Whilst practicing Hypnotherapy I've met many, articulate, intelligent men and women who are struggling with self-esteem issues, stress, depression and anxiety. No matter how hard we try and how accomplished we become, modern life is just hard work at times. Those little daily stresses can really build up into feelings of being unable to cope, as we lose our ability to switch them off.
When we are happy and coping, we use the more intelligent, rational & highly evolved areas of our brain to work through problems in a solution focused way. When we become depressed, angry or anxious we use the more primitive parts of our brain, which are incapable of rationalising and tend to repeat the same thought processes over and over (sound familiar?).
The trouble is, when we're not feeling on top of things we tend to get stuck in the primitive brain and the bits that would help us out actually tend to start shrinking from lack of use. So how can we help prevent that from happening?
Research shows there's one recurring theme in helping people stay in that balanced and happy place - keeping your brain chemistry in check and helping the right parts of your brain strengthen and grow.
One thing that has really stood out for me in the neuroscience literature is the amazing impact that activity has on our brains. We're not talking gruelling exercise you hate either - but building fun, physical, ideally sociable and challenging things that you really enjoy into your life. Dance, yoga, rock climbing, kayaking, walking, running... anything that gets you out and doing something is great!
Exercise produces some truly amazing effects on brain chemistry and has been shown to be as effective as antidepressant drugs in improving mood (if not more so) in the longer term. It really is nature's wonder drug. As well as giving your brain a good reason to switch off from stress at the time, activity works on building positive pathways in the brain to improve your outlook for good!
Straightforward cardiovascular exercise helps boost happy brain chemicals and suppresses stress hormones, giving an instant mood boost and improving your ability to focus - it also encourages new pathways to grow in those rational areas of the brain which help stabilise our mood. Add in something a bit more complex involving co-ordination and focus and you start creating new pathways which your brain can use to solve other problems - it actually makes you smarter and more productive in other areas of your life, too!
Even sufferers of exhausting conditions such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia have experienced tremendous improvements from building a little bit of positive activity into their lives. It really doesn't matter what you do, it seems, as long as you enjoy it and are able to build some regular activity into your life. Obviously the more you can manage in the long run the better, but the best way to start is to make it something you can approach, fit in easily and enjoy within your comfort zone. You'll soon be feeling inspired to do that little bit more!