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How Swimming Changes Your Brain And Makes You Mentally Healthier

How Swimming Changes Your Brain And Makes You Mentally Healthier

We all know how relaxing a good swim can be. It allows more oxygen to flow to the muscles and forces you to regulate your breathing. Swimming is also a great way to reduce stress. Swimming underwater is like being in another world. The water distorts the sky above, casting the sun’s reflection into an almost ethereal pattern on the bottom of the pool. It’s no wonder swimming can put you into an ideal mental space.

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    How does the brain react while swimming?

    Swimming is a meditative exercise. Your brain function improves via a process known as hippocampal neurogenesis, where your brain replaces lost cells resulting from stress. When you hit the water, your mood is lifted immediately from the coolness of the water, leaving you free from tiredness and depression.

    A recent study by Dr. Howard Carter of University of Western Australia, School of Sport Science shows how the brain reacts during swimming. The team of scientists, led by Carter , hypothesized that water immersion to the level of the right atrium in the heart would increase the delivery of blood within the brain. The right atrium is located on the upper right hand side of the heart and is one of four hollow chambers of the heart. The right atrium receives blood from two large veins: the superior vena cava and the inferior vena cava. The job of both of these veins is to return blood that has provided oxygen to various sites in the body; the returning blood, then, is low in oxygen. The coronary sinus, which is a smaller vein in the wall of the heart, also drains blood into the right atrium.

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    We found that brain blood flow is higher when subjects were immersed in water up to the level of the heart compared to on land — laying the ground work for further investigation of its effects on cerebrovascular health,” said Dr. Howard Carter in The American Journal of Physiology.

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      While the participants were immersed in water, blood flow to their middle cerebral arteries increased by 14 percent while blood flow to their posterior cerebral arteries increased by nine percent.

      “As with land-based exercise, different types of water-based activities, such as water aerobics and swimming, have slightly different effects on heart function and cerebral blood flow,” said Carter.

      Moreover, swimming can improve your mental well-being…

      • It can help you to shut out external stimuli: Once you immerse yourself into the water, outside sounds are cut off. The only thing you feel is the water against your skin. You focus on your breathing, the bottom of the pool, and the ease of the water. Things are simplified when you’re swimming. It’s a form of moving mediation.
      • It’s a great form of low impact exercise: Gliding through the water gets your heart pumping. It’s also great for your muscles and lungs, as well as having low impact on your joints. When you take care of your body, your emotional well-being is greatly improved. Swimming a few times a week is a great way to exercise and improve your mood.
      • It releases endorphins: A good swim workout releases natural feel good compounds called endorphins. It can also convert excess fight-or-flight stress hormones into muscle relaxation. New brain cell growth is promoted as a result of releasing the stress.

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      Melissa Atkinson

      Freelance writer

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      Last Updated on June 1, 2020

      17 Ideas to Get Motivated to Lose Weight Now

      17 Ideas to Get Motivated to Lose Weight Now

      You made it here – the decision to lose weight! This means that mindfulness is kicking in. This is important for motivation, weight loss, and health. Being healthy and active is necessary!

      Our bodies were meant to move, not be sedentary. For weight loss, the success of your journey is based on your ability to stay motivated throughout.

      Motivation is easy at first, but holding on to it may breed a little challenge. Please know that this is normal. You will have days where motivation is at its all-time high and other days where motivation is at an all-time low.

      In this article, we’ll look into some of the best ideas on how to get motivated to lose weight and why we lose motivation easily along the weight loss journey.

      Motivation and Inspiration for Losing Weight

      There are varied reasons for wanting to lose weight. The one common factor: everyone needs motivation.

      One piece of advice:

      Motivation comes a little easier when you determine the reason for wanting to lose weight.

      What is/are your motivating factors for losing weight? It is important to understand your “why”, no matter how small.

      Losing weight, even just 5% of your weight can help:

      • Improve blood sugar
      • Reduce the risk of heart disease
      • Lower cholesterol
      • Reduce joint pain
      • Reduce the risk of certain cancers

      As someone who has been through this journey, I can tell you that it will require constant recharges of motivation.

      I did it the old-fashioned way, diet, and exercise. It took me almost 3 years to achieve 85 pounds lost. That may seem like a really long time. However, keep in mind that healthy weight loss averages 1-2 pounds per week.

