Welcome to Day 4 of the 7-day eMentalFitChallenge!
Staying active is important to help manage your stress and anxiety during this difficult time. We are committed to sharing with you some proven tools and strategies for reducing daily stress and anxiety levels. Exercising only takes a small part of your day, but the benefits are long lasting!
Today's subject relates the link between exercise and happiness
Wishing you a fine journey through this wonderful eMentalFitChallenge.
The CKA Team
Disclosure: Information in all emails of this eMentalFitChallenge is collated from various sources stated after each article. The main purpose is to present current publications on different subjects related to mental health that may be useful. The CKA / ACK will not be held responsible for any consequences or damages that may occur as a result of the use, misuse, misinterpretation or abuse of the information shared. We emphasize that the aim is to help guide you. Should anyone require guidance in interpreting any of the provided information, they should seek the advice of the proper specialist.
Understand your Emotions, Understand Yourself
Emotions play a huge role in our lives, our actions and our relationships. Yet, most of us know surprisingly little about what they are, how we experience them and why we have them in the first place. Some psychologists might say we're low on "emotional literacy."
This lack of emotional literacy leaves us ill-equipped to manage the variety of emotions we experience on a normal day, let alone during a pandemic. Focusing on naming, expressing and dealing with our emotions the ones we like and the ones we don't is important for our mental health. By learning more about your emotions and how to name them, express them, and deal with them, you can use them to better navigate your daily life, make better decisions and feel more at ease.
What are emotions?
Emotions are sort of like our internal road signs or stoplights, but with the lights flashing in different parts of our bodies in different ways. There's a subjective part, which is how you feel in the moment what we might call happiness, sadness or fear. There's a physiological component, which is how your body reacts to what you're experiencing (clenched teeth? squeals of delight?). And then there's often a behavioural component, which is the action you take in response to how you feel.
How are emotions felt in the body?
Emotions physically manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Your breathing or heart rate might speed up or slow down. Your body temperature might rise or fall, leading you to feel warm or cool. Your facial expressions and body language might change furrowing your brow and slumping your shoulders when you're feeling frustrated, for instance. And finally, emotions might trigger movements, like tapping your foot or twirling your hair when you're feeling nervous or impatient.
Why do we have emotions?
First and foremost, emotions are thought to serve an evolutionary purpose. Our ancestors who felt fear and ran away (red light!) when they saw tigers survived, while those who felt nothing did not.
Another way to put it would be to think of emotions as motivators. We are motivated to do things that lead to comfortable emotions (green light!) and avoid doing things that lead to uncomfortable emotions. Once again, this plays a key role in our survival, leading us to seek out food, avoid danger and reproduce.
Emotions also help us communicate and collaborate with others, and therefore play a key role in helping our society run smoothly.
How does naming our emotions help?
Putting our feelings into words can reduce the intensity of negative emotions and make them more manageable.
For example, in a study of people with a spider phobia, researchers found that when participants described the anxiety they were feeling in the presence of a giant tarantula, they were better able to manage their anxiety when they were exposed to the tarantula one week later. In fact, the participants who described their anxiety in greater detail actually experienced the least amount of anxiety, including dulled physical responses like less sweaty palms.
Putting feelings into words is thoughti to decrease activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that drives our responses to fear and stress, and increase activity in the prefrontal control regions, parts of the brain associated with regulating and making sense of emotions.
How emotions connect us with others
According to emotion scientist Marc Brackett, the Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, labeling our emotions also helps us describe what we're going through, which helps us get help from others. We can't empathize without being in touch with how we're feeling ourselves, so this language of emotions helps us provide support that matches what someone is feeling, foster connections, commiserate and solve problems together.
By better understanding our emotions, becoming more aware of their effects and labelling them more accurately, we're better able to make sense of how we're feeling and act in ways that contribute to greater emotional wellbeing. That's the power of getting real about how you feel.
If your emotions are overwhelming, persistent and/or are interfering with your daily functioning, it's important to seek mental health support.
We've heard it all before, but here it is one more time: exercise, because it's good for you! Not only will you be healthy, but more importantly you will feel happy. Finishing that tub of ice cream or indulging in a couple glasses of wine after a particularly hard work day probably feels good in the moment, but may not yield the long-term results that you're truly looking for. There are many benefits and links between exercising and happiness, to learn more.
Next time you need a pick-me-up, consider some form of physical activity that you can enjoy with friends or family such as going for a family bike ride, or engaging in a game of basketball at the park. Whatever it is that you love to do while being active, dive in and keep at it!
Is There a Link Between Exercise and Happiness?
By Tom Scheve
If you've ever been stressed out, you may have attempted to relieve your anxiety in a number of ways: eating, logging hours in front of the television, or increasing your use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs (both legal and illegal). All of these represent attempts to take your mind off your worries, or in some instinctual way to alter your brain chemistry a bit. And sometimes it works.
