Tag Archives: cortisol

Positive Mental health- Exercising your Endorphins

4 Apr

endorphinsAs I said in my last blog I am going to share what contributes to great mental health. We talked about actions making the difference. Well here is an action that makes a real difference and contributes greatly to our mental health. as far as I am concerned this is probably the greatest game changer with concern to positive mental health….. It’s exercise.

We live in quite a sedentary world. It has been engineered so that we no longer have to move to be entertained. We can happily sit in front of our game consoles, laptops and ipads and engage with YouTube, Facebook and video games which will all entertain us without ever having to leave the comfort of our couches. We use technology to babysit our children without looking at the consequences of what they are processing subconsciously. How difficult as a parent must it be to compete with the excitement of technology especially video games were they are designed to set of neural firecrackers of pleasure and reward in your child’s brain at just the right intervals. Beat that Pops.

We travel on lifts without ever thinking of taking the stairs and we love travellators in airports we can access our smartphones and still make it to our destination while still discovering who has liked our last photo on Facebook, it beats walking between terminals. We sit in cars or trains for long periods and pacify our children with consoles and DVD films on the back of headrests.

We purchase products in supermarkets that confuse us about their health benefits. we secretly pile on the pounds when we think that we are improving our health because of this purpose led confusion. In one class I asked a participant to tell me the calorific value of the soft drink he had in his hand. He read the label and said just 105 kcal per bottle. The bottle was a 500ml bottle of Coke as we looked closer at the nutritional(really!) facts we discovered that it was 105cal per 250ml of the bottle but who only drinks only half a bottle of lemonade.It’s 210 cal per bottle of soft drink which will take roughly a 3km run to burn off. Confusion reigns. But enough about the troubles with food confusion. Lets look at the actions we can do to benefit our mood and mental state.

I can not emphasize the importance of exercise to our wellbeing. I am presently looking our my office window at a sports field where my office is it’s a sunny spring morning and I would be first out the door and changed ready to play if I had a group of friends and a ball free for the next hour for a kick about. I understand the importance of exercise. Firstly I feel great when I play in team games.I enjoy meeting other people(social connections) and I enjoy working with others to a common purpose(try to win). I also love to get out and have a run around because I know what exercise is doing for me. When I am involved in regular  vigorous physical activity not only am I maintaining some level of fitness, flexibility and building resilience in times when it is needed, I am also contributing to my mental wellbeing.

My body is also reacting positively to this physical activity and is providing a chemical response in the form of Endorphins which are produced when I do anaerobic exercise which may involve sprinting or heavy weight lifting.This will cause the production of neurotransmitters called endorphins that lock into special receptor cells that block the transmission of pain signals and also produce a euphoric feeling just like opiates.

I have tested this regularly. I will gauge my mood on a scale of 1-10 before starting exercise. I might find for whatever reason my mood score might be a 4 out of 10. After 25-30 minutes of vigorous exercise running or cycling I will gauge my mood gain and discover I am a 7 or 8 out of 10 what a difference a half hour of exercise has done for my wellbeing.

Exercise also reduces stress. People who exercise more produce lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol(which produces extra sugars into our system in times of stress) and ultimately have lower levels of anxiety.

So get out there get moving. Get out of the house and pick something that you love to do. This is the key to enjoying exercise. I enjoy team games so I play team games. I only run short distances because the will to stop and boredom are increased for me without a team around me. That is just me. If you don’t like cycling don’t cycle. Find out what you enjoy and follow it. It reminds me of the time the comedian Eddie Izzard ran 43 marathons in 51 days for comic relief in the UK. In an interview afterwards British chat show host Jonathan Ross asked him ” Running 43 marathons over 51 days is some achievement what was your favourite bit” Eddie without pausing says “Stopping… stopping was my favourite bit”.

Here is another interesting fact when it comes to those mood changing endorphins.Endorphins are also released when we eat chillies. Not as a reward because the body loves chillies but your body releases endorphins to help ease the pain. Funny that.

Next time your mood is low remember that vigorous exercise will up your mood levels add a chilli half way through and you just might have discovered why Usain bolt is always smiling

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Lessons for living-Worry wastes your life

22 Aug

Think about this how often have we spent time worrying about some event in the future not turning out how we expected. The answer is probably a lot. We worry when travelling to foreign countries, that an unsuspecting ice cube in our drink or a salad leaf will cause mild dysentery, and we end up in a hospital surrounded by people who can’t speak our language shaking their heads as they analyze your chart. We might even get bitten by some insect we have never seen before and produce a boil the size of Belgium on some inconvenient part of our body. Or end up in the hotel from hell with brown water in the shower and ants living happily under your bed or in your mattress. That is if we make it past the Ryanair desk without emptying the contents of our wallet for forgetting to spell your name correctly on your luggage tags.

These are all incidents that might happen but most likely won’t. Yet we spend an inordinate amount of our time contemplating situations or events that will never happen. All that time sent worrying has done nothing productive bar produce(depending on the worry involved) the stress hormone cortisol into our system which provides us with glucose that helps us when we were hunter gatherers in fight or flight mode  to stay and defend ourselves or run like the clappers if in trouble but unnecessary if you are panicking about the possibility of your holiday being turned into a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary.

Put it this way. I once worked as a plant supervisor for a large food manufacturing company. Our plants were in production from Monday through Friday. Saturday was for cleaning and maintenance. The plant was closed on Sunday and production started up once again at 8am on Monday morning.  Monday morning was sometimes a difficult day. People were just getting back into work mode others were wishing they were still at home and sometimes the  machines might need a few tweaks to get them running as efficiently as they did on Friday. Gremlins seemed to creep in on Sunday.

During that period of my life every Sunday after Breakfast a sense of dread would fill me as I contemplated everything that could go wrong on Monday morning. Consequently every Sunday was a day ruined with worry about what might happen on Monday. Was every Monday a bad day in work with machines breaking down or staff not turning up…No it wasn’t on the contrary we had a lot of very productive fun filled Mondays, but was every single Sunday ruined thinking of what might happen on Monday… the answer is Yes. All those Sundays ruined by contemplating the worst …and the worst never happened.

As humans we do this all the time as Dr Karl Pillimer points out in his study the legacy project ” Yes bad things happen,but you will find the resources in yourself to handle them. Why poison the present moment with continual pointless worry. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want in life and on a subconscious level that is not good…stop praying for what you don’t want in life.

Some of the elders who participated in the programme had wonderful insights to impart. Remember these are people who had lived large parts of their life and come to the realization that worrying is pointless

Manuel 72: ” You have to be flexible; don’t get locked into one frame of mind over anything, the most important thing is 95% of all things worried about never happen”.

We live in a world filled with advertisements that tell us how we should feel and remedies to sort it out. We are bombarded with the need to secure our homes in the case of fire,burglary,floods. Health insurance works on the premise that someday soon illness is on the way to you don’t be left out on a limb when it happens.Have you insured against losing your job… that’s on the way. Have you got Mortgage protection… Travel insurance for that weekend in Paris… Did you get your pet insured!! because here is the sad news that some day like all living creatures your dog/cat will die. Be prepared!!! It is no wonder we are in a constant state of worry.

Frank 88: ” Don’t give into every ache and pain be thankful for every day that you have on earth and enjoy your family. You can’t change anything by thinking about it. Worrying and concerning yourself is not going to change it one little bit”

Worry does us no good. It is like teaching a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig. Stop worrying…give it up… and just let your life happen.

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