Thanks to the roller coaster year 2020 has been, more of us are facing challenges to our well-being and mental health. After all, it can be challenging to feel happy, alert and bursting with energy when you can barely leave your house. But research shows some simple everyday activities can increase your energy and well-being…
In fact, scientists have long known that physical activity can help us stay happier and maintain better psychiatric health.
Yet, research has always focused on more intensive forms of exercise, like hitting the gym or taking a dance class — things most of us can’t do in the age of coronavirus.
So researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH) in Mannheim decided to take a look at activities you can do closer to home, like simply going up a flight of stairs in your house or taking a walk.
The team took a deep dive into the benefits of these activities using movement sensors and even smartphone surveys, discovering that even little things, as long as you do them, can leave you more alert and energetic after the activity.
In turn, they say this can actually help prevent mental health problems down the road.
Your brain on physical activity
What’s truly amazing is that the researchers were actually able to visualize how even these low-level physical activities that really don’t take much extra effort work in your brain itself.
Using magnetic resonance tomography the team measured the volume of gray brain matter in the brains of participants, finding that the main area of your brain that cares about exercise is called your subgenual cingulate cortex.
They discovered that in people who have a low volume in this brain region, everyday activity has even more power to fill them with energy than in people with larger brain volume.
This is extremely important since the researchers point out that a low volume in your subgenual cingulate cortex puts you at higher risk of psychiatric disorders.
Health, energy and happiness
Overall, the team says that the results of their study show just how important it is to do the small things every day that keep you moving in order to improve your mental health and well-being.
No stairs in your home? No problem. Instead of sitting on the couch watching your favorite Netflix program, walk around the room as you wait for its next dramatic twist.
I’m starting to see my daily chores as activities that not only can provide me with bursts of energy but also routine and normalcy in a time when that matters more than ever. That includes walking from room to room to put up or gather laundry. Tidying up my kitchen, perhaps more than I would do regularly. Taking the time to clean out my home office desk and file important business and personal papers.
Even though you can’t head out to use the machines at your local gym, head out to the sidewalk and take a walk around the block — or take care of a project you’ve been putting off.
Whatever you can do to get your legs and your blood pumping and flood your mind and body with energy — go for it.
2020 may have been a difficult year, but we can all come out the other side if we embrace these small changes to our everyday lives.
Everyday activities enhance personal well-being — EurekAlert!