A buzz word that’s used regularly these days is ‘holistic’ which in essence means that things are interconnected and form wholes. So when we look at one part of something the other parts have to be taken into consideration also. Using this idea when looking at a human being, in relation to health, its important to consider physical health, mental health and social connection as primary markers to overall well being, not in isolation but as a whole. Obviously there are other factors that contribute towards health such as how we find meaning in our lives, such as religion and spirituality or the career we choose.
When one of the primary aspects mentioned above is out of quilter then there can be ramifications for the other dimensions of our being. For example, there is ever increasing evidence showing that when someone is depressed there can be physical ailments such as the negative impact on the heart due to the increase of adrenalin production that occurs when someone is depressed. In addition, depression also has social impacts on family and friends due to withdrawal and the wider implications on society through its impact on work performance etc. Basically, disharmony in one area has consequences and rippling effects in the other realms of our being. The flip side of the coin with holism is that positive actions and behaviours in one part of our lives has the potential for positive outcomes for the rest of our being and arguably the rest of society.
Because this is a huge topic this blog will just focus on the positive impact of exercise on our general well being. It has been shown that doing regular exercise not only improves physical health indicators but also improves mood, boosts self esteem, wards of anxiety and depression, improves sleep and reduces stress. The ‘drug’ that significantly contributes to these benefits is endorphin. Endorphin is an opioid that is naturally produced by the brain and is part of the neurotransmitter family associated with neural communication.
Endorphins function, once they are released, helps to reduce stress, increases euphoria and a general sense of wellbeing as well as reduce pain. It’s able to do this by blocking neurotransmitters that cause pain and allow neurotransmitters to release dopamine which creates pleasure.
There are a number of ways and activities that facilitate the release of endorphins. As mentioned above physical exercise, but also laughter (inner jogging!), sex, eating a small amount of dark chocolate and listening to music. It’s claimed that the aroma of vanilla extract or lavender produce endorphins. An interesting correlate between physical exercise and social connection is where studies have shown that doing exercise in groups such as team sports or a pilates class for example produces more endorphins than if you did the same exercise on your own.
At Counselling and Psychotherapy we work from a holistic perspective by seeing the individual as a whole that is part of a broader field, which means that all aspects of somebody’s life has to be taken into consideration to facilitate health and growth.
May this day find you well
Counselling and Psychotherapy Team