Exercise for Mental Health

Exercise for Mental Health on Te Araroa
Exercise for Mental Health on Te Araroa

Exercising for Mental Health

One of the issues that people experience when they are having difficulty mentally – especially those experiencing depression – is that you find you don’t want to do anything you aren’t required to do. One of the things I learned a decade ago when I was feeling down, was that when I felt down and I didn’t want to walk or bicycle, these were some of the best things for my mood. Why?

Exercise for Mental Health on Te Araroa Walk
Exercise for Mental Health on Te Araroa Walk

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Exercising allows you to view the world around you, getting you out of your mind for awhile. Exercise allows you to get fresh air and increase your metabolism, which helps your body to produce natural feel-good hormones. Exercise helps you to lose weight, which can further help your moods. Exercise can help you develop a schedule that brings you out of your shell. Exercise (when around others) can help you to develop more friendships.

Meeting a Friend on Te Araroa
Meeting a Friend on Te Araroa

Exercise for my Wellbeing

I try to exercise each week with my son at the gym and I also try to go on long tramps, either with him or on my own. This last week, I had a bit of extra time – a luxury for me – and I decided to do a few substantial walks. I left home earlier than usual and was half way through the walk before I saw the sun. I encountered two sheep on my travels and had a conversation with one of them. I felt the wind on my face, the air in my lungs and the feel of my feet as they contacted the ground. For those interested in meditation, there is a type of meditation called “walking meditation” and this is something I did, as I felt my body contact the earth.

Exercise as Self-Care for Mental Health
Exercise as Self-Care for Mental Health

Exercise for Your Mental Health

Try to get out, even when it feels difficult. Start with something small and try to add to it over time. We need sunshine. We need contact with other life. Perhaps you can find a friend who will go with you and who will encourage you on days you aren’t as excited about going. Every step helps!

Introduction to Meditation

As I sat down to meditate tonight, I thought I would make a short audio clip of the process of meditation. When I decided to try meditation for the first time in 2003, I had difficulty finding anything online to help me jump into meditating. I ended up reading a fair bit in books and then eventually finding some online resources, before finding a meditation group almost a year after I started my practice.

The waves were quite loud behind me while I recorded this and a car or two went down my wee road. Jack Kornfield has commented on how thankful he was about the road next to where he started meditating, as it helped his practice. I honestly don’t notice the waves or the rare car passing, once I am focusing on my breath.

I once told a friend that meditation was the greatest gift I had ever given myself. It has allowed me to have a new relationship with myself – or perhaps has allowed me to return to one from before my mind became so busy.

Remember – meditation is a practice. Keep practising and you will start to see the benefits.

Self-Help Music Therapy

Understanding Your Needs

What makes you happy? For some, it is cooking for others. For some others, it is playing a musical instrument. For still others, it is composing poetry. There is no one answer to this question. One of the things we can do to help ourselves through difficult times, is to practice self-care – or in the case of music, perhaps self-soothing.

Music To Soothe

There are a number of things I do to help myself relax, or to change my focus from things that aren’t currently helpful. Sometimes, I pick up my guitar and strum. Sometimes, I go for a long walk, where I can hear the wildlife, breathe deeply and see the beauty around me. Sometimes – like today – I pick up my darbuka (Middle East and North African drum) and play. As I focus on the beat and try to improve, my mind goes to a place that is different than anything else I know. In some ways, it is like meditation, but it is not calm and rather than watching ideas arise and fall away without my grasping them (in meditation), I can run with the feelings that are taking place inside of me.

Lee Jordan with darbuka
Lee Jordan with darbuka

What Will Work For You

Some people find what works by trial and error. Some have friends who introduce them to something and then it is realised how therapeutic the focus is. Drumming for me was something that started when I lived in a beautiful, wee town at the base of a World Heritage Area in New South Wales, Australia. There were many internationals living in this town and there was a drumming circle around a roaring fire on the monthly full moon. It was a special experience to share. You might have some idea of what will work for you – why not explore? While we all need help from time to time, ultimately our mental health is our own responsibility. Perhaps music will help you get through some of life’s challenges.

Looking Forward to 2020 and Beyond

I have been away from this site for a few days, including a few days of tramping for my physical and spiritual well-being. A lot is happening for me and my family. In addition to my counselling research – which is always happening, whether I am actually at work, or not – I am looking at some changes this year and planning ahead.

Counselling

Counselling is something I love, but something that over the last few years has taken a back seat to other commitments. Parenting, adjusting to life as a single person, loss of the man I considered my father and many hours of work have had me putting my head down and moving on with required tasks, with not enough time to expand myself professionally. I have made moves over the last several months to change that, with therapy once again becoming central in my life.

Spiritual Pursuits

I here use “spiritual” in the broadest sense – not a religious one. I meditate regularly, and love doing so, but sometimes I shave a few moments off my practice here and there, when busy. When I am busy I need it even more, so I am taking away from myself something that nurtures and nourishes me. I am expanding my practice this year, not only making more time for meditation, but more time for chanting and learning from others about their meditative practices and what these mean for their lives.

Self-Expression

I love writing. Working on this website, trying my hand further at short stories and poetry and other ways to share of myself bring me great joy and contentment. I want to encourage this part of myself further, including more writing experience and, in another related way, to express myself more in music. Singing to those I love has always been important, but I am trying to expand more in guitar and darbuka (Middle-Eastern drum).

Physical Care

I grew up in a cultural environment where care of one’s body was a low priority. Work, study and other pursuits were considered significant, but self-care (whether physical or spiritual) were considered of low importance. As I have been working on developing more compassion for others, as well as myself, I have realised the tender care I need to give myself.

So, there is a lot to look forward to in 2020! I am trying to build and nurture further development in each of these areas. Some of these efforts I will discuss on this website, both to encourage others and to further encourage myself.

Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns
Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns

Singing Bowl

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New singing bowl (note B) for #meditation.

A post shared by Gerald Lee Jordan (@geraldleejordan) on

Tibetan singing bowls are a fantastic aid for meditation! I bought mine last year and it has been such a help to my meditation practice. I ring the bell at the start and end of practice, with the starting sound very helpful in my entering a meditative state. I focus on the ringing as long as possible, until it cannot be heard any longer and then I shift focus to my breath.

There are many examples online. This one might be of assistance, if you want to experience the effect before getting your own bowl: