoga groups will provide a mental workout by teaching you breathing exercises. Deep breathing is a great relaxation technique that can help you manage stress in your daily life. Mindfulness groups can also provide these benefits.
However, yoga also works your body by strengthening your core and stretching your muscles. Since regular exercise can prevent cardiovascular disease and relieve stress, yoga becomes an all-around perfect place to start your whole self-fitness journey.
Additional benefits of yoga teachings are learning to live in the present moment, overcoming past emotions, learning self-acceptance and improving cardiovascular endurance.
Get Physically Active To Increase Mental Fitness
Physical activity can help you accomplish routine tasks easier every day and create neural pathways beneficial to your body and mind. The hormones released during exercise reduce stress and have a positive impact on your daily routine for hours afterward.
Being physically active doesn’t have to mean spending hours at the gym. There are plenty of fun ways to keep your mind sharp and increase overall happiness while being active with the whole family.
For example, you could spend the day hiking nature trails at Lady Bird Lake. Or, take your significant other with you on a Yoga Hike to bring companionship to your relationship. As an added benefit, you may get improved sleep quality after spending time outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
Getting outside in nature is helpful, and not only because of the apparent benefits already talked about. You can find places to hike, bike, walk or swim for free, which means it’s a viable option even if you have money issues. The natural world allows you to increase mental strength and improve your overall well-being without having to handle financial setbacks.
What You Eat Is Also Important
Eating a healthy diet is crucial to your overall happiness and fitness. When your body has the clean fuel and nutrients it needs to function correctly, you’ll find you have more energy. Certain muscles may stop hurting, and you may even find you have a better memory.
Why is healthy eating so beneficial? Food contains all the nutrients you need for critical body functions.
If you’re not sure where to start changing your diet, consider taking some form of nutrition education. Practice realistic goal-setting by making small positive choices you can easily maintain. Most importantly, avoid fad diets or severe calorie deficiencies, since these won’t work long-term and have negative side effects.
Need Professional Help for a Mental Illness?
Sometimes, improving your physical well-being isn’t enough to boost your mental fitness or emotional health to where you’d like it to be. If you have a mental illness like anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, professional help and medication are often necessary to create optimal mental fitness.
Alta Loma, the leading Long Term Mental Health Treatment in Georgetown, TX, is here to help you improve your physical and mental fitness when individual work alone isn’t enough. Call us today at (866) 457-3843 to learn more about the ranch program and how we can help you achieve your goals. You can also fill out our contact form online if you prefer and one of our mental health experts will be in touch as soon as possible.