Physical Activity & Mental Health by Trainer Julie J

This is a large topic and might seem hard to unpack; but I want to keep it simple, relatively.



Did you know we have 60,000 thoughts a day? Whoa, let that sink in. And if that statistic doesn’t make you pause this one will; 60-70% of thoughts are negative and about 90% of those are thoughts we’ve already had. Negative thoughts are not all bad, they can be important. They can alert us to take action. This voice may be trying to protect us, but is disorganized and can feel overwhelming. Within the realm of mental health, the thoughts we keep thinking are akin to our brain being hijacked. When we worry, it’s about things in the future we cannot control and when we ruminate, it’s about things in the past we cannot change. This inner chatter sure seems to take up a lot of bandwidth.



Therapists and coaches believe the best way to address inner chatter or recurring thoughts is to notice, be aware. Step back, be an observer. From an observer perspective, we are typically more capable of making better decisions. A couple ways to address the inner chatter and break the pattern are: (1) be physical - go for a walk, stretch, workout; moving will interrupt the cycle (2) write down your thoughts - it does not have to be structured, but will allow you to talk about concerns with someone more clearly. Both techniques help get you out of your head.



Getting back to being physical, neurologists know our brains thrive on physical activity and new experiences. Physical activity generates new neurons and connections; our brain is the biggest motor of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is a general umbrella term that refers to our brain's ability to modify, change, and adapt to experiences throughout life. Experts in the study of exercise science have shown that when we exercise, our brain increases the production of chemical hormones called endorphins. When released, these endorphins can decrease pain, increase sensations of pleasure, reduce the effects of stress and improve our mood.



As I said before, I wanted to keep this topic relatively simple, but our brains are complex and there is a ton of information and I don’t want you to lose interest. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, now what? Well, we know the brain responds to new experiences and physical activity - so why not tackle both. Commit to regular exercise, but avoid becoming a creature of habit. Stimulate your brain with a new class - try yoga, tai chi or pilates. Interrupt your inner chatter, lay the groundwork for those neural pathways and reap the benefit of your endorphins.


 
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