31 July - 6 Aug 2015 #769

All in the mind

Exercise and yoga don’t just keep you physically fit but help improve your emotional resilience
Anjana Rajbhandary

I have started an exercise program, probably more times than the number of Prime Ministers we have had in Nepal since 2008. Starting to exercise is not hard, but continuing with it is the challenge.

My latest effort, which I have somehow managed to keep up with in fits and starts is probably the smartest decision I have made.  In June 2014, my motivation to exercise was the fear of moving back to Nepal and becoming the constant target of mean jabs from family members.

Of course, with time, exercise became more important than just how I looked physically. Initially it helped me feel more confident and improved my self esteem but it also helped me deal much better with stressful life situations. We have all heard of the many benefits of exercising such as a decrease in tension, and an improvement in altertness, concentration and overall cognitive function.

Exercises also help one’s general mood, we sleep better and improve our immunity. Basically exercise decreases the stress hormone called cortisol and increases the feel-good chemical endorphins in a person’s body. Most people who have stuck with their exercise routine say it also helps them emotionally and in a way reboots their minds. People who have started to exercise for their heart have said it helps their brain as well. 

Now that the dust of the earthquake has settled with some random aftershocks, if you haven’t started exercising this is probably the best time to start. Physical activities like cardio, even yoga can help improve your emotional resilience, the ability to deal with and handle crisis situations or stress. Emotional resilience is something one is born with but is something we can teach ourselves. It will take time but the process is worth it in the long run. And exercise helps.

An important aspect of emotional resilience is ‘internal locus on control’ , the belief that you control your life and not the other way around. It is not possible to control what happens in life but we can control how we react to it. Western science has gradually come around to the Eastern thinking that the body and mind are linked. Practicing yoga reduces a person’s stress level.

Yoga is literally taking over the world, as it is not just a form of exercise but a lifestyle change for many. Yoga is good for us because at the chemical level, it is known to reduce the cortisol level, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, reduce anxiety and give you an overall feeling of well-being.

You may have noticed that your friends and family who are more physically active seem to be dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake better than your sedentary ones. Then earthquake changed the physical and mental outlook of Nepalis. I was working three jobs because staying busy was the best thing I could do for myself so I wasn’t constantly disheartened by what had happened.

No matter how busy I was, I made it a point to exercise for an hour about four times a week. They say you are never that busy, it’s a matter of priorities. My mental health is my priority and the only way I knew how to help myself was by exercising.

Read also:

Union with the universe, Shristhi Shrestha

The Vipassana way, Roop Jyoti

Addressing posttraumatic stress, Anjana Rajbhandary

A little cup of self love, Anjana Rajbhandary