If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, your workout can play a key role in managing symptoms, thanks to the strong bond between mental and physical health. “We know that the old separation between mind and body is deceptive,” says Ben Michaelis, researcher, evolutionist psychologist and author of “Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy.” The body is the mind, mind is the body. When we take care of ourselves, we are helping the whole system.”
You do not have to say that you should always consult your doctor to look at the different options of treatment, Michaelis remembers. But it will not hurt to put some movement of any kind into your own routine. Research indicates that these three activities in particular can help alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
There is a reason why they have always reminded you that running is one of the best health exercises: it burns calories, reduces the sudden desire for food and the risk of heart disease. Running for just five minutes a day can also help you live longer, according to a 2014 search.
But it has also been shown that racing improves mood in several ways, Michaelis confirms. “Running results in enduring changes in neurotransmitters of good humor, serotonin and norepinephrine, both during and after training,” he explains. But there is more: it seems that the repetitive movements of the race have on the brain the same effect as meditation.
Mental benefits can be particularly effective for people with depression. In a 2006 survey, published in the journal Psychiatry & Neuroscience, researchers found that exercise could function similarly to antidepressants and mitigate serious mental disorders by supporting the formation of new neurons in the brain. Other good news: Running can ease nighttime rest. This is good for general mental health by improving memory, reducing stress levels and protecting against depression.
To optimize the mental benefits of your training session, opt for a walk in the woods. “Nature has a calming effect on the mind,” recalls Michaelis. “It has been shown that contact with plants, trees and, in particular, decomposing trees can contribute to reducing anxiety because these plants emit chemicals to slow down the decomposition process that, apparently, also slow us down.”
In 2009, for a study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, some Japanese researchers sent participants in woodland and urban areas. They then found that subjects who had walked in the woods for 20 minutes reported lower levels of stress hormone than those who stayed in the city.
Recent research seems to corroborate the idea that a dive into nature can benefit mental health. A study of last summer, for example, found that when a young adult takes a walk in the nature of fifty minutes he feels less anxious and sees his mnemonic faculties improved.
In a small study of 2007, published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine magazine, all participants who had taken Yoga lessons reported a “significant” reduction in depression, anger, anxiety and neurotic symptoms. These discoveries have convinced researchers to recommend yoga lessons as a complementary treatment for depression.
In 2012, another group of researchers conducted a study on some clinical trials examining the effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. In 25 out of 35 studies, subjects reported a significant decrease in symptoms of anxiety and stress after starting to practice yoga.
“The extraordinary thing about yoga is that, in addition to stretching and strengthening exercises, it focuses heavily on breathing, which helps to slow down and calm the mind,” Michaelis explains.
Experts believe that yoga breathing exercises especially for mental health because it is difficult to remain anxious when you breathe deeply. To make the most of the benefits of deep breathing, even beyond the yoga lesson, Michaelis suggests a relaxing trick made famous by Dr. Andrew Weil and known as “Breathing Technique 4-7-8”.
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