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Exercise and Mental Health: The Perfect Combination!

The treatment of mental illness has evolved drastically over the past century. Maladies that were once misunderstood as anything from simple laziness to demonic possession now have scientific names and cures. Therapy and medication, among other treatments, have saved millions of lives. But is it possible that one of the most effective treatments has been in front of us for far longer? Recently, research has begun to uncover the importance of exercise and mental health; and in particular, depression and anxiety.

Exercise and Mental Health: What’s the Connection?

While we tend to talk about mind and body as separate things, the field of psychology understands that the two are inextricably connected. This is, after all, why medication can treat mental illness. On a simpler level, we all understand that emotions correspond to physical feelings. Anxiety can feel like butterflies in the stomach. Sadness can feel like a heavy weight on the chest.

Thus, it is not that surprising that exercise and mental health are connected. Exercise is crucial for maintaining physical health, and it is not much of a jump to the conjecture that physical health and mental health could affect each other. Multiple studies that explore the link between exercise and mental health have therefore been carried out. Interestingly, the results have consistently shown that exercise can be an effective treatment for certain mental health conditions.

Why is Exercise Important?

The connection between exercise and mental health may be a relatively new development, but humans have long known how important exercise is in general. Let’s explore why that is.

The Effects of Exercise

At its core, there is nothing wrong with the way we live in urban areas. Reductionists often argue that sitting down, looking at screens all day is a less than ideal way to live. But what we’re doing in front of those screens is important, even if a time traveler from the past might struggle to understand it.

The problem is that humans have not lived this way for very long at all. Our bodies are not adapted to this physically sedentary lifestyle. Lack of physical activity therefore leads to all sorts of ailments including obesity, diabetes, and mental illness.

While this is not a reason to abandon our lifestyles, we do need to make adjustments. Regular exercise can balance your lifestyle, allowing you to do your important jobs more effectively without compromising your health.

Benefits of Physical Activity

Physical activity has tremendous benefits to every aspect of our physical and mental health. The benefits of physical activity include:

  • Weight reduction and maintenance
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Stress relief
  • Increased libido
  • Improved mood
  • A decrease in anxiety
  • Increased alertness
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Better cardiovascular health

Exercise and Endorphins

In conversation about exercise and mental health, you’ll often hear the term “endorphins.” But what exactly are endorphins and how do they improve your mental health?

What are Endorphins?

Endorphins are chemicals manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and other parts of your body, which interact with the brain receptors that reduce your perception of pain. They bind to the same receptors as some pain medications, but do not have the addictive properties of these substances. Endorphins are released by your body when you exercise.

What Do Endorphins Do?

Endorphins trigger positive feelings in your body which are comparable to those caused by morphine. They also act as analgesics, reducing your perception of pain; and sedatives, calming your body and mind. They can therefore help to reduce stress, and relieve some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

How Can Exercise Benefit You Mentally?

The release of endorphins explains how exercise can benefit you in the short term. If you’re feeling light depression or anxiety (or day-to-day stress) exercise will give you an immediate boost. However, this does not explain how exercise benefits you in the long term. Research shows that the effects of exercise are not only beneficial directly after the activity, but can reduce chronic anxiety and depression.

There are a number of theories regarding why exercise benefits you mentally. It is clear that exercise directly affects the brain, even increasing the volume of certain brain regions. This may be due to better blood supply which improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the neurons. It also seems to improve the health of the hippocampus, which is important for mental health.

Regardless of the reasons, more and more evidence shows how exercise benefits you mentally. Studies suggest that it improves self-esteem, sense of well-being, and energy. It also decreases levels of depression and anxiety.

Exercise and Mental Health

Exercise and Anxiety

Tens of millions of Americans suffer from anxiety on a daily basis. Everyone experiences some anxiety, and it serves an important evolutionary purpose. However, at levels at which it affects normal functioning, it is no longer helpful.

There are a number of effective anxiety treatments, including therapy and medication. Exercise offers an alternative that is free of charge and has no side-effects. It can be used as the sole treatment, or as part of a holistic treatment regimen.

Natural Anti-Anxiety Remedies

Many people are hesitant to use prescription anti-anxiety medication and opt for natural remedies instead. These include meditation and mindfulness, writing and other types of creative expression, and relaxation exercises. They also include certain natural supplements, such as herbal teas, vitamins, and the like. A healthy diet can also improve your resistance to anxiety.

These remedies work to varying extents. Lifestyle improvements are always helpful, while the effects of supplements that have not been researched is up for debate.

Exercise is a natural anti-anxiety remedy that has been researched. It works even without the help of prescription medication. Exercise becomes part of a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle, and is beneficial beyond the anti-anxiety effects. It can increase your self-esteem and confidence, which in itself helps to reduce anxiety.

Exercise and Depression

In addition to its benefits for anxiety, exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. Millions of Americans suffer from clinical depression, and not everyone responds to therapy and medication. Others may be looking for a natural remedy. Even those who are receiving other forms of treatment will benefit from exercise, which is why it is generally a part of programs in good depression wards. In fact, regular exercise is recommended by psychiatrists and psychologists alike.

Natural Mood Stabilizers

There are a number of effective natural mood stabilizers. These include lifestyle improvements, with meditation and mindfulness, as well as relaxation techniques; being useful additions to the daily life of just about everyone. Writing, playing music, art, and the like, also help regulate emotions and reduce depression.

So too, there are a number of supplements recommended by varying sources which may help, but do not necessarily have scientific backing.

As we’ve mentioned, exercise immediately provides a mood boost, due to the release of endorphins. In the long term, studies suggest that exercise may be as effective in treating mild to moderate depression as antidepressants. While a one-size-fits-all approach is rarely wise in treating mental health, exercise is definitely beneficial, whether as the sole treatment or as part of a treatment regimen.

Which Types of Exercise are Best?

Most exercises are beneficial physically and mentally, but for the best results, there are certain goals that should be met. Start with what you think you can handle, but try to work your way up to at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five times a week. You don’t need to be out of breath or feel like you’re going to collapse. Rather, you should be breathing a little heavier than normal and feel warmer and somewhat sweaty.