        Motivation is really strong in the beginning, but it starts to shift when the results aren’t immediate. The results take time, and your motivation is the key to get you there.

        Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

        Common Weight Loss Motivation Struggles

        Lack of motivation is common for many reasons. Motivation can trigger a number of emotions, making it hard to get motivated.

        Some of the common motivation struggles that people face are:

        1. Unsupportive Social Environment

        Your social environment is your physical and social setting (home, family, friends, etc.). Many don’t realize the importance and influence of a social environment.

        If you are trying to get on the right track and hear something like “oh, you don’t need to do that, let’s go out and get ice cream”, your motivation to do the right thing is will likely be impacted.

        2. Lots of Hard Work for Slow Results

        When you work out 5 times a week and carefully count your calories, naturally you want to see more than 2 pounds gone. Please keep in mind that normal and healthy weight loss averages 2 pounds per week – about 3500 calories burned means one pound lost.

        3. Injuries

        Many suffer from injuries that reduce their ability to exercise. However, you should also consider low impact exercises and exercise modifications.

        Additionally, discussing approved workouts with your doctor is helpful. Exercise can still happen with an injury, but don’t lose motivation!

        4. Cravings

        You will have cravings, and that’s ok! Even the healthiest people have cravings. When cravings strike, be mindful of the craving and the portion.

        Craving cookies? Bake them at home so that you can modify and control the recipe for your goal.

        5. Healthy Food Is Expensive

        There is a bit of truth and a bit of a lie here. Healthy food can be a bit expensive. However, if you eat more of a plant-based diet (fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.), the costs won’t skyrocket.

        6. Lack of Time for Working Out

        If losing weight is really what you are set out to accomplish, then you have to find some time. You have to schedule and coordinate your day to day to include working out.

        For days that you simply can’t, make choices that force a little more movement. Park at the back of the parking lot and take the longer path to the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do squats while cooking, and/or do sit-ups during commercial breaks.

        The Importance of Mindfulness for Motivation and Weight Loss

        Be honest with yourself, how many times have you eaten something without actually thinking about what you were feeding yourself?

        Mindfulness plays an important role in our everyday decisions, especially the decisions regarding our health. There are many mindfulness considerations that will help motivate you to lose weight.

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        In the past, we were taught what to eat and what not to eat. However, there was no guidance on how to select and consume, which ultimately contributed to weight issues.

        In general, people have a strong misconception about food and its purpose in our lives and health. This creates unhealthy habits that contribute to weight gain.

        The importance of mindfulness in this journey is crucial to your weight loss success. That’s why mindfulness is essential in knowing how to get motivated to lose weight.

        Take a look at this article to learn more about mindful eating: The Best Benefits of Mindful Eating for Weight Loss and How to Start Now.

        17 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Lose Weight

        1. Love and Appreciation

        Love inspires motivation and motivation feeds appreciation.

        Loving yourself motivates you to appreciate our body and all the things that it can do. Appreciation for the body improves body image and appreciation for body image leads to weight loss motivation.

        2. Mindfulness

        As discussed above, mindfulness is the key to success. Being mindful ensures that you are aware of your “why”, the reason for starting your weight loss journey, and are dedicated to making good choices that support your ultimate goal.

        Mindfulness also keeps you aware throughout the process: food choices, social settings, and process/progress.

        3. Be Committed

        Your motivation for weight loss will suffer if you are not committed. Making a public commitment will help hold you accountable and enhance motivation.

        4. Get a Mentor or Accountability Partner

        Having a mentor and/or an accountability partner will help with maintaining your motivation. Having someone that inspires you and believes in you will also boost your motivation.

        5. Animals Help Motivate

        Getting a dog will increase movement because dogs have to go outside and play. A dog can be an accountability partner too! Not only will they make you move, but they are also awesome support beings.

        6. Goal Setting

        You know your “why” and now you’re ready to get started. What are your goals? Are they realistic?

        As discussed above, an average of 2 pounds a week is normal and healthy weight loss. Setting goals like “I plan on losing 15 pounds in a week” will result in a lack of motivation at the end of the week.

        7. Pace Yourself

        The weight loss journey is a lifestyle transformation journey. This doesn’t happen within a few days.

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        Habits take time to break. Don’t lose hope!

        8. Perfection Doesn’t Exist and Setbacks Will Happen

        Don’t be so hard on yourself. Be patient and love yourself through this process. This isn’t an easy journey, so expect a few setbacks as you transition and get into the groove.

