Exercise can help mental health in a myriad of ways, and one lens we’d like to look through today is simply: The act of trying new things. Life is an ever-evolving journey, and through the landscapes we traverse in work, personal life, hobbies, and fitness, our mental health can be enriched and strengthened with new experiences!
BREAKING THE MONOTONY:
Our brains thrive on novelty. Engaging in the same activities day in and day out can lead to a sense of monotony and stagnation. If this boredom isn’t channelled into a positive outlet of creativity or activity, it can actually lead to anxiety and depression. Trying new exercises injects an element of excitement and curiosity into our routines. Scientifically, studies have shown that trying a new challenge stimulates a part of our brain called the amygdala. And when the amygdala is triggered, it gives us a hit of dopamine (the feel-good brain chemical!). Whether it’s taking up rock climbing or trying a group class at your local Totalfit gym (hint hint!)… These fresh activities stimulate our brains and help ward off feelings of boredom.
Exercise has long been associated with stress reduction, and trying new activities can amplify this effect. Engaging in new exercises and practices can divert our attention away from daily worries and promote mindfulness. The mental focus required to learn and perform unfamiliar movements creates a mental “flow” state. This is where stress takes a backseat, and we find ourselves fully immersed in the present moment. This mindfulness also teaches our bodies that we are safe in what we perceive as stressful situations. We learn to cope with setbacks, adapt to change, and approach difficulties with a more positive mindset with every situation we face and overcome. This is related to our blog on mental toughness, which you can find here!
NEUROPLASTICITY AND LEARNING:
Trying new exercises taps into the concept of neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself in response to new experiences. Learning and practising unfamiliar movements are shown to create new neural pathways, enhancing cognitive flexibility and mental agility. These are movements like the workouts and weight training we do in the gym! As we engage in these activities, we’re essentially giving our brains a workout as well. All of which can lead to improved memory, focus, and problem-solving skills.
BUILDING SOCIAL CONNECTIONS:
Trying new exercises often involves joining classes or groups, which presents a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded individuals. Social interactions play a crucial role in mental well-being, providing a sense of belonging, support, and improved self-esteem. So, shared experiences during exercise classes can lead to meaningful connections and the cultivation of a strong social network.
In a world that can sometimes feel overwhelming, the act of trying new things serves as a reminder of our innate ability to learn, adapt, and grow. By Incorporating new exercises into our routines, it benefits our physical health but also contributes significantly to our mental well-being. So, let’s lace up those sneakers. Dive into a new fitness class! Relish the journey of self-discovery and mental enrichment that awaits.