Movement for Mental Health: Something to consider
Written by Lara Williston, Mobility & Performance Specialist from Shift Mobility and Performance.
When it comes to recovery and mental health care everyone’s recovery process will be different so it’s important to have different self-care options that can be included in your recovery plan.
One aspect that is being talked a lot about these days is movement and how it can impact our mental health. In my personal experience movement was a crucial part of my own recovery process for a variety of reasons. It was not just the physiological effects that I benefited from, but the social aspect of fitness helped me feel less isolated and gave me a sense of belonging that was really helpful in keeping me motivated.
To understand how movement can be helpful in improving mental health we can look to our own internal “drug cabinet” in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The system involves endogenous neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors found all throughout our bodies, including our immune system and in our brains. The ECS regulates a number of physiological and cognitive processes such as pain-sensation, mood, and memory. It is also involved in that feel-good euphoria we experience after a good workout or movement session.
Knowing how this system works can give us a better understanding of how movement can be a form of therapy. By activating this system through moving our bodies we can give ourselves a dose of these cannabinoid-like chemicals and in turn mediate shifts in mood, which is essentially the main goal of most mental health care plans. Movement is by no means curative or a first-line intervention, but if we have the ability to manage sudden changes in mood that many people struggling with mental illness experience then it can be a great tool to avoid prolonged set-backs in your recovery process.