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mental health mondays :: message from mother earth

consider a waterfront stroll
last month we had earth hour, but this month, earth gets a whole day. that might not seem like much, but it's more than any other planets get. no one takes a moment to celebrate neptune day. or venus day. or alpha centauri day for that matter and that's a star with its own solar system.

and while there are lots of ways in which you can relate earth day to your life, i thought i'd chime in with a message i received from mother earth this morning that's important for your mental health:

please get up and move around a little. take a walk around and appreciate what the world has to offer, even if if just means wandering through your home or office and contemplating the view from each different window. you'll feel happier.

that sounds simple, but there's so much science behind the idea that exercise is a powerful tool against anxiety, depression and even the most serious mental disorders that it falls into the realm of things that should simply be taken for granted [like the reality of man-made climate change -ed.]. if you want science, here's a bunch.
perhaps a hike in the mountains?
the extent to which it benefits an individual can vary, but it seems that virtually anyone with any level of mental disorder can benefit from physical activity. if you're inclined towards team sports and visits to the gym. congratulations, you're probably in better shape than i am. but that might not make the biggest difference in the world. a study of 164 individuals at the university of southampton school of medicine indicated that the greatest benefits came from exercise conducted during leisure time- activities that were perceived as fun and enjoyable. people who got moderate amounts of exercise but stopped short of exhausting themselves were less depressed.

the science on why physical activity ise so particularly effective at improving mood is a little wanting according to some sources and it's unclear whether or not increasing physical activity can play a role in preventing mental disorders, but it's clear that our body's natural processes are designed to equate exercise with positive feelings through the magic of endorphins.

endorphins are like mother nature brand morphine [in fact the name is a portmanteau of endogenous, meaning from within, and morphine]. they are opiods, which means that they are natural pain killers, produced by the pituitary gland. while endorphins themselves can't penetrate the blood-brain barrier [a sort of fortress wall that keeps many things from getting into your brain and wreaking havoc], they do disinhibit dopamine pathways, which is a fancy way of saying that they make it easier for dopamine- the feel good drug your body makes for itself- to flow through the brain and make you feel very, very nice indeed.

maybe a romantic evening amble
this isn't to say that all mental disorders can be cured by a brisk stroll to count the buds on the trees. some people will always require more serious intervention. some people will always require some type of artificial chemical correction in order to regulate the blend of flavours in the stew which is their brain. but research shows that physical activity can benefit people with any level of mental disorder- the list of conditions that show improvement from exercise is kind of remarkable. but it's also reflective of something else that should be common sense: the human body is built for physical activity and reacts badly [by making you more anxious and depressed] when it is prevented from engaging in any.

so on this earth day, mother nature wants you to remember that your body is a pretty remarkably designed machine. everything is connected and everything is meant to work together in a certain way. allow your body to do what it is naturally inclined to do and every part of it will benefit.

[each of the pictures used here is taken from my pinterest board "geography", where you can find links to the originals if available. top to bottom, the locations are the basque territory in northern spain, the wulingyuan scenic area in hunan, china and a park in bucharest, romania.]

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