Today is World Mental Health Day and the theme for 2016 is ‘psychological first aid’. It’s no secret that sport and physical activity has a positive impact on our mental health, but can it also be used as psychological first aid?
While there is no substitute for long term support and regular exercise to help our mind and body, can swimming, cycling and running act as a means of support to ourselves in times of distress?
Here are three reasons why using sport as a means of psychological first aid is worth considering:
- Endorphins are the body’s natural feel good chemicals and exercise produces more of these chemicals.
- Sport can help to reduce stress by relaxing our blood vessels, reducing heart rate and blood pressure. This biological change helps the body to process tension.
- Exercise acts as a physical stressor to the body. The brain compensates for this by increasing deep sleep so it’s easier to sleep after a good workout.
Along with the immediate physical responses that can act as first aid, there’s a sense of achievement that comes with getting your body moving. There’s a shift in perspective and a period of time, no matter how short, that your mind is occupied on something other than the challenges you’re experiencing.
Once the initial sporting first aid has been administered, it’s time to incorporate a regular endorphin boost into your life. Triathlon incorporates all of the ingredients necessary for a happiness recipe. It’s a sport that you can train for alone, enjoying time and space to think. Joining a club brings a social element where you learn, share experiences and find people who can push you to improve. Signing up for an event gives the added bonus of a goal to work towards and crossing a finish line brings the ultimate feeling of exhilaration.
Pictures: Thanks to Castle Triathlon Series