To make the brain happy, get moving

Anxiety and depression are two of the most widespread mental health concerns. Whether or not they are diagnosed and medicated, mood disorders are becoming more and more prevalent. While drugs and psychological therapy may both be necessary, physical activity – especially when done outdoors in nature – is the most direct route towards positive change .

When you start moving, you don’t always know where you’ll end up. This is where I ended up last weekend. The destination most people often seek is to get leaner, physically. But what is less discussed is how much happier moving will make you, mentally. This isn’t wishful thinking, either. Physical activity brings the brain to life. Through the intricate network of nerves, the stimulus of movement goes from muscle, up the spine, and to the brain. When physically stimulated and properly fuelled through food, the brain sparks, and comes to life.

Here are five reasons why exercise brings pleasure to the soul:

1. Exercise reduces inflammation – from diabetes, to hypertension, to cardiovascular disease. When you reduce inflammation, blood flows smoothly through your arteries, insulin and cortisol subside, and your brain gets a steady dose of energy, all day long. Its like cleaning out clogged pipes so the water can flow through.

2. Exercise stress better prepares you for life’s emotional stresses – When you put positive physical stress on your body, the nervous system must respond. It does so by sharpening and becoming more resilient to accommodate the physical overload.
A sharper, stronger nervous system is much better able to handle mental stress.

3. When you’re absorbed in a physical activity – your mind is completely present to what you’re doing. Mindfulness manifested. The more focus demanded of the activity, the less mental energy available for negative thinking. Basically, you give your brain a more important task to do than to brew up gloomy thoughts. The brain isn’t a good multi-tasker, so when the choice is between moving or stewing,”Shut up and move”, is what you tell it to do.

4. Getting outside into nature. This needs no further explanation.

5. When you embrace the habit of physical activity, another positive habit will follow, like a shadow. As you become more aware of your body, you will have the desire to eat differently. You’ll appreciate how food functions as fuel. These two daily habits combined will benefit the brain – improved mental focus, concentration, and hormone and neurotransmitter production. All in all, exercise and food train and feed your brain as much as they do your body.

So what do you think?