The following types of moderate exercises can improve mental health.

  • Brisk walks in nature
  • Running, especially outdoors
  • Bike riding or spinning
  • Yoga, which helps balance and relax you along with giving you a good workout
  • Boxing, which can give you an outlet to release stress and anger
  • Resistance training, which can help you build muscles to give you more confidence in your body’s capabilities and boost your self-esteem

Regular Exercise: Why Can’t I Commit?

Perhaps the biggest issue with using exercise as a treatment for mental illness is that people typically struggle to commit or stay committed. Even those who at one time have a balanced, consistent fitness regimen, may at other times find it difficult to even exercise at all. You can see this play out in gyms in the first months of every year, as people flock to fulfill their new year’s resolutions. In a matter of weeks, the crowds thin out until the status quo returns.

But why should this be the case? If exercise gives you an endorphin hit, and improves your mental health for the long term, why do we struggle to motivate ourselves?

The unfortunate reality is that, as great as it feels to exercise every day, it is also very difficult. During periods in which life becomes more stressful, it becomes all the more difficult to find the energy you need to get up and exercise. Even if that is exactly what would help most. Changing seasons can also have an impact, as a pleasant morning run in the summer can feel like a special kind of torture when winter comes around.

Furthermore, the ideal exercise routine can be disrupted by illness and injury. Even once you’ve recovered, you may be demotivated by the setback and find it hard to commit. The most problematic issue is, however, that depression and anxiety tend to drain motivation.

This is one of the reasons why the link between exercise and mental health is generally investigated in sufferers of mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

Tips for Staying Motivated

If you want to begin exercising to improve your mental health, these tips for getting and staying motivated can help.

Focus On the Activities You Enjoy

Often, when people consider starting to exercise, they see it as something they’ll do begrudgingly. They think they’ll hate it, but may benefit anyway. However, you’re far more likely to be motivated to do exercise that you actually enjoy.

If you hate running but enjoy cycling, do the latter. Do you love being outdoors? Find an activity that you can do outdoors. If you have always wanted bigger muscles, make sure to include some weight training and enjoy the benefits.

Get Comfortable

Whatever activities you choose, make sure you are going to be comfortable doing them. A challenge is great, but that doesn’t mean every aspect of your workout has to be challenging. You don’t need to work out at the crack of dawn if you hate getting up that early. If you know weather conditions will be an issue, exercise in a gym, where the climate is controlled.

Don’t Over-Do It

Start with something that is manageable and don’t try to push yourself too soon. By pushing yourself too hard, you may end up overdoing it and getting injured. Injuries can derail the best of intentions and make it harder than ever to begin exercising again.

Make Exercise a Social Affair

By exercising with friends, or even with an online community, exercise can give you the social activity you’re craving. It also helps you to stay motivated, as your friends push you to be consistent and you foster a sense of healthy competition.

Reward Yourself

Finally, the most direct way to get motivated is to reward yourself. Find healthy incentives for meeting your commitments. Then, even at the toughest point of your session, you’ll have something to look forward to, pushing you to see it through.

The Magnificent Benefits of Exercise for Mood and Mind

The benefits of exercise for mood and mind are truly remarkable. Exercise can be the ideal treatment for mental illness, as it is good for your body and mind, has no negative side effects, and keeps you healthy. It contributes to a balanced lifestyle.

Exercise and mental health are inextricably linked. Not only do you feel great during and after your workout, but you experience an improvement of mood, among other benefits, in the long term. Ideally, it should be part of a balanced mental health and wellness regimen, so that injury or similar challenges do not derail your progress.

Steps to Achieving Mental Toughness

From sports to psychology; something that seems specific, yet general, all at once is mental toughness. Something that allows people to persevere through pain and become the best version of themselves. This article explores what mental toughness means and how to incorporate this into your day-to-day life.

Mental Toughness Definition

Mental toughness refers to the resilience and strength that some people possess that allows them to fight through struggles to succeed. Some may call this “grit” or “resilience.”

In other words, mental toughness is the ability to overcome personal doubts and challenges that may hinder your chances of achieving success or excellence. Some may argue that it’s what separates the good from the great and the exceptional; whether it is in sport, work or self-development.

What it Means to Be Mentally Strong

This is a question that so many people ask (as can be seen by the titles of countless self-help books and articles). Being mentally strong means being able to push yourself past exhaustion, challenges and opposition with strength and confidence to achieve a positive outcome. It means being able to tolerate uncertainty and regulate your emotions in a world that is terrifyingly unpredictable.

People who are mentally tough are not obsessed with being happy, yet they still have the optimistic outlook required to access happiness!

Emotional Intelligence Explained

The term “Emotional Intelligence” is used readily in passing conversation, but do you truly know what it means? It basically refers to the ability to be aware of, distinguish, regulate and express your emotions; as well as to understand the emotions of others. It involves being conscious of your own emotional state (positive or negative), whilst also being tuned into the emotions that others may be experiencing.

The Fundamentals of Mental Toughness

Let’s explore the fundamental principles of mental toughness.

Intention

A dream without a way to get there will always be just a dream; but add intent to the mix and you have a goal. The decision to either do nothing or do something is what makes the the difference between a vague “want” and a clearly set intention. A person with intention is clear about where they want to go and how they intend to reach their goals.

 Effort

Mental toughness means being willing to expend effort. This is the conscious expenditure of energy that’s required to achieve your goals. True success cannot occur without hard work.

Courage

Facing challenges with courage is a key aspect of mental toughness. It allows people to push through situations that are both tough and terrifying. It’s also courage that allows people to face up to challenges and use these challenges as opportunities for growth.

What Makes People Mentally Tough?

Let’s explore some categories of people who need mental toughness to do what they do.

Elite Athletes

Most elite athletes have the ability to push through mental and physical pain, in order to excel despite fierce competition. However, there is much more behind an elite athlete than mental toughness. These people usually possess another closely related key aspect known as consistency.

