Study finds being OUTDOORS helps you live longer
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Traditionally, it was thought that mental health and physical health were two separate entities, with our mind and body being separate. But we are becoming more and more aware of just how closely related the two actually are. Dr Cooper, who is also Head Mindset Coach at Real World Results, an online, female only, health, fitness and wellbeing coaching service, explained: “There are a variety of reasons why our mental health can impact on our physical health including impact of chronic stress on our bodies (higher heart rate, higher blood pressure gastro issues); poor health choices in the face of deteriorating mental health (e.g. lack of physical activity, poor diet, smoking, drugs/alcohol); sleep problems.
“While improving our mental health won’t necessarily protect us from physical health problems, by improving our mental health we can offset any of the negative impacts poor mental health can have, helping us to lead a healthier, longer life.”
One of Dr Cooper’s top tips for improving mental health to a longer life is “emotional regulation”.
She said: “Learning to manage the difficult emotions that life throws at us is crucial for maintaining good mental health. Being able to identify difficult emotions including anxiety, stress, low mood etc. is the first step in addressing the problem. Don’t push those feelings down, see them as sources of important information.
“If you are feeling anxious, consider ways to reduce the stress including breathing strategies, talking about the problem, focus on what you can control. Write it down – often seeing things in black and white can be super helpful. If your mood is low, consider what you need to boost that – spend time with a friend, do something fun, challenge any negative thoughts you might be having.”
Dr Cooper offered five other tips:
The benefits of physical exercise are well known. Not only is physical exercise beneficial for overall physical health by improving heart health, lung health, and helping to work towards a healthier weight, it has also been shown to be beneficial for mental health.
Dr Cooper said: “Exercise can boost serotonin and dopamine in our brains – the so-called happy hormones. These can have a positive impact on our mindset and general feelings of wellbeing. Not only that but engaging in regular physical exercise can help to improve self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment.
“At Real World Results, we encourage our women to take up space in the gym and feel empowered in each training session. The focus doesn’t always need to be on physical results when it comes to exercise and focusing on the feelings of accomplishment and improvements in self-esteem can lead to better mental health all round.
“At Real World Results, we use physical activity to not only make physical changes, but alongside specialist mindset support, we help our women develop their confidence from the inside out.”
Making sure that you are taking time for yourself regularly to look after your own interests is a cornerstone of good mental health.
Dr Cooper said: “Whether it be going to the gym for an hour, taking a hot bath, playing your favourite instrument, or going for a long walk, taking that time to prioritise yourself immediately bumps you up the list of importance and ensures you are engaging in things that you enjoy.”
The saying “no man is an island” is very true.
Dr Cooper explained: “As humans, we are pack animals – we are supposed to make connections and relationships which are not only essential for our survival, but also contribute to our sense of wellbeing and happiness. We thrive when we engage in healthy, positive relationships.
“If our mental health is feeling a little low, often a natural response is to withdraw from our relationships, but in fact, what we need most in this time is connection. So, prioritise spending time with people who fill up your cup. Surround yourself with people who support you and encourage you. It may be that you have to establish some boundaries with people who are less beneficial to your wellbeing, whilst pouring more time into those who lift you up. Being able to surround yourself with a community of like minded individuals who cheerlead you on can have such a positive impact on your wellbeing.”
Life is busy and we can find ourselves running around after everyone else, juggling home life, work life, social lives, as well as trying to be our best selves.
“Ensure you factor in time to slow down, rest and relax to help slow down your nervous system in a busy world,” said Dr Cooper.
How we talk to ourselves has a direct impact on how we feel. But according to Dr Cooper, many of us don’t even notice that internal narrative that goes on and the impact it has on how we feel.
“If we are walking around criticising ourselves, being hard on ourselves for things, or generally thinking negatively about ourselves then we will most likely see the world through a more negative lens and feel the consequences of that.
“Tune into that internal chatter and look at it a little more critically. Are the thoughts you’re having about yourself true? Is it how you would speak to a friend? If the answer is no, then why are you speaking to yourself this way?
“Meeting yourself with a bit more self-compassion, recognising that things are hard, you’re maybe not perfect, but you are trying your best.
“Meeting yourself with compassion helps to build your self-esteem, which ultimately boosts your mental health.”
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