How to improve your mental health in 2024 with mindfulness and exercise

If you’re looking to improve both your mental and physical health this year, you might want to try combining mindfulness with exercise. A new study from the University of Bath suggests that this combination is more effective than either activity alone at both lifting your mood and improving your well-being.

What is mindfulness and how does it help?

Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention to the present moment, without judging or reacting to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Mindfulness can help you cope with stress, anxiety, and worry, as well as enhance your self-awareness and emotional regulation. Mindfulness can also help you appreciate the positive aspects of your life and cultivate gratitude and compassion.

What is the link between mindfulness and exercise?

Exercise is well-known for its physical and mental health benefits, such as improving your cardiovascular fitness, strengthening your muscles, and boosting your mood. However, exercise can also be challenging, especially if you are new to it or have health issues. You might experience pain, discomfort, boredom, or frustration when you exercise, which can make you want to quit or avoid it altogether.

This is where mindfulness can help. By practicing mindfulness while you exercise, you can learn to accept and overcome these negative feelings, and focus on the positive outcomes of your activity. Mindfulness can also make exercise more enjoyable and interesting, by helping you notice the sensations and movements of your body, as well as the environment around you. Mindfulness can also motivate you to start and stick with your exercise routine, by helping you set realistic goals, monitor your progress, and reward yourself for your efforts.

What does the research say?

The study, published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, reviewed existing research studies on the effects of combining mindfulness and exercise on mental and physical health. The researchers found that this combination was more effective than either activity alone at improving mood, well-being, self-esteem, and quality of life. The benefits were found in people with and without health issues, such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and cancer.

The study was conducted by psychologist Masha Remskar, an expert in behaviour change, mindfulness and exercise based at the University of Bath, with support from the Medito Foundation, a mindfulness non-profit with a mission to build a more mindful world. The Medito Foundation has developed a free mindfulness meditation app, which offers a range of guided meditations and courses, including one on how to get into the habit of exercise.

How to get started?

If you want to try combining mindfulness and exercise, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Choose an exercise that you enjoy and that suits your fitness level and health condition. You can do any type of exercise, such as walking, running, cycling, swimming, yoga, or dancing.
  • Start with a short and easy session, and gradually increase the duration and intensity as you feel more comfortable and confident. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, as recommended by the World Health Organisation.
  • Before you exercise, do a brief mindfulness meditation to calm your mind and prepare your body. You can use the Medito app or any other mindfulness resource that you prefer.
  • During your exercise, pay attention to your breath, your body, and your surroundings. Notice the sensations, sounds, sights, smells, and tastes that you experience. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the present moment.
  • After you exercise, do another brief mindfulness meditation to reflect on your activity and appreciate your achievements. You can also write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal or share them with a friend or a support group.
  • Be consistent and patient with your practice. It might take some time to see the results, but they will be worth it. Remember to celebrate your progress and reward yourself for your efforts.

Summary

Combining mindfulness with exercise can be a powerful way to improve your mental health and well-being in 2024. By doing so, you can not only reap the benefits of both activities, but also enhance them and make them more enjoyable and sustainable. So, why not give it a try and see how it works for you? You might be surprised by how much happier and healthier you can feel…

References:

(1) Combine mindfulness with exercise for mental health boost in 2024 – study. https://www.bath.ac.uk/announcementsis/combine-mindfulness-with-exercise-for-mental-health-boost-in-2024-study/.