October 20th, 2019, was a very emotional day in our lives.
Our daughter ran her first 1/2 marathon at 24 years old.
While this is a significant accomplishment for anyone, it was particularly poignant for her.
Five years to that day, she had gone to the emergency room for a mental health crisis.
After suffering for years with an anxiety disorder, which crippled her life, she was feeling helpless.
It was a challenging time for all of us.
Running has helped her recover along with a lot of in-depth work on her mental health, plus medication, the right medical doctors, and great psychotherapists.
But finding the time for a self-care habit, like 20 minutes to exercise, can be challenging for everyone sometimes.
We know it will make us feel better, but now and then, it’s hard to get off the couch.
Many people feel more stressed with the pandemic and more time-starved than ever. It’s like drinking water from a fire hose!
What if your doctor pulled out a prescription pad and wrote: “play daily”? Would you take a written prescription more seriously than just being told you have to form an exercise habit once a day?
If we think “movement as medicine” can help us be healthier, we might find it easier to set aside time to support our bodies and brains.
In my book, I devote a whole chapter to how the habit of play can affect your brain.
In chapter five, I interview renowned Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor Dr. John Ratey, one of the world’s authorities on the brain-fitness connection.
Dr. Ratey knows more than anyone how a playing habit turns our brains on and how the side effects help our bodies be healthy.
“The brain responds like muscles do, growing with use, withering with inactivity.”
Interestingly, this week, I came across Dr. Brendon Stubbs’ new research work from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, measuring what kind of impact just 20 minutes of running can have on brain activity.
“These [long-term benefits] include an improvement of up to 29% in people’s ability to deal with stress and an increase in relaxation levels of up to 18%. People also got sharper, with an increase in brain processing speed of up to 26% and an improvement in memory of up to 21%, while they were also up to 28% less prone to making rash decisions.”*
Whether it’s running or something else, the habit of play is a form of therapy and self-love.
You can release more of the positive hormones such as serotonin and endorphins, which will enhance your mood.
At the same time, it simultaneously reduces the production of cortisol, the stress hormone.
We all have control over how we use our body and how we can make a habit of being more active, improving our brain’s function.
A little bit of play every day, combined with other forms of self-care and therapy, can make a big difference in our mental health.
For your brain’s sake, get out and play!
P.S. Want to change your habits and have fun?
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