There is one strategy for reducing stress and improving mood that not only seems to make people happier, but also yields positive long-term effects more conducive to long-term happiness: exercise.
When we walk, run, bike or engage in some other form of physical exercise, we generally seem to feel happier and less anxious. Although people who are in poor physical condition are certainly no strangers to happiness, one study of Stanford University student athletes found that happiness for this group was more a result of their personality and temperament than it was of athletic prowess [source: Denny]. However, there are certainly aspects of physical fitness that grease the skids of happiness.
In addition to increased energy, physically active people may feel a sense of accomplishment in meeting personal fitness goals. Also, they may feel proud of the improved physical appearance that those hours in the gym have produced. And getting outdoors on a nice day -- or even working out indoors around a bevy of strangers -- stimulates the mind and shakes up what may be for some people an otherwise monotonous and cubicle-centric daily existence.
But is there a direct link between exercise and happiness? We know that exercise has been shown to improve the sleep patterns of insomniacs, as well as lower their anxiety [source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine]. Studies on rats indicate that exercise mimics the effects of antidepressants on the brain. Exercise is also responsible for the creation of new brain cells in the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory [source: Karolinska Institutet].
Interestingly, happiness and exercise are similar in two notable ways: both are independently associated with a boost to the immune system, and also with the release of endorphins.
Read more including Happiness, Exercise and Antibodies or Endorphins,
Psychological Reaction to Uncertainty and Strategies to Deal with It.
By Amélie Soulard, D.Ps. - Psychologist and mental trainer at INS Quebec
Unforeseen events and crises are inevitable. How can we deal with it effectively while taking care of our mental health? The emotional transition we all find ourselves in at this time of the Covid-19 crisis, probably brings you to intense emotions.
In this situation, different strategies can increase our resilience, our tolerance for uncertainty and our openness to change; skills that will also serve us later in performance situations.
Focus on what you can control
Sometimes we focus on events beyond our control. Rather than blaming others or events, resilient people focus on what they can control. Here are some questions to ask ourselves to help us refocus our attention on what is controllable in the situation:
- "What can I control in this situation? "
- "What opportunity can I cease in this situation? "
- "Are my concerns true? Are they useful in the present moment?
- "How do we move forward?" "
Take the opportunity to mentally prepare yourself through meditation (or other mindfulness methods), relaxation, visualization, watching videos, reading books on the subject, etc.
Checking in on Your Level of Happiness
Today's content has been focusing on happiness what it is and is not, how to create our own happiness, and the relationships between happiness and exercise. In addition, with regular practice of your daily challenge mentioned in Day 3, you should also have learned new ways to help identify and focus on the things in your life that YOU are grateful for and make YOU happy.
By now you may have noticed:
- You have gained a new perspective of what is important to you and what you truly appreciate in your life;
- You feel calmer and notice lower stress levels at night;
- By noting what you are grateful for, you have gained clarity on what you want to have more of in your life, and what you want less of in your life;
- You have become more self-aware and understand yourself better;
- On days that you are feeling down, you are able to remind yourself of the things in your life that you are grateful for, and that bring you happiness.
Today's Exercises for your eMentalFitChallenge
1. Deep Breaths
You can calm your nervous system and decrease your stress by practicing your breathing:
Take a minute to focus on your breath:
- Breathe in. Count how many seconds it takes to breathe in.
- Breathe out. Take twice as long to exhale as it did to inhale. If your breath in took 4 seconds, your breath out should take 8 seconds. Don't worry if you don't get this the first time, it takes practice!
Repeat this a few times. Try to do this a few times a day.
2. Take a Stretch Break
Are you sitting too long at a computer or TV screen? Do these stretch break exercises recommended by Registered Kinesiologist Kathie Sharkey:
- Wrist flexors stretch
- Wrist extensors stretch
- Upward then Downward stretches
- Neck stretches
- Upper Back stretch
- Elbow Opener stretch
- Chest stretch
- Repeated lumbar extension
Being more active is very safe for most people, however, some people should check with their doctor before they start becoming physically active. If you are planning to become much more physically active than you are now, consult a Kinesiologist to guide you through your process. Find a kinesiologist near you. The CKA will not be held responsible for any consequences related to performing these exercises.
Stay Tuned for Tomorrow's eMentalFitChallenge:
- Managing Stress with Exercise
- Relaxation Exercises and Interval Training
Looking for some more mental health support through exercises?
Find a kinesiologist near you (click here)
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Kinesiologists are human-movement specialists. As trained health professionals, they use the science of exercise and movement to promote health and well-being; prevent, manage and rehabilitate chronic conditions; restore function and optimize human performance in the workplace, clinical settings, sports and fitness. They work with people of all ages and with physical abilities, in many settings, in order to improve the quality of life, often by using interventions that include physical activity. The CKA represent 4300 Kinesiologists across Canada.
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