        9. Don’t Set Your Eyes on the End, Set Them on Each Day

        What I mean is, focus on the journey, not the end goal.

        If you are trying to lose 50 pounds, focusing on that number will motivate you initially, but it will cause a lack of motivation later due to being overwhelmed about the length of time.

        Instead, focus on your daily goals.

        10. Incorporate a Plan That Fits Your Daily Life

        Everyone has different responsibilities and different reasons for losing weight. One plan doesn’t work for everyone.

        Build your own plan – one that you can fit into your everyday life.

        Mindfulness is key here and helps keep you motivated. Being mindful of your day and incorporating a weight loss plan is important.

        A few suggestions:

        • Reduce the number of calories you eat. Keep a food journal and track everything.
        • Make smaller plates with smaller portions. Portion control is important.
        • Reduce your unhealthy snack and sugar intake. Sugar can breed disaster.
        • Stay away from deep-fried/fried foods.
        • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.

        11. Don’t Weigh Yourself Everyday

        This is a huge NO. Weighing in once a week and keeping track of progress is what you need. Weighing yourself once a day is one of the fastest ways to lose motivation.

        Remember, healthy weight loss averages 2 pounds per week.

        12. Don’t Focus 100% on the Scale

        The scale is just one way to track progression and even in that, special considerations must be given. You may have gotten on the scale 2 weeks ago and have lost 15 pounds, but this week you may gain 5 pounds.

        If you turned fat into muscle, this will happen, so don’t lose motivation! This is a good thing. It means that you are burning fat and building muscle, and building muscle means toning up.

        13. Celebrate and Reward Yourself

        When you reach a goal, celebrate! Share your success with your social environment.

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        Being happy and celebrating your achievement enhances motivation.

        14. Hire a Trainer

        It is okay to hire a professional trainer to help motivate and coach you toward your weight loss goal. The trainer doesn’t have to be a workout trainer. You can consider a dietician or therapist.

        15. Use Music

        Music is a motivation booster for sure! Music will help you move and groove, taking the focus off of the act and allowing happy to kick in and motivate you.

        Research conducted by the North American Association for the Study of Obesity found that those who listened to music while exercising were more likely to stick with it than those who didn’t.

        16. Keep Those Jeans

        You may have a pair of jeans that you want to get back into. Keep them! Let them motivate you.

        17. Take Pictures and Document Your Progress

        Your body will change as your eating habits and exercise habits change. Take a picture at the start and consider a photo every 30 to 60 days. Seeing your progress will help keep you motivated.

        How to Get Motivated to Lose Weight When Motivation is Lost

        You may find yourself 100% motivated in the beginning and less motivated after a few weeks of trying.

        Keep in mind that habits generally take 21 days to break. If you find yourself with 0 motivation after having been 100% motivated before, try these:

        • Go back to your why. Why did you start? What was the purpose?
        • Try resetting your goal. Maybe your initial goal was a little too aggressive. It’s okay to adjust and do what works for you.
        • Talk to a coach or trainer. It is a good idea to discuss with struggles with professionals. Many will offer free insight and advice for getting started and staying on track.
        • Reconsider an accountability partner and/or group. Being around like-minded people on your journey can help so much with motivation.
        • Find out if working out is the problem. Working out alone can be a bit boring. Have you considered a group fitness class? This goes back to being around like-minded people who are sharing your journey.
        • Get more motivational messages. Words and phrases of affirmation are so important. Loving yourself and being patient with yourself is at the core of success for this journey. How about waking up each day to a motivational message that you wrote for yourself?
        • Stop comparing yourself to others. Weight loss reasons, weight loss motivation, and weight loss journeys are different for everyone. Focusing on the journey of others takes you away from your goals and accomplishments. Don’t compare your progress with anyone else’s. This is your journey and you’ll do great!

        The Bottom Line

        It took me almost 3 years to lose 85 pounds. I have kept my current weight for over 5 years and counting. This guide on how to get motivated to lose weight is only here to help you. It’s still up to you whether you will follow them or not.

        Mindfulness and lifestyle transformations really are key for keeping it off. Your journey will make you strong, educate you, and transform you.

        Your motivation is within. Find your “why”, hang on to it, be patient, love yourself, and you will find success at the end of the journey.

        More Tips on How to Get Motivated to Lose Weight

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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