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First Step for Better Mental Health

First Step for Better Mental Health

The incidences of persons suffering from anxiety and depression has been increasing. Unfortunately, much of this goes unaddressed due to individuals not prioritizing mental health as much as they do other parts of their lives. People tend to be more likely to visit a rheumatologist for physical pain than a counselor for emotional pain however, both are equally important. For starters, here are some indications that you may be suffering from mental ill-health:

  1. sadness for extended time
  2. excessive paranoia, worry, anxiety
  3. problems with substance abuse
  4. extreme mood changes (highs and lows)
  5. social withdrawal
  6. problems sleeping or excessive sleeping
  7. significant tiredness & low energy
  8. reduced or excessive eating
  9. suicidal thinking
  10. unexplained physical aches and pains

If you recognize any of these signs, take it seriously and reach out to your doctor, a mental health professional, friend or loved one right away.

First Step

However, there is also one first step that can be taken which, when done consistently, will see noticeable improvements and this is exercise. Research has proven that exercise lowers the risk of anxiety, depression and even dementia while it is also an essential component of a treatment plan for these conditions. Many persons have challenges maintaining exercise, however, it does so much for the body. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, increases connections between nerve cells in the brain and increases the size of the brain’s hippocampus. Exercise also makes any other interventions more effective. Here are some more benefits to note:

  1. improved mood due to release of endorphins & serotonin
  2. proven decrease in anxiety and depression
  3. improved memory and concentration
  4. places you in contact with nature and other people
  5. improved sleep and reduced tiredness
  6. reduces unhealthy weight
  7. increases energy and endurance
  8. helps with clear thinking

There are so many ways to exercise that it is a certainty that you can find a form of exercise that you will find enjoyable and look forward to doing regularly. A few options are gardening, swimming, running, cycling, going to the gym, talking walks, Pilates and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Exercise many be done indoors or outside however if you choose to exercise indoors at home or at a gym, do make it a priority to get out into the sunshine each morning as best as possible. Over time this will do wonders for your mood and boost your vitamin D levels which is also key for mental health.

Exercise does not need to take up a large chunk of your day. As little as 15 minutes of exercise has been proven to produce results but you should aim for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise that elevates your heart rate. Each person should be able to adjust their schedule to allow for exercise at least 3 times per week. Just begin where you are at and work from there. If you find accountability to be a helpful motivator, reach out to a friend or family member who would enjoy exercising with you or who can at least hold you accountable to the commitment you are making to yourself.

Do subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more practical lifestyle and health tips. The Cooper Wellness & Disease Prevention Center is also here to support your wellness journey. Feel free to contact us at 956-627-3106 or go to to find out more about our wellness coaching programs.

To your health

Dona Cooper-Dockery, M.D.

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