Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13th – 19th May 2019. We’re keen to support this initiative, here at The Thames Club, because we’ve long since recognised the link between mental and physical health. This year’s theme is highly relevant to us too, as the campaign is shining a spotlight on ‘body image’ and the ways in which it can have a detrimental effect on our mental wellbeing. Today’s post is going to talk about the benefits of exercise and then give some specific advice on the topic of body image.
Body and mind
Exercise is a proven means of naturally boosting your mood and is an NHS-recommended way of treating mild depression and anxiety. It’s also great for working through negative emotions, like anger and stress. During periods of emotional turmoil or stressful events, committing to a regular exercise routine can really help a person get through the tough times.
Exercise can also be a good way to stay on top of your mental health, regardless of whether you’ve suffered from problems in the past. An often-overlooked drain on our mental energy is the effect of ‘microstresses’ – small, individually insignificant problems that can accumulate and lead to an emotional outburst. The gym can be a sanctuary for concentrating on yourself and physically working these microstresses.
One of the best activities for mental wellbeing is yoga because it draws upon meditative practices and encourages you to concentrate on your body. Taking time out to be calm and reflective is an effective way of tackling stress and, let’s face it, not something most of us get to do during our hectic day-to-day lives. Booking a yoga class is a guaranteed way to spend some time concentrating on yourself.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘body image’ – how we think and feel about our bodies. It’s a problem that can get pigeonholed as being something that only affects young women, but body image issues can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. Having a negative self-image can be detrimental to confidence, cause anxiety in social situations, and trigger persistent low moods. Left unaddressed, it can develop into mental health conditions, such as depression or eating disorders. It’s therefore important to address any niggles or body concerns before they grow into something more serious.
Establishing positive body image habits can help to stave off issues and build self-confidence. For instance:
- Social media is full of edited pictures of unreal ‘perfect’ bodies. Limit your use of these sites and when you see too-good-to-be-true content, remind yourself that it’s not reality.
- Engage in regular exercise and appreciate your body for its strength. So often we get caught up on what our body looks like that we forget what it’s actually for.
- Cross-reference your body image to your health. If you’re overweight, underweight or lacking in the muscles department, a program of diet and exercise will help to address the physical issue, leading to an improvement in your mental wellbeing.
- Give compliments! If someone looks good, tell them. Whether they’re a friend or a stranger. It will brighten their day and boost their confidence. While not a direct benefit to you, it spreads the body positivity.
Before we end today’s post, there’s one last thing that needs to be said. If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t be afraid to speak up and seek help – whether it’s from a friend, family member or your doctor. No one will judge you for needing support.