Hi lovely readers,
I am excited to tackle the topic of the interconnectedness between mental health and physical activity, but first and foremost I want to say something important:
You are strong, smart, powerful, deserving of love, deserving of joy and goodness, you are beautiful and brave. This is a wonderful world but, unfortunately, our society also embodies many painful flaws, including the incredibly twisted idea of bodily perfection.
Waking up, breathing, having a beating heart, eating a yummy bagel is something worthy of celebration, as they are all signs of our unique and deserving existence. But far too often, our society tries to instill in us that the amount of pounds lost or decreasing size of jeans we can fit into is what should be celebrated…it literally makes no sense because:
1. Everyone is born into their own beautiful skin that’s different from everyone else
2. One’s body mass — literally just the vertical force exerted by a mass as a result of gravity — is not something we need to be so focused on
3. All hyper fixating on body image does is create troubled self-esteem, harmful eating habits, and cultivates a sadder, less healthy population.
In conclusion, the way the media has perpetuated unhealthy ideals for people’s bodies is intrusive and harmful. This is why I want to say, or rather scream from a mountain top because it’s so important and true: you as YOU are stunning. It is how we talk to ourselves and our peers, how we interact with others and choose to continue to better ourselves and communities that should and does matter.
Through the harmful way society addresses body images, we now have a tinged perception of physical activity as something that someone needs to do in order to ‘stay fit’ or ‘look good’. It’s often not something we want to do but rather something society tells us we need to be doing in order to ‘look good’….
This is all wrong. You look great (work it honey) sipping your coffee, eating a scone, reading your books, attending lectures etc. and don’t need to move to look better.
But something that isn’t wrong is that physical activity can make you feel better. In fact a whole lot better.
If we can interact with physical activity as something that we know can help us feel mentally more well and extract the self-image component we can create healthier and happier individuals.
Many studies show that exercise can help fight depression and anxiety through relieving tension/stress, enhancing wellbeing through the release of endorphins and helps our nervous systems become unstuck and begin to ‘move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma’ and other forms of mental health challenges. It’s kinda like applying oil to the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz — giving him some lubricant to help him move again and get out of his stuck place, so he could begin to smile and dance again.
Yes, physical activity is beneficial for our mental wellbeing. Recognize this, remember this and try this when you can but don’t be extra mean yourself if you can’t get yourself to do it some days: I know for me getting out of bed can be the best I can do sometimes and that alone deserves celebration, not another opportunity to talk unkindly to myself.
I try to get out for some physical activity when I can. I don’t put extra expectations on myself but more know that it is another accessible healthy tool for me to feel more mentally well. Physical activity does NOT mean running 1000 miles or doing a triathlon. Honestly, physical activity can even be folding laundry, or taking your doggo on a walk, or unloading a dishwasher, simple movement that is engaging the body and muscles.
During anxiety attacks, I usually feel like I have SO MUCH mkdnciuenrvuienrun (this means chaos, and for my fellow anxiety warriors– I bet you get it haha) just pulsing through my mind and veins. I have so much bleehhh moving through me and if I can commit to running a mile or less or more I return feeling a little more settled since I was able to put my mkdnciuenrvuienrun into movement, focus purely on my engaged muscles and return knowing I’d done something nice to my mind.
When I was 15 the last thing I ever wanted to do was run, especially when my lovely parents (who saw me sad, depressed and knew the health benefits of movement on the mind) would suggest ‘hey why don’t you take a run, It’ll build up your endorphins’! Nuh uhhhh no thank you!!! Then I just felt sad, and even more disappointed in myself due to my inability to move.
As you would have it, my parents were all too correct — I probably would have been less stuck in my sadness if I had listened and gotten out, but at that time that was not going to happen and that is okay. But now 6 years later, I have taken more control and take myself on lil physical activity dates when I want to and when I can and I am grateful for my healthy relationship with movement. I recognize it as another tool in my toolbox for self care and I don’t exercise for the ‘look’ but for the feel.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and The Yellow Tulip Project, our youth-run mental health awareness non-profit, is hosting a month long fundraiser called Move It For Mental Health. Move It highlights the inseparable link between physical activity and mental health through month long activities such as yoga, meditation, knitting, doggie walking etc. We are hosting a few activities on our social media platform where people can share virtual space with other movers and join in as we work to create mentally healthier and stronger communities.
So Move It with us this May! Take a walk, jump up and down — join one of our Friday Live classes on IG and win some prizes. We’re showing the link between mental health and physical activity and trying to raise awareness and a few dollars for a strong and mighty non-profit. Here’s how to jump in! And here’s a playlist to enjoy while you do so.
Thank you! You shine so brightly. Be well ❤