Harness the Power of Physical Activity to Make You Feel Better
By Carly Fleming & Meghan Gilbert
“Sometimes I wish I could just run away from my problems”.
“I honestly feel like there’s nothing I can control in my life”.
“I’m so frustrated, I could punch something”.
These are the kinds of things we hear ourselves saying when we are struggling with major obstacles in our lives, mental health problems, or just a sense that we aren’t as fulfilled as we want to be.
But rarely do we think about actually running away, or finding things to control or punching something. The good news is that by harnessing the power of physical activity to make you feel better, you can do exactly that.
With some insight, intention, and perseverance you can move forward with feeling better both physically and emotionally. What is insight? Insight is a person’s understanding of how their feelings, beliefs, actions, and life history impact the current state of their mind and heart. What is intention? Intention is a state of mind that involves a commitment to carrying out an action in the future (and the future can be half a minute from now). What is perseverance? Perseverance is steady persistence toward a course of action, especially in spite of difficulties or obstacles.
Professionals in the fitness industry tell us that they see the benefits of physical activity in their clients after every workout. They say their clients consistently rave about how much better they feel afterward. This is because physical activity releases endorphins, a hormone that creates feelings of happiness and euphoria. Further, exercise helps to manage anxiety by increasing concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that moderates the brain’s response to stress. It also improves self-confidence: I finished that run. I stayed in that class. I didn’t give up.
This is what exercise does. We know this. But, how do we go from stressed, anxious, depressed or overwhelmed, to running that 5k, finishing that kickboxing or yoga class, and garnering psychological benefits while we do it? This is what most of us struggle with: how do we bridge the gap?
The answer: combine small steps with insight, intention, and perseverance. Put on your running shoes and walk to the corner. That’s a victory. Put on those shoes again. Another victory. Increase that walk to around the block and you have just sustained marked gains. Put on those shoes again. Two blocks. Next thing you know you'll be running straight toward that anxiety-provoking problem you’ve been struggling with, and when you get to it you’ll run right on by, leaving it in your dust. You are powerful and strong and ready to leave that anxiety behind you. Or maybe you’ll be (imagining) punching that person who hurt you as you put on your boxing gloves and give a mighty jab-cross to the bag in your kickboxing class. You are ready to finally feel the hurt and allow yourself to be angry – you don’t need to carry this pain inside you any more. Or you’ll find yourself sitting on that yoga mat realizing you are fully in control of each and every part of your body – how it moves, what it feels like, and how you communicate with it. You are finally in control and can walk out of that room knowing that you can choose to interact with your world from a different perspective.
You already have all the things you need to make this happen. You have insight – just think about how much you know and understand about yourself and your struggles. You have intention – you know you want to feel better and you have what it takes to get serious about this. And you have perseverance - you have persevered at other things in your life. Just think about the times you have done something hard and succeeded. Now, use the combination of these three things to inspire you to harness the power of physical activity to make you feel better.
You can do this.
“Just believe in yourself. Even if you don’t, pretend that you do, and at some point, you will”. – Venus Williams