Elite athletes never miss practice, they don’t give less effort when they’re tired and they don’t let their team down. Basically, their effort is consistent.

Leaders

Again, in addition to being mentally tough, great leaders are substantially more consistent than their fellow colleagues. They push through circumstances to achieve the vision they have, without allowing external barriers to stop them. All great leaders also consciously build up those around them; again, consistently, despite how challenging it may be.

Artists and Writers

On top of mental toughness, what do great artists and writers possess? The answer is courage. People who forge success in their fields need to be brave enough to put themselves out there and create content or art that’s new and exciting. There is always a risk of rejection and failure and it definitely takes mental toughness to take a chance anyway.

Skills That Mentally Tough People Have Mastered

What are some of the essential skills that people with mental toughness have typically developed?

Viewing Challenges as Opportunities

No one likes to struggle, but mental toughness means embracing adversity. Understanding that challenges are new opportunities to grow is a key feature in overcoming them.

Taking Control of Their Own Life

It’s easy to blame others; but using that same logic, it’s easy to attribute your success solely to external factors. Thus, building mental strength is very closely related to taking responsibility for your life in all its successes and setbacks. Those who are mentally tough are willing to take a step back and own-up to their own faults, making space for personal growth.

Committing to The Task at Hand

Although mental toughness is a rather abstract concept to define, you could say that its related to concrete actions in the real world. It is necessary to commit to achieving mental toughness. This means setting goals and persevering through the challenges that will arise on your journey.

The road to mental toughness is not a quick race, it should rather be seen as a journey. Mental toughness, like your muscles, is built up by the effort that you put in every day. Even the smallest efforts should be celebrated, just as much as the larger achievement that awaits you further along in the road.

Being Confident

Having a strong belief in your ability to be triumphant is key to achieving success. Many athletes attribute their success to the confidence they have in themselves. Thus, applying this principle in everyday situations may be vastly beneficial to all of us.

Staying Positive

Finding and maintaining positivity in various situations (even if they seem negative) can serve as an opportunity to learn. This, in turn helps you to develop mental strength. Through positivity you will not only develop the ability to focus on the positive, but you could also find ways in which you can overcome any situation and grow from it.

Mental Toughness

5 Tips For Cultivating Mental Strength

Let’s cover 5 practical pointers for cultivating mental toughness.

Believe That You Can Achieve Your Goals

…and you’re halfway there? I’m sure that’s how the old saying goes. As cliché as it may sound, the fact is that it’s true. Your inner voice can be your biggest ally, or your biggest enemy. Luckily, you can decide which you’d like to side with. Believing that you can achieve your goals is undeniably important. In fact, the world’s most elite athletes attribute unshakeable self-belief as a major factor that contributes to their success.

Find Happiness in Intrinsic Motivations

If you’re constantly motivated purely by uncontrollable external factors, you’re likely to be engulfed by them before you know it. Intrinsic motivation allows for a much more stable road to mental strength. Such motivation will count a whole lot more when it seems like the external is crumbling or when it seems to be inconsistent. Internal motivations drive people to be the best versions of themselves by pushing harder, for no other reason than feeling pleased with themselves.

Don’t Allow Mistakes to Get You Down

It’s an age-old saying, “Learn from your mistakes.” If you didn’t make them, how would you be able to grow? Challenge yourself to look mistakes dead in the eye and ask yourself what you can learn from them. Developing this mindset will help you much more than allowing your mistakes to hinder you along the way.

Create the Life You Want

Setting goals and pursuing them (regardless of challenges) is an important factor in achieving what you want to achieve in life. Working towards a goal by instilling daily habits and completing smaller goals along the way is an important factor in attaining those broader visions.

Maintain Focus

Distractions, disruptions and discord will happen along the way. The ability to stay focused despite such factors is a large facet of being mentally strong. It allows you to maintain the direction needed to attain your goals, despite other aspects that may compete for your attention along the way.

Powerful Exercises for Achieving Success

Let’s cover four simple exercises to get you where you need to be.

Count Your Blessings

Research has shown that this is related to high positive levels of alertness and determination; just what you need to develop mental toughness. Being thankful helps you to reflect on (and realize) the good things in your life, whilst allowing you to push through negative circumstances.

Make Time For Relaxation

Relaxation encourages a healthy mind, in part because it gives your body time to take a break. This is just as important as constantly pushing yourself to achieve your goals, as it allows your entire person to recuperate and regenerate. This, in turn, allows you to push harder when effort is required.

Practice Mindfulness

Being able to pay attention to the present moment with intention, and without judgement, is the crux of mindfulness. It’s important for a range of factors, from increased immune functioning to increased concentration and reduced ruminative thinking. All these factors are important for achieving your goals.

Behave Like the Person You Want to Become

Start acting in accordance with the vision that you have for yourself as a person. If there are any inconsistencies between your behavior and the person you want to become, be sure to identify them as the obstacles standing between you and your goal.

Mental Toughness is a Choice

This article has discussed the seemingly elusive concept of mental toughness; that which makes the difference between surviving and thriving. What we’ve seen today, is that mental toughness is not out of reach; anyone can achieve it. It simply takes persistence, routine, dedication and the right mindset.

To paraphrase Vince Lombardi (NFL legend), “Mental toughness is character in action.” Do with that what you may!

The Benefits Of Listening To A Mental Health Podcast

More than 40 million Americans suffer from a mental illness. So why is it so difficult to talk about it? Whatever the reason, the taboo surrounding mental illness leaves millions of people feeling isolated during the time they most need someone who understands them. Enter the world of mental health podcasts.

While most people shy away from talking about difficult mental health issues, these podcasts tackle these topics head on. They help people in pain feel less alone and shed some of the stigma around their illness.

Here is everything you need to know about mental health podcasts.

What is a Mental Health Podcast?

A mental health podcast is a podcast that focuses on a mental health topic in every episode. It may use expert advice, humor, debate, storytelling, and more to delve into these subjects. A mental health podcast will generally take one or a combination of two approaches.

