At SHEbd, we believe the emotional benefits of movement and of expressing yourself and your feelings through movement are just as important as the physical fitness exercise promotes. In this article, you’ll learn about the positive effects of exercise on mental health and how it relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, boosts your overall mood and more. We’ll also provide recommendations to help you find the right exercise to help you connect with and release your emotional body.
Keep reading to learn more about how the benefits of exercise go much further than just achieving physical well-being, and how exercise can help you achieve improved harmony and balance in your daily life.
The Mind-Body Connection
The mind-body connection is no longer just a theory — more and more scientific studies are confirming the impact of your thoughts, attitudes and emotions on your physical health. Other studies have also investigated the impact of somatization (the concept that psychological distress can manifest as physical symptoms) and report that somatization can result in any number of physical and mental health complaints.
Perhaps no one popularized these ideas more than respected medical professor and physician Dr. John Sarno, who demonstrated through numerous case studies the ways that unprocessed emotions and negative experiences and attitudes can lead to all sorts of chronic pain. As the Buddha said, “what you think, you become,” and while there are obviously many considerations that play a role in physical and mental health, including factors that are beyond our control, taking care of your emotional body is one of the most advisable methods for achieving overall health and well-being.
Benefits of Exercise for Your Emotional Body
The American Psychological Association and many mental health professionals advise physical activity as an adjunctive treatment for stress and for mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. This is because exercise promotes the production of endorphins, your body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals that can provide a mood boost, increase feelings of pleasure and alleviate pain. It’s also hypothesized that exercise can impact serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood (it’s also the chemical that’s targeted by antidepressant medications).
But the amazing thing about exercise is that the benefits aren’t short-lived — research has shown that exercise can have long-term benefits for alleviating depression and for reducing the overactive flight-or-fight response that often occurs in people with anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The many known benefits of exercise for your mental health include the following:
- reduced stress
- better sleep
- improved memory
- decreased cognitive decline associated with aging
- a sense of achievement
- increased energy
- enhanced self-esteem
- improved concentration
- increased resilience
- a healthier body image
Finding the Right Exercise for Emotional Connection and Release
While any form of physical activity can help you feel better, certain types of exercise place a particular emphasis on the emotional body, which can help you connect to how you feel and allow you to let go of emotions that no longer serve you. This includes yoga, Pilates, tai chi, qi gong and other activities that have been developed in the East, as well as methods that combine these approaches with cardiovascular and strength-building exercises.
While some people may reap some of the benefits from more “traditional” exercises like jogging, walking, rowing, spinning classes or other forms of aerobic exercise, they don’t necessarily offer you the restorative, introspective rewards that come with having a practice that takes a more holistic approach. However, it’s ultimately a personal decision and you may need to try several types of exercise before you find the one that’s right for your emotional needs.
The most important factor is whether you love the exercise or not, because then you’ll stick with it and the rewards will compound. If you’re just going through the motions because you think it’s good for you, you probably won’t reap as many benefits as when you truly connect with the exercise and allow yourself to enter a state of flow.
Next time you exercise, pay attention to if your movement is providing a transformative mind-body experience and an expansive, heart- and mind-clearing release in addition to helping you build a strong, resilient body. This multifaceted, holistic approach that incorporates cardio, strength, restorative meditation, mindfulness and stretching, helping you connect to every part of yourself.
After you exercise, try incorporating a CBD-rich hemp topical like SHEbd’s Hemp Balm to keep your muscles relaxed, open and ready to take on the rest of your day.
Stacy Mosel, LMSW, is a licensed social worker and psychotherapist. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she continued her studies at New York University, earning a master of social work degree in 2002. She writes in the fields of mental health and holistic wellness, drawing on her prior experiences as an employee assistance program counselor, individual and family therapist and assistant director of a child and family services agency.