How does mental health affect people? Part 2/2: what can we do about it?
Updated: Jun 6
It isn’t about being bulletproof it’s about giving yourself a fighting chance.
Staying active undoubtedly does wonders for your mental health and state of mind. It gets your feel good hormones flowing, and as you get fitter you will feel more confident in certain situations. From my own personal experience and over 6 years of coaching thousands of personal training sessions with hundreds of clients, I would say that strength training is the best form of exercise for maintaining a healthy state of mind that can be done in a gym. Personally I love it, the feeling of squatting so much that an iron bar is bending around you and when you rise up out of the squat you feel it shake, I love that.
Mental health can be described as a Squat; when the heaviest weight possible is pushing you down you fight back and you stand up and you keep doing it because every rep, every set, every kilo placed on that bar is a step closer to the person you were meant to be. You will fail sometimes but you get back up and go again. Every day you're here on earth is an opportunity to be taking steps towards who you were meant to be, you'll have sh*tty days but you get up and go again tomorrow.
Doing Jiu-Jitsu was really beneficial. To be good at ‘Jits’ you have to calm 100% of the time, there was something about getting beaten up that helped with anger and when something worked, it was simply amazing.
This is the reason I started Mind Strong to teach people how to lift weights safely, effectively and maintain mental health. The sessions are done in small groups with minimal exercises so that people don’t feel anxious or overwhelmed.
Here are a few reasons why I love strength training so much.
Working towards a goal and achieving it gives you a buzz
Training for something you wouldn’t have thought possible
It is a pursuit of personal progression
Competition among peers pushing you
Improves self confidence and belief
Low level of inflammation
Exhausts the body to help with sleep
Boosts testosterone greater than other forms of exercise for greater recovery
Easily measureable progress towards a goal
I really found swimming useful as well, mainly because I was so bad at it that when I knew I was getting better it felt great.
If you're new to the whole exercise thing altogether just getting started by even doing 10 press ups a day on your bedroom floor is better than nothing and you can build on that.
You might be a novice or looking to get back into it either way start small and steady but sustainable and progressive changes.
You don’t 30-40 years living a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle to an olympian overnight. Give yourself more than 2 weeks to achieve a result.
Believe it or not one of the biggest influences over your mental health is your stomach, well to be specific your gut lining. Here in the gut lining is where serotonin is made, one of the feel good hormones.
Obviously there are certain things that will affect your gut lining such as alcohol, sugary foods, being dehydrated, fizzy drinks and drinking too much coffee can affect it.
However, I am not saying cut out alcohol altogether or even cut out chocolate. What I am saying is make sure it isn’t excessive and if it is, start to cut down on it.
If you can read this chances are you're human, so if you like doing something keep doing it. I wanted to be ripped and strong like The Hulk, but I like pizza and I stay up later than I should be playing FIFA and Call of Duty.
If you have done something for a while or at least the whole of lockdown it will be hard to just go t-total or cold turkey straight away.
Cut down gradually to make it more sustainable and you’ll be more likely to succeed and make a lasting change.
There is very little point in dieting to lose weight, do really well for one month lose a stone and then relapse because you put too much pressure on yourself and gain it all back. It is known that when this happens people end up gaining more weight than what they were in the first place.
I created a starter pack for people to guide them through the first steps of living a healthier lifestyle, get your copy here.
This is probably one of the most important parts of the mental health paradigm. If we don’t get enough sleep we tend to not think properly for that day and it can easily become a vicious cycle. Check the perpetual cycle of mental in Part ½. In terms of other aspects of health it can have an impact on our blood pressure, our training and our fat burning.
It is suggested that we should be aiming for 6-8 hours of un-interrupted sleep a night. If you’re getting up in the night to go to the toilet, waking to even just turn over or waking up and then struggling to get back to sleep, it has been interrupted.
If you struggle with for any of the above reasons exercise will be tremendously helpful along with cutting down on caffeine and trying a bit of meditation.
What meditation actually is up for a bit of discussion. However, I would describe it as focusing the mind on one thing so that other parts of the brain can slow down or shut off.