Self-Help and Self-Discovery

Many podcasters do what they do in order to help other people. They have suffered from mental illness and found ways to manage, and they want to share what they’ve learned. They, therefore, provide self-help talks and discussions with plenty of practical advice.

Others take a different approach, exploring and sharing their own experience, in the hope that others will relate and feel less alone. Just speaking about mental illness takes the stigma down a notch, and it can be a huge relief for those with no one else to turn to.

Of course, many mental health podcasts combine personal experience with self-help. They create a safe space for understanding and support, telling stories and sharing what they have tried.

Who Can Be a Podcaster?

Anyone can be a podcaster. There are no rules dictating who can and cannot share their experiences and thoughts. No matter who you are, if you have something to say, you have the freedom and basic resources to do so. For many, the goal of listening to or creating podcasts is connection.

However, the best podcasters have the added resources necessary to make it part of their careers. They invest time and money into conceptualizing, researching, and recording high quality episodes that can reach millions of people.

The top mental health podcasts are run by people who either have the needed expertise or have access to expert knowledge. They recognize the power of their own honest sharing, but also understand the limits of their knowledge. They, therefore, provide an engaging mix of stories, information, interviews, and advice.

Different Types of Mental Health Podcasts

Mental health podcasts generally aim for similar goals: connection, exploration, and advice. However, they go about achieving these goals from a number of different directions.

Psychology Podcast

Psychology podcasts explore topics in the field of psychology and mental health. They can be educational or entertaining, or both. They can open up discussions about a field that is more commonly spoken about in whispers.

The best psychology podcasts offer a mixture of information, candid discussion, humor, advice, and entertainment. They keep you engaged and make you feel less isolated, as well as providing resources to continue your discovery of the subject afterwards.

Self-Help Podcasts

Self-help podcasts primarily aim to provide tools that listeners can utilize to improve their lives. This does not mean that the entire episode consists of advice. Self-help is often best dispensed within a context of storytelling and discussion. However, each episode will offer practical self-help that regular or first time listeners will be able to take into their daily lives.

Anxiety Podcast

Anxiety podcasts focus on the incredibly common struggle of anxiety. While millions of people suffer from anxiety on a day-to-day basis, individuals who do generally feel like they’re the only ones. They feel like they are weak for feeling anxious, especially when the source of their anxiety is something that seems so unproblematic for everyone else.

Anxiety podcasts relieve this burden for many people. When you hear others describe the source of their own anxieties, you begin to recognize that your feelings are actually very common. You will also realize that they are not due to a personal weakness. Learning this doesn’t necessarily relieve your anxiety, but it helps to diminish the power that the anxiety has held over you. Rather than seeing it as a terrible secret, you will perhaps learn to see it as something that many people live with.

Anxiety podcasts may include practical advice for dealing with anxiety. Different approaches work for different people and good anxiety podcasters understand and acknowledge this.

Couples Therapy Podcast

Every couple experiences difficulties at some point in their relationship. It is only natural considering that no two people think the same way, manage their feelings in the same way, communicate in the same way, or argue in the same way. It is, in fact, incredible when a relationship lasts for many years without serious dysfunction.

Nonetheless, few couples seek help unless they are already in crisis. Rather than actively learning how to communicate better and support each other, they hope to simply figure it out as time passes. Unfortunately, the opposite generally happens.

Couples therapy podcasts help couples to understand why it is so hard sometimes to just get along. They may include actual snippets from couples therapy sessions, or describe the sort of conversations that go on in the therapist’s office. For couples who have not yet gone to therapy, or don’t think there is value in it, a couples therapy podcast can provide important insights.

Usually, these podcasts also make it clear that going to therapy does not mean there is anything fundamentally wrong with your relationship or that your love is not real. Instead, it is a commitment to learning the important insights that no one is born knowing.

Podcasts for Teens

Your teenage years are some of the most vulnerable years of your life. Teenagers who are going through tremendous physical and emotional changes, begin to question just about everything. Life may have made perfect sense until now, but suddenly nothing seems certain. One’s teens can be a formative time and a time for exploring new things, but they can just as easily be colored by mental health issues and isolation.

Unfortunately, society often does not take teenagers seriously. Their problems are disregarded as insignificant next to the problems of adulthood, despite the fact that adults generally have more access to tools with which they can solve their problems.

Podcasts for teens provide a space where teenage issues are taken seriously. They help teenagers understand that their issues are not the results of being childish or overemotional, but rather the product of a confusing time of growth and self-discovery. They help teens recognize signs of mental illness in themselves (and their peers) and they also relieve the sense of isolation that so many teenagers experience.

Funny Podcasts

Mental illness is a serious matter, but that does not mean humor is inappropriate. There are many mental health podcasts that use humor as a tool to make tough subjects easier to speak about. By no longer speaking about mental health issues only in whispers, humor helps deplete some of the stigma and taboo around the subject. It also means you’re more likely to speak about the subject without the heaviness that usually accompanies it.

Mental Health Podcast

Mental Health Statistics

Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, you may not realize how widespread it really is. The following statistics should serve to comprehensively dispel this assumption.

  • More than 40 million Americans suffer from mental illness
  • That is one out of every five adults
  • Around one in five teenagers suffer from mental illness
  • Only about 40% of those suffering receive professional help
  • Mood disorders are the third most common cause for hospitalization in the US
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death
  • For people between the ages of 10 and 34, it is the 2nd leading cause of death

Mental Illness Stigma

You may be wondering why, if mental illness is so prevalent, the stigma still exists.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, it is important to keep in mind that the illness itself makes you feel bad about yourself, and ashamed to be honest about it. People suffering with mental illness tend to internalize it and blame themselves for being “weak.”

But the foundation for the stigma comes from society long misunderstanding mental illness. The field of psychology as a science is relatively new and it has existed in something resembling its modern form for just over a century. Unfortunately, not everyone has come as far as the science in this time. It is all too common for people to see mental illness as a moral weakness rather than a type of disease.

