Where do you go to, my lovely?

23 Apr 2018
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When exercising your body is also good for your mental health

The last few days have been stunning, with clear blue skies and welcome sunshine. It makes it so much easier to pull on my running gear and trainers and get outside – in fact I can’t wait to get started! It’s such as change from the wet, muddy, cold conditions we have endured over winter.

As I was out this morning my mind wondered, as it usually does on my runs. I found myself pondering on what happens in our heads when our bodies are busy, especially during exercise whatever form it takes, whether it’s running, yoga, tennis, gardening, weight training…
In my case, it flits around between whatever projects I have bubbling away – that book I’m ‘writing’ (not much down on paper yet, it’s mostly in my head), ideas for blogs like this one, emails to answer or calls/meetings scheduled, or ideas for talks or changes to workshops I want to make, or anything that happened yesterday or earlier in the week.
Sometimes my mind hooks onto the words of music I’m listening to (like the title for this blog – ‘Where do you go to, my lovely’ by Peter Sarstedt – I know, I have unusual tastes in running music!).
Wherever it goes, it means that almost before I know it my run is over, and I’ve hardly noticed the burning thighs and calves, or a slight stitch developing in my side and any other feelings of exertion. It doesn’t mean I haven’t really enjoyed my run, taken in the beautiful day, the fresh air, views or my running times.
What it does mean is that my brain has benefited from my stint of exercise as much as my body has, this free wheeling is an important part of keeping my brain healthy, processing past events and working on new ones. It helps to clear out stuff I don’t need to hang on to, and it encourages a bit of creative thinking so I can get to work with a clear head, and often buzzing with new ideas. I also find that any niggles I have are often resolved – a bit like when you go to bed with a problem and wake up with the solution (when you can’t remember a name and wake up with it pinging into your mind).
This is the same mechanism at work when we use distraction techniques to alleviate pain. On BBC Breakfast last week, they reported on the recent trialing of immersive games on pain patients, whilst they were undergoing procedures like bandage changes. This immersive technique reduces the amount of pain killers the patients need and makes the whole situation easier to cope with (but it’s a guided or focused distraction, rather than my freewheeling activity).
Our brains are incredibly powerful tools, and it’s well worth spending a bit of time taking care of our mental health in whatever way works for you – for me, it’s enjoying running out in nature (when it’s warm and sunny!), or practising yoga, cooking (all that chopping, stirring, mixing is very therapeutic), pottering in the garden, being with friends and family.
What’s your essential maintenance plan?
If you would like help opening the conversation on stress in the workplace, contact me to discuss how our talks and workshops can help:
info@mind-yourbusiness.co.uk or telephone 01798 344879 – it all starts with a conversation

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