If you're not doing great at the moment, why not take stock and see how well you’ve been applying the 4 Ms over the last week or so. You might even want to score yourself out of 10 for each one to see where you might improve in your self care.
There are many reasons why physical activity is good for your body – having a healthy heart and improving your joints and bones are just two, but did you know that physical activity is also beneficial for your mental health and wellbeing?
I once had to travel for business down on the south coast. I normally like the idea of getting away, having my work meeting then staying the night in a hotel, having a meal, only having myself to please. But this time it was different. I had a real sense of unease. I felt panicked and overwhelmed, but didn’t have an easy reason to point. A sense of impending existential angst!
I’m called my Dad and he suggested in his muted Geordie accent that I might try ‘going for a swim’. So without a better idea, I went and bought myself some gear and did 25 lengths.
I felt so much better afterward! The exercise had rebalanced me out in some way! There is plenty of evidence that exercise is good for our mental health. The exercise causes a change in our biochemistry. Our cortisol levels go down, our blood sugar levels balance out, we feel more comfortable within ourselves, more relaxed.
Physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on our mood. A study asked people to rate their mood immediately after periods of physical activity (e.g. going for a walk or doing housework), and periods of inactivity (e.g. reading a book or watching television). Researchers found that the participants felt more content, more awake and calmer after being physically active compared to after periods of inactivity. They also found that the effect of physical activity on mood was greatest when mood was initially low.
There are many studies looking at physical activity at different levels of intensity and its impact on people’s mood. Overall, research has found that low-intensity aerobic exercise – for 30–35 minutes, 3–5 days a week, for 10–12 weeks – was best at increasing positive moods (e.g. enthusiasm, alertness).
Six helpful tips
How much exercise do you get? Do you honestly get enough? Maybe not. Why not have the goal of doing some exercise, even if it’s only a walk. Making exercise part of your daily routine is important in maintaining good mental balance.