Improving mood by HEALTHY exercise

I wrote a post not so long ago about returning to exercise (sensibly).

Today, was a sweltering hot day. I got up in a particularly nasty mood which was lingering since yesterday. Nasty thoughts raced through my mind:

I take more from this world than I give back

The world is against me; no one wants to be friends with me

What if…what if I have failed me exams? Them why have I bothered to recover?

The stress of my exams, coupled with the fact that they are now almost over and I have no friends to go out with (causing me to get depressed as the brick wall hits me in the face that leads to the inspection of myself in order to find what defect I have that prevents me forming more social contacts).

Normally I would look at challenging those thoughts as I have learnt to do in therapy. But sometimes I am caught off guard and just cannot think of any challenges. The answer, I have found, is to think in advanced (when I’m in a better mood) of negative thoughts that may occur, and write challenges to those thoughts. Then, to simply look at that piece of paper when those thoughts occur.

I shall post challenges to some of these thoughts in another post.

Anyhow, on with today’s story. So, I am in a  really negative state, and decide to look up the swimming pool timetable. I get my swim gear ready, decide to go with my granddad (who I see infrequently), pick up the courage to challenge myself (will people look at me and my body and analyse it as much as I do?) and simply go. It’s a sweltering hot day and I can’t wait to get into the water of the indoor pool.

I ensured that I did not overexercise by the following:

  1. I made sure the exercise was not intense. There were no self-imposed goals or targets to meet.
  2. I made sure to take care of my body, which is still recovering from my shoulder operation, and my general lack of fitness by taking regular breaks. I listened to my body: if it told me to stop, I stopped.
  3. I talked to my granddad, so added a bit of socialisation; the focus was shifted from calories to having fun.

I came out after 2.5 hours, and was amazed that my mood had lifted. It’s honestly like a miracle, a magic, quick-fix “pill”. Perfect. Research shows that exercise releases endorphins in the brain, and I certainly noticed the positive effect. The negative thoughts have died down.

I plan to incorporate gently exercise into my routine. A pleasant swim once a week might make all the difference.

One thing is still missing: eating a tiny bit more to compensate. I just don’t feel hungry. I am arguing with myself now: should I or shouldn’t I? Part of me feels I did not burn that much (I swam far less than I hope to or used to pre-anorexia). That I can just ignore it and move on. It’s just a one off, right? But the logical part of me knows that if I slip back, it will be all the easier for unhealthy exercise to creep back in when I am least expecting it. On second thought, I might grab a something, even if it’s just an apple to make up for it (well, I ought to be eating it anyway considering that I’ve been eating less over the past few days, although I ought to eat something more substantial). It’s not worth slipping back. I need to hold myself accountable. If I want to exercise, I need to ensure to do it healthily.

Relaxation

The body’s natural relaxation response is a powerful antidote to stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and yoga can help you activate this relaxation response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. What’s more, they also serve a protective quality by teaching you how to stay calm and collected in the face of life’s curveballs.

Take a look at this article located at: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_relief_meditation_yoga_relaxation.htm

In addition to this, I another useful resource if the free section of the iTunes store, useful for those of you with iPods. Simply search “relaxation” and there are a number of free files to download which may help you. I particularly liked one titles Relaxation (Garden) but I know this is a personal choice so you may want to try and download a number of free ones.

In addition, there are some audio relaxation exercises available for free download from the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland

Positive Qualities

This was an exercise I did in order to improve my self-esteem by writing a list of positive qualities. And, not only that, to back them up with evidence. Every so often I can add to the list. The important thing is to back it up with evidence, so that there is less chance of discrediting them.

  • I have a variety of achievements, awards and certificates which demonstrate my academic abilities. I am intelligent.
  • I take good care of my dog. I am caring.
  • I help injured wildlife and have helped to save the lives of 2 birds and hedgehog. I am compassionate.
  • I am punctual and reliable.
  • As a friend I am always loyal and caring and would never hurt other friends as others have done to me. I am trustworthy.
  • I can ski, snowboard, swim and do other sports. I have skills.
  • I am good at art and many people like seeing my work; I’ve had an exhibition at the Cornerstone Art Centre and have had a radio interview on the subject of art in Poland a few years ago. I am artistically talented.
  • I am very detailed in my work which always reflects a high level of accuracy. My teacher described me as “precise and creative” .
  • I learnt to web design at the age of 10, and currently run many (moderately successful and small) online communities / sites. I have skills and the ability to teach myself.
  • I always try to be polite to others and helpful where I can.

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