The shame, that sufferers therefore feel, stops many of them from admitting to suffering from mental illness which makes it seem like it affects far fewer people.

Mental health podcasts are an important tool in breaking down the stigma, making it clear that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and that those who are suffering are not alone.

5 Podcasts That Talk About Mental Health

Thinking of trying out a mental health podcast? Here are 5 excellent podcasts that talk about mental health.

Mental Illness Happy Hour

Mental Illness Happy Hour, hosted by comedian Paul Gilmartin, is the perfect starting point for anyone affected by mental illness. Gilmartin delves deep into a huge range of mental health topics, without ever forgetting how important humor and levity can be. While he treats every subject with the seriousness it deserves, he makes sure it never becomes overwhelming. Mental Illness Happy Hour is one of the oldest mental health podcasts, and has done a lot to lessen the mental illness stigma.

The Hilarious World of Depression

The Hilarious World of Depression utilizes humor to normalize the subject matter. Depression, when viewed through a certain lens, can be funny; and the laughs make the experiences shared all the more relatable. Hosted by John Moe, The Hilarious World of Depression has featured some incredible guests, including Maria Bamford, Paul F. Tompkins, and Jen Kirkman.

Mentally Yours

Mentally Yours, created by Metro.co.uk, is a British podcast that focuses on mental illness, treatment options, politics, and more. Yvette Caster and Ellen Scott are candid in their discussions; using honesty, empathy, and compassion to help millions of people feel less alone.

The Struggle Bus

The Struggle Bus is an advice podcast hosted by Katharine Heller and Sally Tamarkin. They share their thoughts about a range of topics, and they have a lot of thoughts. While some podcasters shy away from sharing personal opinions, the hosts of The Struggle Bus do not. However, they are always open to changing their minds along the way.

Psych Sessions

Psych Sessions is hosted by LMHP, Dr Jimmy Morris. He invites experts, in every episode, to talk about a range of mental health subjects in more detail. Psych Sessions is informative and educational, but it is never dull. It’s one of the most popular mental health podcasts out there.

Mental Health Podcast Benefits

There are tremendous benefits when it comes to mental health podcasting, that go far beyond the undertaking of most podcasts to entertain and inform.

Eliminating Social Stigma

As we have mentioned, the social stigma surrounding mental illness exists in spite of its prevalence. By eliminating some of the social stigma, mental health podcasts can raise awareness and help save many lives.

Anonymity

Not everyone is comfortable attending talks on mental illness or going to therapy, as they often tend to worry that they might be seen. The anonymity in simply listening to a podcast makes it an excellent place for the wary to find information and advice.

Good for People Living in Remote Areas

Mental health awareness is far greater in and around cities than in remote areas. The resources available in remote areas aren’t always sufficient for people who are struggling with psychological issues. Mental health podcasts are highly accessible, no matter where you are.

Accessible for People With Physical Limitations

Similarly, people with physical limitations may struggle to either access resources (such as talks) or to go into a therapist’s office. Mental health podcasts provide them with accessible resources.

Convenience and Affordability

Most podcasts are available for free on apps that come installed on most smartphones, whereas courses may cost time and money that you may not have.

Podcasts are Educational Tools

Mental health podcasts are not just engaging and helpful, but they are educational too. They can help to build awareness in communities that are otherwise uncomfortable with the field of psychology. Mental health podcasts also provide informative resources to those in need and even offer additional knowledge to those who are studying to become mental health professionals.

Subscribing To A Mental Health Podcast

Subscribing to a mental health podcast is easy, and it is one of the ways in which technology is increasing access to important resources. There is something for everyone online, so that no one has to feel isolated while suffering from mental illness.

Mental health podcasts are serving an incredibly important purpose these days, from which anyone can benefit.

Pets and Mental Health: Healing with Animals

Stress, anxiety and emotional distress are experienced by millions of people all over the world each year. And while medications and therapy have become the mainstay of treatment for mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, some people find relief with less conventional treatment options. Many people suffering from emotional distress or mental health problems find that spending time with their pets or other animals makes them feel content. This beneficial effect on mental health has been studied, and it turns out that having a pet just might help!

Pets and Mental Health

It is estimated that almost 70% of households in the US have pets. Of those who have pets, 95% consider their pet as a member of their family. This strong bond between pets and their owners has made people wonder how that interaction could impact a person’s health.

The Human-Animal Bond

The human-animal bond has been studied to evaluate the impact that “interactions with animals” has on people’s lives. With such a strong bond between humans and their pets demonstrated in surveys of pet owners, it makes sense that these animals may, in fact, influence the lives of their owners. There has been extensive research in this area to determine the benefits that animals and pets provide. Through this research, it has been discovered that direct interaction with certain animals can actually improve some measures of mental and physical health.

Research

There has been a lot of research evaluating the benefits of human interaction with animals. Some of the research done in this regard has demonstrated the physical health benefits of interacting with a pet. It has been found that children with pets have lower BMIs and adults with pets tend to have lower blood pressure. In addition to these physical health benefits, pets have also demonstrated a huge impact on mental and emotional health. Research has shown that pets reduce anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation. They may also improve a person’s daily routine and, moreover, having a pet could encourage social interactions with others. The research in this area has been extensive. Many studies, that look at specific mental health conditions and how pet therapy may or may not benefit these conditions, can be found online. It should also be noted that some conflicting evidence exists that does not support pet therapy for mental health conditions.

Benefits of Pet Ownership

Pet ownership has been shown to improve the mental and physical health of many people. Pets provide an unconditional love that offers comfort and support for their owners. This can lead to a reduction in feelings of emotional distress and, ultimately, improved mental health. Pets also require their owners to establish some form of routine. This type of routine can be therapeutic for those who suffer from anxiety or feelings of overwhelming stress. In addition, many owners feel a sense of responsibility for their pet’s physical health. This often means that having a pet encourages owners to be more active, improving their physical health as well.

