01.06.20

We all know what a big difference rest and a healthy lifestyle can make to our mood. But with one in three adults in the UK not getting enough exercise, and around 30% of us experiencing sleep problems, it’s not surprising that we can often feel that we aren’t performing at our best.

Why is exercise and sleep so important for our mental health? And how can we make sure that we’re making the right choices during the day to get the rest we need at night?

Move for your mood

The NHS recommends that everyone should do some form of physical activity every day. Whether it’s going for a run, a dip in the local pool, hitting the weights or doing yoga at home, we should all aim for around 150 minutes of moderate activity every week.

Regular exercise not only helps us to strengthen our bodies and maintain good cardiovascular health; it’s been proven to aid in good mental health too. Several studies have shown the positive link between activity and mental health, with the endorphins released during exercise helping to lift our mood and promote positive thinking.

Vigorous movement releases the hormone cortisol, which helps to manage feelings of stress, anxiety or low mood. The focus required to train in any sport or activity can also help to keep our minds of difficult thoughts or negative thinking patterns, making it a good coping technique for tough times.

Exercise is also beneficial for sleep; physical exertion during the day helps to make you feel tired when it comes to bedtime, signalling to your body that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Some experts suggest that physical activity can increase the level of deep sleep you achieve at night, meaning you wake in the morning feeling more rested.

Rest for relaxation

Sleep and mental health can sometimes feel like a vicious cycle. You struggle to get a good night’s sleep, so your mood is affected, but then stress and anxiety leave you with restless nights.

Getting the right amount of sleep is one of the best things we can do for our cognitive and emotional functioning. Sleep gives our brains the opportunity to process information, storing memories and ideas and ensuring we are refreshed and ready to meet the challenges of the day ahead.

Research suggests that not getting enough sleep may be linked to depression and anxiety, and many people with poor mental health report sleep issues.

By investing in a good night’s rest, you can help shore up your mental health defenses, helping to maintain your mental resilience and ability to cope with stress.

It’s all in the mind

Now that we know how important exercise and rest can be for good mental health, how can you adopt these healthy habits to boost your mood?

Having a daily routine that includes at least half an hour of physical activity every day will go a long way to supporting your mental health. Try taking a brisk walk or jog on your lunchbreak, or consider cycling or walking shorter distances to help break those sedentary habits.

Routine is key when it comes to sleep, too. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day – yes, even on weekends! – will tell your brain and body when it’s time to rest. Try to avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime, and keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Adopting a healthy sleep routine is known as ‘sleep hygiene’, and can help you to feel rested and positive the next morning.

Through implementing a few simple changes in our day-to-day lives, we can all benefit from the mood-boosting benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

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