Mental health disorders affect every aspect of daily living. A person with mental health issues may have to deal with personal, work, and social life challenges. Therefore, it is essential to pay attention to mental health with the same level of seriousness as one would for physical health.
The term “mental health” broadly describes a person’s emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It covers thoughts, feelings, and actions. Their mental health primarily influences how a person deals with stress, handles relationships and responds to situations. It is practically impossible to realize one’s full potential without sound mental health.
Mental health disorders are more common than most people think. They are one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, with an estimated 20.6% of adults experiencing some form of mental illness in 2019.
What Causes Mental Health Disorders?
Mental health illnesses are wide-ranging with varying causes. Every individual carries some risk of having a mental health problem. Biological or socioeconomic factors may cause mental health disorders.
Certain genetic expressions can predispose individuals to a higher risk of developing a mental health disease. The presence of underlying health conditions like cancer, diabetes, or chronic pain may trigger a mental health condition.
Poor living standards, marginalization, or some form of persecution can lead to mental disorders. Specific traumatic events like the loss of a loved one can also affect mental health.
Classes of Mental Health Disorders
There are many types of mental health disorders. The most commonly diagnosed ones are:
Mood disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorders (GAD), phobias, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Schizophrenia is a complex condition marked by thought disorders, delusions, and hallucinations.
Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders
There is no single test to identify a mental disorder. Diagnoses involve looking out for signs such as:
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Oversleeping or not getting enough sleep
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and confusion
- Suicidal thoughts
- Withdrawal from usual activities
- Sudden interest in alcohol and narcotics.
- Depleting energy levels
- Emotional instability
Exercise as Treatment for Mental Health Disorders
Most treatments for mental issues are tailored to the specific needs of the individual. Treatment is frequently a combination of multiple approaches, including medication, lifestyle modifications, and psychotherapy.
Developing and maintaining an exercise regimen is a lifestyle choice that can contribute positively to mental health. Beyond getting rid of calories, building the body, and improving physical health, mounting evidence shows that regular exercising offers significant mental health benefits.
The following are ways in which exercise can boost mental health and help mitigate mental disorders:
Exercising Alleviates Anxiety
Exercise triggers the release of feel-good chemicals that can help people with anxiety. An early morning run can set the tone for an anxiety-free day.
According to users on StuffThatWorks, an AI-powered crowdsourcing platform, exercise is a relatively common treatment method among adults with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The platform’s member reports show exercise to be one of the most effective treatment methods for GAD.
Exercise Reduces Stress
Stress is a trigger for several mental health problems. Exercise facilitates the release of norepinephrine, a chemical that regulates how the body reacts to stress. Even short, mild workouts can provide a measure of stress relief.
Exposing the body to regular physical duress also teaches the body how to deal with stressful situations as they arise. Exercise also boosts the immune system, which helps with stress.
Exercise Improves Self-confidence
Some mental health conditions are associated with a poor sense of self. Depression can affect self-confidence and trigger feelings of worthlessness.
Physical fitness gives a self-esteem boost and improves self-image. Endorphins released during workouts trigger feelings of euphoria and happiness.
Maintaining a regular workout routine can help build confidence and prevent depression. Exercise promotes several brain changes, such as new neurons that bring about feelings of calmness and wellbeing.
Exercise Can Slow Down Cognitive Decline
The human mind slows gradually with increasing age. Regular exercise can help slow down this decline. Also, individuals at risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease will improve their odds by maintaining a consistent exercise routine. That is because exercising prevents the natural degeneration of the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with memory and learning.
Exercise Sharpens the Memory
Besides preventing the hippocampus from rapid decline, a steady exercise regimen stimulates the formation of new cells in that brain region, which could be great for improving memory and learning capacity. Some studies indicate that healthy individuals can enhance their vocabulary retention by running sprints regularly.
Exercise Helps Fight Addiction
Addiction is the consequence of dopamine release whenever a person engages in something pleasurable – usually alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex. Some individuals get addicted to the euphoria that dopamine brings and become hooked to the substance or the activity that triggers the “high.”
Short, intense workouts also help recovering addicts take their minds away from the cravings. Addicts who have had their circadian rhythm altered by substance abuse will find that a systematic exercise regimen can help recalibrate their body clock.
Exercise also builds resilience. It offers a healthy coping mechanism against everyday stressors instead of alcohol, drugs, and other harmful behavior.
A clogged mind is unlikely to attain its highest productivity potential. People who cannot function optimally due to some mental block can benefit from engaging in simple exercises. A short workout can declutter the mind, increase concentration and improve productivity.
Exercise can also trigger creative thinking. Intense workout sessions, especially outdoors, are one way to get the creative parts of the brain working. Studies show that long walks while interacting with nature can invigorate the mind and body.
Maintaining good mental health is essential, and exercising provides a cheap, healthy way of reaching and preserving an optimal mental health level. Better still, beneficial exercising does not have to be strenuous. Whether it is to prevent mental health issues from arising, to recover from an addiction, or as an adjunct to other types of mental health treatment, moderate levels of exercising can provide tremendous results.