Pet Owners: Mental Health Statistics

A surprisingly high number of people are thought to suffer from mental health conditions in the United States. It is estimated that 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 5 children suffer from a mental health disorder each year. With such a high incidence, there has been extensive research into medical and non-medicine therapies for those who experience the struggles of mental health conditions. When looking at how pets impact mental health, research has found that people who have pets have lower rates of depression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. When surveyed, 74% of pet owners said that they felt their pet provided them with relief from their mental health problems. In addition, 75% of these pet owners had witnessed an improvement in a friend or family member’s mental health issues when they had pets. These high numbers support the idea that interaction with animals can benefit those who suffer from mental health disorders.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals are animals that provide emotional support for people suffering from mental or emotional health problems. Most often, emotional support animals are dogs or cats. However any animal that provides comfort or stability can be considered as an emotional support animal. For example, there are studies showing that guinea pigs, fish and even horses can have a positive impact on mental and emotional health. Animals that are considered dangerous to their owner or others are not able to become emotional support animals. Having an emotional support animal requires a letter from a licensed medical health professional. This letter provides the owner with legal protection and financial assistance in some cases.

Emotional Support Animal vs. Service Animal

While emotional support animals and service animals are both beneficial for the health of their owners, there are differences between the two. Emotional support animals help to improve the emotional and mental health of their owners, but they are generally not specifically trained to do so. Most of the time their mere presence in a person’s life is what benefits the owner. Service animals, on the other hand, receive special training to be able to provide aid and perform skills to assist with their owner’s health. Service dogs can be used for mental health problems, but they are used to help people with certain medical conditions as well. There are also differences in how emotional support animals and service animals are treated by certain establishments. Service animals can enter public places, like restaurants and workplaces, while emotional support animals often cannot. However, both can travel and live with you free of charge.

Pets and Mental Health

Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Depression

Pets can be beneficial for reducing rates of depression and also for improving some of the symptoms of depression. Spending time with a dog or cat can actually increase levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain; this is similar to the way in which antidepressant medications work. In addition to the effect that a pet can have on the brain, owning a pet requires the owner to take care of it, which in turn encourages them to also take care of themselves. This includes getting exercise (such as taking the pet for a walk or playing) and also regaining a sense of purpose each day (because your pet relies on you for food and bathroom needs). Pets also have a way of providing unconditional comfort and love, both of which can help those suffering from depression feel less isolated.

Anxiety

Owning a pet can reduce the incidence of anxiety. There are studies showing that children who had a pet dog suffered from anxiety less often than those who did not have a dog. Similarly, a study done in children with autism found that those who were allowed to play with guinea pigs experienced reduced anxiety levels and they showed improved engagement. Petting or playing with an animal can help take the focus off an anxiety-inducing situation and provide comfort for someone who feels anxious. This interaction also boosts the release of oxytocin and endorphins in the body. These are chemicals that induce calmness and relieve pain, respectively.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety-related disorder and people who suffer from this condition can benefit from animal interaction. Animals provide the anxiety-relieving characteristics discussed above. In addition, some people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder benefit from a service animal that is trained to help them through difficult times. These service animals can be trained to comfort their owners through panic attacks and alert them to dangerous situations. They can also be trained to ensure that their owner gets their medications. Through their comforting actions and unwavering love, these animals can give their owners the support they need to face their insecurities each day and get back to living their lives.

Mood Disorders

People suffering from various mood disorders can experience some relief in the presence of animals. They improve symptoms by reducing feelings of loneliness and improving daily mood. Service animals can also be utilized in patients with mood disorders, such as bipolar depression. For these people, service dogs can be trained to recognize mania, reorient their owner to reality and help alert emergency services if necessary.

Pets in Patient Care: Future Perspectives

Pet therapy has a place in mental and emotional health treatment. With the guidance of a licensed mental health provider, you can find an appropriate way to incorporate an animal into your therapy. A provider can help you to determine which type of animal would be most beneficial for you and if you would benefit from an emotional support animal or service animal. As evidence continues to grow in this area, it will be beneficial to learn more about the roles that animals can play in therapy and how they impact mental health.

Animals provide us with unconditional love and a sense of comfort. They are being utilized more and more to help stressed-out college students and lonely nursing home residents improve their mood and reduce their anxiety.

As we continue to learn more about the interaction between humans and animals, the ways in which animals can be utilized to improve mental and emotional health will continue to expand. For now, you should consult your mental health provider to determine how animal therapy may benefit you.

 

Resources

  1. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/pets-and-mental-health
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320950.php
  3. https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/alleviating-anxiety-stress-and-depression-pet
  4. https://www.certapet.com/emotional-support-animal/
  5. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/6386-millennials-led-us-pet-ownership-to-846-million-in-2016
  6. https://www.apaservices.org/practice/update/2015/08-27/animal-assisted-therapy
  7. https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers

Empower Yourself By Taking the Steps to Forgiveness

Although forgiveness is a commonly used word, it is not a concept that is easy to understand or to practice. Forgiveness is a highly personal and distinct experience that varies from person to person. Some people find it easy and natural to forgive; while others find it much harder. These people tend to bear grudges and harbor resentments. Others may even believe that forgiveness, for some things at least, is impossible. The good news is that forgiveness is something that can be learned and enjoyed by everyone in all kinds of situations.

Forgiveness: What Does It Mean?

When a person has been the victim of abuse or maltreatment by another person; they often harbor resentment, anger, bitterness and bad feelings. This also counts if the “victim” is only regarded as such by themselves. Sometimes these people may even desire vengeance. They may also wish for the person to be reprimanded or experience suffering in some way or another.

Forgiveness means that the person who has been abused chooses to change these negative emotions. By forgiving, they can liberate themselves from the cycle of negative thoughts and desires that come from feeling abused. This way, they hope to reduce the power that the abuser has over them. Often, the abuser does not even know that the person they have harmed has forgiven them.

Forgiveness can be aimed at one specific event or a series of events over a period of time.

