Beating the Winter Blues: Why You Need to Prioritize Exercise for Mental Health

The days are super short and you’re barely getting any sun. Maybe it’s too cold to go out and do the things you enjoy. You’re probably also craving comfort food and sleep. When it’s cold it’s easy to fall into a slump. This week I’m challenging myself to exercise for 30 minutes a day everyday. The best way for me achieve this is by doing it the minute I get home. Otherwise, I’ll be in sweatpants on the couch watching Hulu the rest of the night.

A Mood Boost. We all want to be happy right? This is a really important one for me as a struggle with mild depression that I attribute to my birth control. It took way too long for scientist to confirm the connection between birth control and depression. But knowing the connection has helped me to realize my mood might not be something caused by my environment. Knowing this has allowed me to focus my energy on mood boosting techniques instead of my circumstances. The best thing that we can do to improve our mood is exercise. Exercise promotes a better calmer mood through the release of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that give you a happy feeling. Exercise also helps distract me from some of the negative thoughts that accompany depression.

Improved Memory and Focus. I could really use more of this during my work day. I struggle  with focusing on the task at hand. Even when I can focus I’m often interrupted, and I can never remember what I was working on. Studies have shown that exercise increases brain development in both growing children and adults. According to a 2016 study by the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior exercise results in the release of dopamine and norepinephrine which help you retain memories.

Lowered Anxiety. I internalize a lot of my stress, but exercise has been a great tool for me to relieve stress. I’m also learning to deal with stress before it starts.  It since exercise has been a proven solution for me, it’s my go to stress cure. Once again, exercise requires focus and this focus takes your mind off of anxious thoughts. To get the most of this benefit really focus on the workout itself. Think about breathing and your muscles burning. Don’t let your mind wander back to whatever is stressing you out.

Increased Confidence. This isn’t just about having a fiiine body. When you set a daily or weekly goal and achieve it you will feel a sense of accomplishment. I recommend setting easy goals. I mean real easy. Like 5 minutes to start. You may laugh, but starting slow will ensure you don’t get discouraged when you miss a goal. But for real though, don’t get discouraged. Every workout you achieve will improve your mental health. So if you fall of, get back up on it tomorrow.

By Cara

I'm a 29 year old urban planner who recently bought a home. I'm trying to build my dream home/garden while sticking to a budget and keeping my sanity.

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