Exercise and the benefits to mental health

By Trey Tompkins - Contributing Columnist

It’s difficult to speak about mental health without being immediately drawn to a depiction of mental illness. What is mental health without illness? Mental health would be itself. It would be happiness through clarity of thought and peace of mind. Mental health is in knowing that we have done our best to preserve our means of survival. A lot of people that I talk to naturally use the words “protect” or “provide” as a description to justify these means. That, somehow, it is our job or duty to bring forth a lifestyle that will nurture the growth for themselves and/or their family.

Mainly, people seem to cover the mental aspect of health through their work or jobs. What this gives us is financial stability to which an entire family can be supported. When this is not perceived as sufficient or socially acceptable, it is our mental health that suffers and we sabotage emotional well-being. In our community, feelings aren’t really observed as something that give significant measure to our wellness. It’s more of a tough-love, tough-luck community. If you’re not feeling well, then it is you that needs to “suck it up.”

This is how exercise can come in and benefit our mental health. Not just by direct involvement to our mental aspect of being, but rather by helping us indirectly to become more in touch with our emotional wellness. Exercise is as much an emotional expression as it is a physical and mental experience. When I first started in fitness as a personal trainer, I thought there would be a lot of people willing to do what it takes to get in shape. Most people, whenever I take them through a basic workout, quickly realize how far out of shape they are, and then shy away. I thought more people would be stepping up. That’s what I thought strong was when we’re faced with some type of adversity. We don’t step up. We stress out even more.

Strength is in our vulnerability as a human being. Yes, it takes your feelings getting involved in order to make a sustainable, truthful standard of living. It takes heart over hustle. Exercise is a benefit to our mental health through the emotional level of being. This gives us a truthful barometer to the motivation levels that we are using. In my practice, I’ve learned that we are too far maxed out. Few of us have an appropriate “pace” and we’re driving ourselves too hard. This creates ripple effects throughout the community that cause exhaustion and extreme fatigue.

Think about it. How often are you going out and discussing how great life is? Or are you landing on conversations that sound a lot like “I guess my problem just is…” or “It seems like there’s never enough time…” If we’re fixated on a problem we will always discuss problems and therefore come into agreement that there is an overall, general problem with us. When in truth you are an amazing, powerful person capable of so much!

Exercise builds emotional stability. This stability helps us to let go of stress and to keep our power of focus at healthy levels. There is less distraction in our lives and we’re not being pulled in a thousand different directions at once. Mental health thus has the ability to heal and replenish itself. We have a positive understanding of how the world works around us. This is not theory. It’s practice and promise.

You may not be able to solve world peace, but you will be able to enjoy life.

Trey Tompkins is a local resident who writes fitness columns for the Record-Herald.


By Trey Tompkins

Contributing Columnist