Sometimes, we can feel offended by something relatively minor. A harsh word, an insult or perhaps even someone questioning our integrity or judgment are all examples of this. Some people can shrug off these perceived offenses easily while others can take them to heart allowing them to develop into larger, ongoing problems. A good example of this would be where family members have not spoken to each other for years due to some presumed insult or disrespect. The point is that allowing a minor issue to develop into something so important that it affects the lives of the people around you is damaging to everyone. With family members or close friends, taking the initiative to forgive can heal old wounds and encourage reconciliations.

In most religions and spiritual institutions around the world, followers are encouraged to practice forgiveness. Why? Because a person who can forgive is generally better adjusted and more complete.

Forgiveness brings peace.

What Forgiveness is NOT About

We often hear the phrase “forgive and forget”, yet forgiveness is not about forgetting. The thing is that whatever happened, happened; and you simply cannot change that. If you feel that you have been hurt, threatened or injured by the actions (physical, verbal or psychological) of another person; then it is up to you to deal with it. You will most likely never forget what has happened to you. But by forgiving the person responsible for hurting you, you can free yourself from the negative energies that may be holding you back in life.

Forgiveness is not about condoning, excusing or approving of the action which has taken place. If you feel that the action or reaction you experienced was wrong, unjustified or unnecessary; then so be it. Forgiveness is how you deal with that situation.

Also remember that forgiveness is not about reconciliation. It can be if the hurt is relatively small and the person is someone that you value. In more serious cases, however, reconciliation is often not a good idea as forgiveness is not about allowing the possibility for the person to keep causing you damage and pain.

Forgiveness does not require a change in the person who offended you. Instead it is the change it can bring about in you that is important.

Why Is It So Hard to Forgive Someone?

Forgiving someone who has caused you pain or suffering is not easy. You may confuse forgiveness with condoning or pardoning the act and, in some way, this could invalidate your pain and suffering. However, forgiveness cannot change what has happened or your past reaction to it. What it changes, is how you deal with it in the present and how you will deal with it in the future. It doesn’t diminish the significance of the event or your reaction to it in any way. It simply closes the door on the negative thoughts which are holding you back. By holding on to negative feelings you will only harm yourself. Keep in mind that the offender is generally unaware, uninterested or even contented by your suffering.

How Do You Forgive Someone?

To forgive someone you must change your attitude and emotions towards them from negative to at least neutral. Some people may even be capable of acquiring positive attitudes towards the person once they have forgiven them.

In specific situations, the damage a person has suffered is substantial. Examples of such cases include sexual abuse and infidelity. In these situations, it is much harder to forgive the offender. Nevertheless, the resentment and negative emotions experienced by the victim can cause serious personal damage. Learning how to forgive is very important.

If you have suffered a serious wrong; particularly at the hands of a trusted or loved person, you may need to seek expert counseling. Professional help can assist you in discovering ways in which you can start working on the steps to forgiveness. A trained counselor can show you how to look beyond the incident itself and to find the potentially life-changing power that forgiveness can bring.

Steps to Forgiveness

The Benefits of Forgiving for Your Psychological Health

People who forgive are healthier and happier than those who maintain grudges. Studies reveal that they enjoy better nervous system and cardiovascular health and they tend to have fewer health problems in general. These people are less stressed, have lower blood pressure and have fewer aches and pains.

After forgiving someone, people become less hurt and angry, their confidence increases and they become more compassionate. Their relationships can improve and they develop a more optimistic way of viewing life, decreasing the risk of suffering from depression or anxiety. Also, they can forgive with greater ease in future situations.

Forgiveness can free you to live and enjoy the present and take full advantage of the future.

Steps to Forgiveness

Some people may experience a blinding flash of insight and inspiration which allows them to instantly forgive a person for a past wrong. However, for most of us, completing the steps to forgiveness may take a while to achieve.

Express Your Feelings

First, it is necessary to examine the hurtful situation (even if this causes you pain). Be honest and open with yourself about what you feel. Some people may find it helpful to share their emotions with a trusted friend or family member, a mental health professional or a spiritual leader. Others prefer to write down their feelings. See what works for you and consider how these emotions have affected your life and the way you behave or feel.

Some people decide to express their feelings by sharing these feelings with the person involved. This can sometimes be helpful. But be prepared for them to deny or reject what you have written or what you are saying. Remember, achieving forgiveness should not be constructed around the reaction of the offender. Whether they understand what you are feeling or not is of no importance. The person can even be dead or it can be someone you no longer have any contact with. Forgiveness is for your benefit.

Many people choose to burn or tear up the writings they made about the situation at some point during the forgiveness process to symbolize their release from the power that the offender had over them. This could mark the point where you stop being the victim and regain control of your life.

Commit

Learn about the benefits that forgiving someone can have for you. Then start making a commitment to taking the effort to complete the steps to forgiveness. Make a voluntary, positive choice to forgive the person who has offended or hurt you; for your own good.

Get Some Perspective

Try to take a step back and observe the reality of the event as impartially as possible. Try to discover why the person may have acted in the way they did. Did they deliberately try to hurt you or was it perhaps involuntary? Do they even realize the pain they caused you? Empathizing with the offender can make the task of forgiveness a lot easier. Then think about your own deeds. Have you ever acted in a similar way before? Have you maybe hurt someone without meaning to? Perhaps you are the one who needs to apologize to someone and ask for their forgiveness.

Focus on The Positive

Try to find something positive in the situation. If this is not possible, at least try not to keep yourself focused on the negative aspects of what has happened. Some people find it helpful to join a group where they can talk about what happened to them and listen to others who’ve had similar experiences. Often, this can help you to find the positive aspects connected to the incident that you might have been unable to uncover on your own.

Find Peace and Move On

Put the incident to rest. Don’t keep reliving it over and over in your mind. Lay aside any thoughts of vengeance and reprisal you may be having. Liberate yourself from the power that this person has over you. Concentrate on the present and you will discover how much better you feel now that you have achieved forgiveness. Enjoy the peace and tranquility that it can bring and move on in your life with a calm confidence. You are now ready to shut the book on your old grievance story and write a brand new version.

