“ ‘Tis the season to be jolly!”. With a year filled with fear, anxiety, stress and uncertainty, the one thing that brings a silver lining is the festive season. A time spent with family and friends (many of whom we didn’t see all that often) and surrounded by joy, laughter and a child-like happiness.
Bearing this in mind, it is imperative that we don’t get carried away in all the holly-jolly bustle and forget about our own health! We have been through more than anyone could have possibly imagined, and this has certainly taken its toll on our mental health. Whether we like it or not, life gave us all a few mental “bumps and bruises”. So, in light of recent events, we need to do something about this dilemma!
Studies have shown that being active, whether it be running, walking or even stretching, that getting the body moving improves mental health. When we are tired, we tend to move around slower, feel fatigued and have that brain-fog feeling. Conversely is also true, when we are stressed or even anxious, we move around with vigor!
“But where do I start?”. Well, simple: start small! Rise up from that all too comfortable couch, step away from that all too familiar Zoom meeting desk. Already you have started your quest to better mental health by simply getting up. Although not all of us are training for the Comrades, we can still go for a walk around the house, admiring the new Hydrangea and tossing the ball to little old Spot. Regular stretching in the morning helps the body to ready itself for the tasks that lie ahead.
Movement stimulates the release of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This natural substance enhances communication between neurons and increases cognition. Exercise and proper movement also stimulate the production of brain chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine, which energizes the body and elevates mood.
Movement is not only good for muscles but plays an integral role in bone health. When muscles contract, they pull on the bones onto which they attach to generate movement. This pull effect increases bone density and preserve bone mass.
Moving your body is healthy, and should feel good—however you do it. Below are some suggestions of ways to move your body.
Window shop: Take a stroll downtown or through the mall and browse!
Dance: Put on some favorite music and move in all of the ways that feel good. Dancing is wonderful exercise, as it incorporates standing weight-bearing exercise such as lunging or twirling with range-of-motion exercises such as arm sweeps and hip swings. Next time you spend time cleaning the house or getting ready in the morning, put on some tunes and incorporate dance.
Garden: Gardening often involves walking, squatting, reaching, and pushing/pulling. All healthy ways to move!
Stretch: Stretching your body not only helps to move lymph fluid, but also helps to keep you joints flexible and lubricated. Stretch while watching TV, listening to music, or talking on the phone.
Tone while grocery shopping: When feasible, use a shopping basket rather than a push cart. By carrying a basket around, you will be performing weight-bearing exercise for your arms while strolling around the supermarket.
Play with your children: Kids are some of the highest calorie burners, and they don’t even realize it—they play just for the joy of it. Engage in a game of tag or hide-and-seek, and forget the exercise—focus on the fun.
Enjoy the outdoors: Take a walk or bike ride, hike or ski, snow shoe or jog. Moving your body outdoors adds a double bonus of exposing yourself to nature, which packs in a slew of additional mental health benefits.
Remember to visit your chiropractor regularly and stay functional, biomechanically and mentally.
A good friend once told me, “You are confident. You are focused. You are unstoppable!”. Be confident in your stride, be focused on your health and be unstoppable in your quest for greatness.
Have a wonderful festive season and may this time bring new hope, kindness and joy in abundance!