Importance of Exercising Your Mental Health: How Going to Therapy is Like Going to the Gym

Maintaining physical health is often a primary goal among adults in the United States. Many individuals emphasize the importance of exercise and attempt to implement physical activity routines into their busy lives. However, fewer individuals give much thought to the concept of exercising their mental health, which can be as important as exercising their physical health. Mental health conditions can impact the psychosocial, emotional, and social wellbeing of those impacted. When people consider the status of their mental health, they often perceive the absence of mental illness as a sign of strong mental health. However, enhancing mental health involves self- care practices, which are as important to mental health maintenance as they are to addressing mental illness. Engaging in mental health self-care practices can assist in both maintenance and treatment, much like physical exercise does.

Self-care practices can be easily implemented into one’s routine. Self-care practices can include eating regular and healthy meals, maintaining hydration, engaging in physical activity, prioritizing sleep, and engaging in relaxing activities. Relaxing activities may include mindfulness-base techniques, which are accessible to individuals of virtually all socioeconomic backgrounds. These techniques assist in connecting the body and mind and often result in improvements in physical and psychological symptoms, in quality of life, in functioning, and motivation to increase self-care activities. Mindfulness or relaxation techniques may include breathing exercises, meditation, or muscle relaxation, which are easy to incorporate daily.

Other beneficial self-care practices include focusing on positivity
while challenging negative thoughts. Moreover, individuals can practice gratitude and remind them- selves of aspects of their lives they can be grateful for. Each of these can shift negative thoughts and perceptions to positive ones and often result in mental health enhancements. Individuals may also stay connected with family and friends to enhance their social support. The process of setting goals and priorities can be an effective means of stress reduction, while also increasing one’s sense of accomplishment.

A lack of mental health self-care practices can result in negative psychological and physical functioning. This includes the inability to properly manage stress, regulate energy, and can increase the risk of illness. Mental health self-care practices should be prioritized in the same manner as physical exercise as both enhance overall well-being and can increase the quality and longevity of one’s life.

Dr. Michael Clatch, Psy. D.

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