The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness restores your personal power. It gives you back the chance to live and love, freely and honestly. It takes you from being a victim to being victorious.

You may have come to a point where you blame the things happening in your life on a past hurt or grievance. Or you may have fallen out with someone. Maybe it is time to consider the benefits of forgiving the person who has hurt or offended you. It might not be easy, but by taking the steps to forgiveness you can liberate yourself from this burden and enjoy a more fulfilling and positive life.

 

Resources

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/heart-and-soul-healing/201301/9-steps-forgiveness
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-forgive-3144957
  4. https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-forgiveness/

 

Things Will Get Better! Looking Beyond Your Diagnosis

Have you been diagnosed with a mental illness? If you feel overwhelmed, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. Good treatment along with the needed support can go a long way. Things will get better with time. Learning more about mental illness and your different treatment options can help you to recover a sense of well-being. Talking to your mental health professional about different coping strategies can also be beneficial.

Being Diagnosed With a Mental Illness

In order to obtain a diagnosis, you’ll need to consult with a mental health professional. They will take your symptoms and behavior into account while determining which mental illness you are struggling with. Your therapist will also talk to you about your thoughts and feelings. You may need to complete a questionnaire during your psychological evaluation. Mental health professionals are generally guided by the DSM-IV when making a diagnosis. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis is important because, with the right treatment, things will get better.

Types of Mental Disorders

Depression is a common mental health issue, which is characterized by persistent sadness that affects your ability to cope with daily activities. One in ten adults struggles with depression each year. While feelings of sadness are a part of life, depression is diagnosed by mental health professionals using the DSM-IV. If you have suicidal thoughts, it’s essential to seek help immediately.

The pressures of our busy lifestyles can be a lot to handle. Therefore, anxiety disorders are another common mental health issue. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive worry, which affects your quality of life. You may find yourself adjusting your behavior to avoid certain situations if you’re suffering from anxiety. Other mental health issues in this category include phobias, panic disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Psychotic disorders are associated with a disconnection from reality. You may be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder if you’ve experienced delusions or hallucinations. Another symptom that may accompany these types of disorders is disorganized thinking. Schizophrenia is a well-known mental health issue that falls into this category.

Bipolar disorder is associated with alternating periods of mania and depression. If you’re diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may have experienced high levels of energy and excitement which were followed by persistent sadness that made it difficult to for you to cope with your life.

Personality disorders typically involve emotional instability as well as unhealthy behaviors which could disrupt your life. You may also find that your symptoms have a negative impact on your relationships. Mental health issues that can be listed under this category include borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

Coping With Mental Illness

Having a support network can make it easier to cope with mental illness. Consider joining a support group where you can share your experiences with other people who are also having a hard time dealing with mental illness. If there are no groups in your community, think about joining one online. It can be helpful to stay in contact with friends and family who can offer you support during tough times. Another useful coping strategy is to keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings.

Dealing With The Diagnosis of Mental Illness

The period that follows your official diagnosis can be a confusing time. You may not understand how it happened. How you got to this place. Perhaps you feel like your world is shattering around you like broken glass.

Why Me?

When you receive a mental illness diagnosis, you may experience a range of emotions. Relief, hope, shock, and fear are just some of the feelings that may accompany your diagnosis. You may also find yourself asking, “why me?”

Is It My Fault?

You may be stuck wondering what caused your mental health problem in the first place. You may even start blaming yourself for your problems. It’s important to understand, however, that there are various factors that cause mental disorders and that you are not to blame for your illness.

What Now?

A diagnosis is just the beginning of your journey towards reclaiming your life from mental health problems. Next, you’ll need to learn more about mental illness and work together with a therapist to develop a treatment plan.

Things Will Get Better

Treatment Options For Mental Illnesses

Your mental health professional will determine which treatment option is best for you based on your diagnosis. Many professionals prefer using a combination of different treatments to get the best results.

Medications

Psychiatric medications may help you to find relief from your symptoms. This type of treatment is usually much more effective when it is combined with psychotherapy. Common psychiatric medications include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medications.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy could help you to get your life back on track. This type of treatment involves talking to a mental health professional about your symptoms, thoughts, and feelings. These sessions may help you to gain insight into your mental illness and to learn about useful coping strategies.

Brain-Stimulation Treatments

Brain stimulation treatments are considered a last resort if other treatments haven’t been successful. There are risks associated with this type of treatment so it’s important to consult with a mental health professional that you can trust before considering this type of treatment.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

You can support your treatment plan by changing your lifestyle and by using home remedies. It’s important to adhere to your treatment plan. Beneficial lifestyle changes include avoiding alcohol as well as eliminating recreational drug use. Eating healthy food and exercising regularly can also be supportive for your recovery. Lastly, you can decrease your stress levels by making your priorities clear and by decreasing your workload.

Participate in Your Own Mental Health Care

Did you know that by participating in your own mental health care, you can possibly achieve greater results sooner?

Read-Up On Mental Health Disorders

You can get better results from your treatment by getting involved in your own mental health care. Improving your understanding of your diagnosis can be useful in guiding you towards the best treatment. Read up on mental illness to discover more about your symptoms and treatment options.

Proper Communication With Your Therapist

Effective communication with your therapist guides your treatment plan so that you can receive the best possible care. By working together with your therapist, you can ensure that your treatment plan matches your personal preferences. With help from your therapist, things will get better faster than if you tried to cope with your mental illness by yourself.

Focus on Treatment, Recovery and Beyond

Feeling confused and overwhelmed when you first hear your diagnosis is a normal reaction. However, your therapist can help you to process these difficult emotions so that you can focus on your treatment and recovery. Don’t allow your diagnosis to limit your possibilities. Lift your head up and think of what you can achieve beyond the symptoms that are associated with mental illness.

Things Will Get Better!

It’s important to remember that things will get better with the right treatment and with support from loved ones or others suffering from mental illness. Let your diagnosis be the first day of the wonderful life that lies ahead of you!

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