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8 Fabulous Mental Health Benefits of Exercise You Need to Know

8 Fabulous Mental Health Benefits of Exercise You Need to Know

Wanting to have a fit body is a fabulous reason to exercise, but weight-loss is only half of the story. Today, I invite you to discover the 8 mental health benefits of exercise you need to know.

1. Exercise Helps You Think Positive.

Exercise makes you feel alive and top of the world. For an example, look no farther than endurance athletes who often report experiencing “the runner’s high,” a feeling of complete calm or euphoria that sometimes takes hold of their body during a long run or race. According to a study by the journal Cerebral Cortex, this is because running causes your brain to release a rush of endorphins, the happy hormone that makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

2. Exercise Helps You Get Stuff Done.

Just 10 minutes of exercise can improve your concentration and mental strength, according to analysis of 19 studies published in the British Medical Journal. Do a few sets of squats or take a brisk walk while your morning coffee brews to get focused and ready for your day.

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3. Exercise Helps You Release Baggage.

Hit the gym or take a run if you find yourself feeling burdened because of financial stress, a crazy day at work, or a nasty fight with your partner. Channel your frustrated feelings into increased intensity during your training sessions if you’d like to turn a negative into a positive.

4. Exercise Helps You Improve Your Memory.

Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent cognitive decline as we age, according to Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.” Research suggests that exercise results in the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a chemical that rewires your memory circuits so they can work together more effectively.  All other things equal, any exercise is better than none; but this particular mental health benefits of exercise requires a consistent fitness plan including 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity for about 5 days per week.

5. Exercise Helps You Think Outside of the Box.

Got a big exam, speech, performance, or presentation coming up? You’d be wise to squeeze in a workout a couple hours before, because getting sweaty improves your creative capacity for up to 2 hours after a training session. Clear your mind by performing a few yoga poses a little while before your next big event.

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6. Exercise Helps You Relieve Stress and Anxiety.

Exercise could be more effective than any antidepressant on the market according to a study by Duke University published in the Journal Psychosomatic Medicine.  The Anxiety and Depression Association of America echos that sentiment:

“According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.” Source

7. Exercise Helps You Gain Confidence in Your Abilities.

Have you ever avoided going to a gym or exercise class because you were too embarrassed to work out in front of strangers? If so, I know the feeling; I was overweight for most of my life and avoided group fitness activities for the very same reason. But please realize that where you are starting from is irrelevant; the important thing is where you’re going. According to a study by the Journal of Health Psychology, it isn’t the weight lifted or speed reached that increases your confidence, but the simple act of exercising itself.

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8. Exercise Helps You Love and Accept Your Body as it is.

Comparison is the thief of joy, so stop comparing yourself to celebrities with figures that are out of reach. When you see scantily clad models in magazines, remember that the female photographed probably went through restrictive diets and fitness regimes (not to mention digital enhancements) in order to look the way they do.

When you see articles like “The Katy Perry Workout,” realize this routine was originally designed for a specific person (Katy Perry) with a specific body type. Even if you did the same workout as instructed, you could not reasonably expect to look like Katy Perry, because life just doesn’t work that way.

Comparisons aside, exercising will help you become more comfortable in your body. Whether you’re curvy, skinny, or muscular is irrelevant. Your body is a glorious vessel that will take care of you as long as you take care of it. Exercise is an expression of love for your body, as evidenced by the physical and mental benefits of the top three types of exercises listed below:

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Running will help you reduce anxiety, relieve depression, and live longer.

Lifting weights will help you improve heart health, protect your bones, and maintain a healthy weight.

Yoga will help you increase concentration, improve balance in older adults, and reduce back pain at work.

You would be wise to include all 3 of those things in your training. This will help you improve your speed, strength, and stamina; all while enjoying the wide variety of health benefits listed above.

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Daniel Wallen

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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