Are my physical health and mental health connected?
So, imagine this... You've had a bad day or you just got some upsetting/sad news so you go for a walk to feel a little better. Some physical activity and fresh air helped you center your mind. So do you ever think about how staying on top of your physical health (by working out, being active, eating healthy, etc.) impacts your mental health?
Meet Dasa. If anybody knows about being active, working out, hitting the weights and just embracing living an overall healthy lifestyle... it's her! On any given day you can most likely find her in the gym. And if you were wondering, no- she does promote flat tummy tea and waist trainers on her Instagram page. But she does document her progress, offers motivation and shows you how she gets it in at the gym! She has created a lifestyle for herself that not only benefits her physical health but has also benefitted her mental health.
As someone who was intrigued by her lifestyle, I was able to interview her about the connections between physical and mental health. Dasa opens up about when her lifestyle change began, self confidence, how her anxiety has improved and the benefits of being active! And it didn't all happen over night!
When did your lifestyle change begin and what made you want to do it?
My lifestyle change began in January 2015. I noticed I was getting sluggish in my everyday life, I was not happy with how my body was looking and I missed being active. I used to play soccer and swam during high school, so not having something that obligated me to stay active basically forced me to find something that would. I wanted to give it a try because my sister was a gym rat and I was getting pretty self conscious with my lack of curves. I started hearing about a lot of girls being able to build muscle and gain weight (something I really wanted to happen) with diet and exercise, so I thought to give it a try.
Describe to me what it was like (mentally) when you first began your new lifestyle.
I believe in the fall/winter before January 2015 I noticed I was developing some anxiety issues. I always brushed it off and did not think much of it, but after a situation where my anxiety was flaring, I analyzed the behavior that I could not understand, and came to the conclusion that it was indeed anxiety. When I first started, the mental push was getting me in the gym and working out. I started noticing how great it made me feel afterwards and how rewarding it was to crush my goals (getting in the gym at least 3-4 times a week). This was pretty much a breakthrough for me and the beginning of me getting "addicted" to the lifestyle. I saw that it really aided in my anxiety & not to mention I was battling with anger issues, so it was definitely an outlet for me to release the negative energy into. I saw myself really feeling better and I knew I had to keep going.
At what point did you decide that you wanted to start helping others?
At first I knew that it was hard enough to push myself, so pushing others was more effort that I wasn't really ready for. I had to be selfish for a moment, honestly. I had to give myself time to really lock down my goals and dedication. I started to try to give my best friend a lot of advice and motivation at first, but I knew I was still learning a lot of concepts. I didn't want to be out here giving everyone information unless I knew it was factual. I don't think it was until 2-3 years in where I really collected enough information and experience enough to feel confident to offer it as a a service to others because of how many people were coming to me fore help and advice. That's when it really started to feel rewarding.
How has working out, being active, etc. improved your mental health? Any stories?
My mental health has improved amazingly. I can't even begin to explain this, but like I mentioned earlier I saw it improving my anxiety and anger issues. I used to bottle up a lot of my emotions up and when something would trigger me, it would spill all out completely at once. Working out not only gave me an outlet, but during that time I tried to improve these bad habits by being transparent with myself. Another way working out improved my mental health was my confidence. No more self-pity talks, less self deprecating language towards myself and finally being happy with what I was seeing in the mirror. Not giving yourself self-pity is a HUGE step I think others who are getting started battle with. Lastly, pushing myself to break personal records, seeing myself improve and being confident enough to go up on my weight, and getting physically stronger. It is truly empowering to feel myself getting stronger and I think that's one of the things that some women don't get when it comes to going to the gym or lifting weights. The stigma of "getting bulky" stops them from trying it out and experiencing how awesome it is to see yourself getting stronger. The confidence gave me independence. And the more independent I felt, the more confident I felt.
What do you think are some of the best benefits of working out, being active, healthy eating, etc.?
Having a mental release, and then being rewarded with endorphins afterwards. Everyone who regularly works out knows about the need of chasing those endorphins almost daily. The thing is, the culture in America to me is pretty sedentary. You sit on a desk all day, then you go home and sit on the couch to watch TV, and then at the end of the day you head to bed. Just sitting still, all day. Heart rate stays the same, movement and mobility becomes limited, and not to mention your spine isn't going to be happy with all that sitting. The best benefit of being active is being grateful of your health and your life. It's a blessing to be able to be active. There are people in much more unfortunate situations than us, and we are ungrateful by not taking advantage of the blessing we have with moving limbs & no physical limitations to working out. The rewarding part about it is that, it feels good. Going on walks will make you feel better. That workout will make you feel better. Eating whole foods will make you function better. Improvement FEELS GOOD.
What advice would you give someone who is struggling to stay motivated because of their mental health?
I actually was just watching a YouTube video from one of the girls I'm subscribed to the other day and how she has to battle mental issues, running a YouTube channel, and finding her motivation with fitness again. Jazmine Garcia, if you guys don't already watch her. She's super amazing in everything that she does. She talked about how she's trying to find that love with fitness once again. My advice is, is to do what you love. I love lifting weights/body building. Someone else can love yoga, and the next person? Pilates. Do what gets you excited to come back again. Keeping a journal during this journey helps as well. I would say if you are battling mental issues but are also trying to get healthy/active, start documenting how you feel after a workout or certain milestones in your journey. When you start to lose motivation, you can look back on that, realize how far you've come and want to chase that same rewarding feeling again.
For the most part, do you think people take into consideration their mental health when they’re working on their physical health?
I think so. I would hope so. I mean, when I was working on my physical health that was when I was actually taking in consideration of my mental health. During your journey you're going to come across plenty of mental blocks: "why am I not where I want to be? How did she build her muscles so quickly, but it's taking me so long? I failed at breaking my PR -- what do I do now?" Comparing yourself to others is a b*tch. These mental blocks are in highlight of your mental health and learning how to deal with it correctly will help you realize that connection. When you start to want to improve yourself physically, you will soon realize the connection it has with mentally. It's pretty inevitable. Pushing and motivating yourself is one of the mental steps in all of it.
What do you think the overall connection between physical and mental health is?
This can be corny, but if you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you look good. Both are synonymous to each other to me. The connection is that if you see yourself crushing these goals, it feels empowering. Your confidence improves and you want to keep going. Improvement is addictive to me. So working to be a better person inside & out is the biggest connection.
You can follow Dasa on her fitness page: @fitnesswithdasa!
Thanks for reading, and don't forget... Be great! xoxo.