The Link between Exercise and Mental Health

May is mental health awareness month, let’s all strive to be better and help one another.

Even a quick hike with your family can contribute to your mental wellness.

Humans are social creatures.

If we learned anything from the COVID pandemic, it’s that isolation and uncertainty intensify underlying mental health issues that more than a fifth of American’s live with every day.

Yes, 20% of US citizens experience mental illness.

We know about it, we have some treatment for it, so why is Mental Health Awareness Month such a big deal?

We must continue to advocate for mental health as:

  • Mental illness is still stigmatized. We wear glasses to see clearly; we use mental healthcare to think clearly.
  • Mental illness is still ignored. It’s easy to see injuries or illnesses of the body; not so much of the mind.
  • Mental illness is still underfunded. Healthcare in the US has come a long way in recent decades; but there is less of a focus on mental healthcare.

What can you do about it?  If you struggle, you can dampen the effects of the illness through exercise.

Exercise relieves depression.  15 minutes of daily exercise reduces the risk of depression; endorphins are natural chemicals that make you feel better.

Exercise reduces anxiety.  Anxiety can be caused by over-thinking situations; focusing on the exercise takes your mind off whatever is bringing the anxiety.

Exercise fights ADHD.  Physical activity creates dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin; these three chemicals improve focus and attention.

There are many, many more benefits; the bottom line is that we can all benefit from more exercise.

Start where you are, and add a tiny new habit each day.  It can be as simple as doing a single pushup, walking for a few minutes, or standing instead of sitting.

Start small and you’re more likely to stick with it.

Yours in health,

Hayley Miller MD

One more thing!

Community is one of the best ways to keep your mind functioning at a healthy level.  Here are a couple of events in May that you can attend with friends to keep that mind in peak performance mode.

Backcountry Brewfest: Missoula has more craft breweries than anywhere else in the state!  Enjoy a pint with friends over at Caras Park; May 13th, from 5pm to 9pm.  More details here.

TGIF Mountain Bike League: Every Friday from May 13th to June24th you can get out and ride with friends!  Discover the world, get some exercise, and see if you can win the race.  More details here.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Rendezvous: The North American Rendezvous hosted by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife. The biggest party of the year will be held May 12-14, at Fort Missoula  More details here.


Stress Awareness Month – Meditation Practices to Bust Stress

April is stress awareness month.  It’s where we have to get real with ourselves and admit pent up stress is taking a toll on our bodies. We’re all aware of stress, but a lot of us don’t take the steps we should to diminish, or eliminate, the stress all together. Because stress is such a big part of our lives, it doesn’t seem as though getting rid of it is even a possibility! But study after study shows the same thing: stress leads to deadly results – heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more. We can’t avoid stress.  We can, however, manage it through diet, exercise, and meditation. Last month Mountain States Diabetes entered into our second year serving the Montana communities with a newsletter about eating and sleeping better. Next month we’ll turn our focus to exercise and mental health.  This month let’s take a peek into the world of meditation as a means of managing stress. Sit and Breathe Meditation: one of the simplest forms of meditation is to find a comfortable spot, and focus on your breathing.  When thoughts sneak their way in, acknowledge them, and return your focus to breathing. Walk or Run Meditation: combining exercise with meditation builds a stronger body and mind.  Walk or run with your focus on your breathing, how your body feels, and become aware of yourself. Read and Reflect Meditation: reading helps to expand our minds, but often we just read to have read.  Instead, read a short section of any book you choose, and then reflect on the meaning and application for a few minutes. Gratitude Attitude Meditation: science tells us that grateful people are happier, healthier, and live longer.  It’s as simple as finding the good in everything, and focusing on gratitude.  It will take time to make it a habit, but stress dissolves when you’re thankful. Determine which meditation practice is best for you, and then build it into your life as a non-negotiable habit.
Stressed Out
Yes…I get stressed too!
  On of my favorite ways to get rid of stress is to get out there and do something! Each Thursday night in April The Old Post on Spruce Street hosts a Jazz Night; let the music melt your stress. Comedian Dan Cummins will be at The Wilma on April 23rd; laughter is a great stress buster!