Boost Your Mental Health with Regular Physical Activity
The cold, dark days of winter can take a toll on our mental health, leading to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or increased feelings of depression. The good news is that you can tap into your body’s natural ability to enhance your mental well-being during this time by engaging in regular physical activity. It has been scientifically proven that exercise not only helps maintain overall physical health but also works wonders in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
Moreover, it doesn’t require vigorous workouts to achieve these mental benefits. Even moderate activities like brisk walking can significantly boost your psychological health. Here are four science-backed ways to incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine to combat the winter doldrums. Note: If you think you may be suffering from SAD, make sure to consult your doctor for advice and treatment.
Start with Small Steps- Just Walk
When you’re feeling low, even the thought of exercising might seem daunting. However, just putting one foot in front of the other can make a huge difference in overcoming seasonal blues. With comfortable walking shoes and some motivation, you can gradually feel better, both physically and mentally.
Research suggests that outdoor walking does wonders for improving mental health. Don’t worry about how much you should walk each day initially; any amount of daily walking is beneficial. Studies have shown that 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week delivers maximum physical and mental health gains, but even smaller doses of activity provide significant mental health advantages.
- Choose an optimal walking route near your home or workplace.
- Schedule a daily walk during your lunch break or after dinner.
- Invite a friend to provide motivation and support.
Explore New Hobbies and Engage with the Kids
If you don’t already have any active hobbies, consider embarking on new ones. Being more engaged in activities you enjoy can significantly enhance your mood and help alleviate depressive symptoms. Additionally, if you’re a parent or grandparent, participate in playtime with the children. Whether indoors in the living room or outdoors at the park or playground, join in the fun and bond with your kids while boosting your mental health.
Some ideas for engaging activities include:
- Dancing or taking dance lessons
- Joining a local sports team or club
- Gardening or tending to house plants
- Hiking or exploring nature trails
Pump Some Iron to Reduce Depression Symptoms
When you feel down, lifting weights might be just what you need! Resistance exercise training, also known as weight training, has been demonstrated in studies to reduce depression symptoms significantly. A 2018 meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry analyzed 33 clinical trials involving over 1,800 participants and concluded that “strength training significantly reduced depressive symptoms.”
Better still, the analysis showed that these benefits were not dependent on one’s overall health status, volume of resistance exercise training, or levels of improvement in strength. If you’re new to strength training, make sure to consult with a professional trainer and start slowly to prevent injuries.
Find Solace in Yoga and Mindfulness Practices
Rolling out your yoga mat can offer respite during dark winter days. Yoga and other mindfulness practices not only foster a stronger connection between the mind and body, but they can also ease stress, reduce anxiety, and improve mood.
If you don’t have access to or interest in attending yoga classes, consider exploring online resources that offer simple routines to follow at your own pace. By incorporating just a little more physical movement into your life, you’ll notice significant mood-boosting benefits to help ward off seasonal slumps.
Some additional tips for enhancing your mental well-being:
- Meditate for few minutes each day to gain inner peace and clarity.
- Practice deep breathing exercises during stressful situations.
- Reach out to friends, family, or a support group to share feelings and experiences.