Yoga is such a great activity. It is relaxing, improves your flexibility, improves your mind-body connection and certain yoga poses can even improve your strength. Overall, yoga is a fantastic compliment to your other fitness activities, but researchers have found a new benefit to regular yoga sessions: happiness!
That’s right, the regular practice of yoga has been shown to actually improve mood better than walking. We’ve already reported that exercise may be as effective as anti-depressants, but this new research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine actually shows an association between yoga postures, increased mood and decreased anxiety. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) compared the neurotransmitter brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels of those doing yoga with those of participants who spent time walking. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other anxiety disorders. (more…)
As if you needed another reason to avoid dieting, new research shows that the “cycling” on and off of diets can stress the brain’s system and cause anxiety, overeating, and withdrawal. If you’ve ever been on a diet where you restrict your food intake and avoid specific foods, but allow “cheat days” to release the restrictions, that process can be very dangerous.
Animal studies show that when diet restrictions are lifted, they ate less and their anxiety was lower than when they were required to eat diet food. In addition, the act of cycle dieting raises a stress-related hormone corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) to five times the amount of non-dieters. This hormone is related to stress, anxiety, and fear. The high levels of CRF give the feeling of being “stressed” when sweet foods were avoided. The researchers indicated these mechanisms correspond to the ‘dark side’ of addiction to drugs of abuse or ethanol, supporting the idea that the brain shows addiction-like adaptations to intermittent eating of palatable food. (more…)
Is there anything negative to say about exercise?
According to a recent article in The New York Times, exercise not just enhances mood and reduces anxiety but scientists are on the groundbreaking cusp of understanding the physiological processes that enable you to feel that amazing workout high after a long run or trek on the treadmill.
We have long known that exercise enables the growth of new brain cells. But at an October meeting for the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago, researchers from Princeton University revealed a startling revelation: In response to exercise, brains are calmer and more able to respond to stressful stimuli than brains that have not been exposed to regular exercise.
Travel is integral to my life. I start to relax when I walk in the airport and immediately relax when I board a plane. As a therapist, though, I know that more than 35% of the population experiences at least some anxiety about flying.
Calm your mind by practicing mindfulness and meditation. Visualize a soothing environment, perhaps your destination, imagine and experience it using all of your senses. After returning from a trip to Bermuda several years ago, I started using this picture to help clients practice visualization. What do you see? (The blue of the ocean and sea rocks.) What do you hear? (The waves crashing, the cars passing above.) What do you smell? (Salt water and sunscreen). What do you feel? (The warmth of the sun, the sharp rocks, the firm sand, sunglasses on my nose.) What do you taste? (Fruit juice.) Choose a setting that is calming for you and immerse yourself in it using your imagination. (more…)
Mini-marathon participants running through downtown Indianapolis.
In just under seven weeks, I will be running the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon for the second time. Part of the events leading up to the Indianapolis 500 each year, the Mini-Marathon is the largest half-marathon and the fifth largest running event in the United States. It is a major event for Indianapolis, including participants from all over the world, across age brackets, and of all speeds. I have fast new shoes and I am running more days than I’m not. I obviously have running on the brain. We write about the health benefits of running frequently, but there are several mental health benefits also.
1. Run when you are feeling angry or frustrated to burn off the extra energy. Research has shown that nothing relieves stress more than physical exercise.
2. Running increases endorphins which contributes to a general sense of well-being and mood elevation, so running can make you feel better when you are sad. (more…)
Why would a mental health therapist write and talk about nutrition, exercise, and weight loss? Believe it or not, these are very common subjects in group and individual therapy, as well as coaching. One of the reasons I have chosen to use a sliding-fee scale rather than insurance reimbursements in my private practice is to allow my clients to focus on the goals that are most meaningful to them. Weight loss and health improvement are very important goals to many, allowing them to increase energy and improve self-esteem.
Improving physical energy habits, including sleep, diet, and exercise, is often the first line of attack against the most common mental health concerns of anxiety and depression. Often, counselors must address such topics as part of a treatment plan when a client experiences the common side effect of weight gain as a result of taking medications to fight depression, bipolar disorder, psychotic symptoms, etc. In some cases, anti-depressant medication may be an optional tool to allow a client the extra boost needed to do the therapeutic work that can bring him or her out of that depression. (more…)