Unfortunately you won’t be able to float or bend some spoons like the kid from The Matrix but it can ground you so that when you’re running at a million miles an hour and on the verge of a panic attack it can bring you back down to earth.
I wrote a blog and included some different forms of meditation in that.
I have tried incorporating various different things into my morning routines to see what I prefer as with anything that I’ve said here it is my opinion and obviously take what you want and leave what you don’t.
Here’s some of the things I’ve used…
Cold showers 3-5 minutes in the morning
Listening to Goalcast videos on youtube in the morning
Writing a diary or appreciation journal at night
Meditation or deep breathing at night
Following the 16 Day Press Up Challenge in the morning
Reading at night
My top ones that I’d recommend out of the list, cold showers - they really are as grim as you might think but you have to breathe and stay calm, after 3 seconds you’ll realise you’re ok and overtime you’ll get better at composing yourself. Goalcast videos, this is my top one and yes the bed is made every day. At the minute I’m reading Ross Edgeley’s Art of Resilience (Excellent read). This is a great exmaple of deep breathing.
Your night routine should help you to relax, your morning routine should wake you up and prepare you for the day a head.
My honest opinion on supplements is that you’ll gain more from cutting down on the bad stuff rather than spending £100 on the protein powder. What happens if you get it with all of the intentions on Thursday night and ‘yeh, I’m going to start at the gym on Monday.’
If you're slamming 10 cups of coffee a day you’ll gain more from cutting down to 7 and drinking a litre of water than if you bought, ‘ultimate fat burner and sleep enhancer 1000’
because they had some fitness model on it that has a body you dream of having.
My advice is do what is sustainable.
If you spend loads on supplements only to be back living a bad lifestyle a month or two later the supplements were wasted. In my opinion. It is the same if you get some T5's because they're really effective at shedding fat, but they will cause negative health consequences, such heart and thyroid problems.
Create a sustainable but healthy lifestyle.
Step out of your comfort zone
Probably the most import out of all of the things that has been said here. But I am telling your now 1000% this is true. “On the other side of fear is the best things in life.” - Will Smith. I must have watched that video every day for 6 months. My fear heights was insane. I used to have a landscape gardening job, I’d get up a step ladder to clear out hedges or clean gutters on bungalows, 3 metres up and I’d be panicking, I hated it. 10 years later I did a skydive.
It took so much mental energy to stay calm and not p*ss or sh*t myself that when I got to the ground I was completely overcome with emotion.
I can’t tell you how petrified of it I was and every time I tell the story it always seems surreal.
Just as we jumped out of the plane I remember absolutely being panic stricken but I remembered the things I'd learnt from the break points of my workouts.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and thought to myself 'try to enjoy the moment.'
When I opened them again I absolutely f*cking loved every second of it and in the process with the help of my girlfriend and clients we raised almost £700 for Lancashire Mind.
I’ve done a few things that have pushed me out of my comfort zone and I swear by it.
Achieving something you never thought possible amazing, proving everyone wrong that ever doubted you absolutely priceless.
An example of this is before Corona Virus every summer I would lead my clients around The Yorkshire 3 Peaks to raise money for Lancashire Mind. I made my clients train just that bit harder and made sure we all went on practice walks.
We had people over coming their fear of heights and pushing beyond what they thought was possible for themselves as we clambered, hiked and scrambled over the 3 mountains and 24.9 mile walk.
I have seen over the years how important a support network can be for someone. If you are lucky enough to have one use it. I am 100% certain people would rather listen to your problems rather than listen to your eulogy.
I created Mind Strong and Mind Fit for a few reasons but a huge chunk of that was that I wanted to create a group where people can come to the gym and feel comfortable in a gym environment without fear of being judged.
Mental health is a wiry mess of things and a devious foe. By doing these things I am not saying that you will be bulletproof but for me it is about giving yourself a fighting chance.
You will still have bad days, but it is about making the bad days more bearable less frequent, the good days even better and happening more often.
When you're ready to make a sustainable change get in touch.
If you missed Part 1 read it here.