Mood, exercise, and mindfulness

A bad mood has consequences.

In the last few years, I’ve become a master of weathering out pain, depression, anxiety and general misery.

I dealt with a chronic terrifying skin disease which left me awake, in pain, all night every night. The days weren’t much better.

I’ve written about this before, so I’ll keep the descriptions to a minimum, but there’s one aspect to this illness that I haven’t talked about: I couldn’t break a sweat.

Well, I could, really, but it made my skin all over my body itch like crazy. And it wouldn’t stop until I’d scratched off the first layer of skin, leaving me a bloody mess.

This meant that I hardly exercised at all for more than 18 months. I would go out for short walks, do some very limited exercises and stretches when I could find the energy.

Before my illness became that bad I would cycle 5 km to school and back every day, but at some point I couldn’t keep it up.

The reason I’m writing about this is to put the subject of this post into perspective, so you know where I’m coming from.

It’s common knowledge now that exercise and mood are very closely linked. I’ve been experiencing this first hand for the last few months, especially the last month or so.

After I started regaining my health, I found myself in a sort of limbo: I could finally exercise and sweat again, but the habit of going out for a run or working out was so vague that I had a hard time getting started.

In the last month I’ve been going out for a short run and doing bodyweight exercises daily, with a rest day every third day.

I had felt for some time that I needed to move!

I’ve been amazed at the effects on my mood most of all. My body feels better when it gets to move around like the animal it is, but mentally I feel awesome!

Just now, I got back from a long day at the workshop at school, feeling pretty tired and a bit on edge. I started by having something to eat. That made me feel a bit better, but I was still feeling a bit down, and a bit anxious as well.

It’s weird, we think we know things, but we forget and forget and forget. Then we finally remember.

That’s what happened to me just now. I was thinking, trying to figure out what I needed to do to make myself feel better. After more than an hour I realized “oh yeah! I just need to move my body!”. And so I went out for a short run in the rain, and here I am.

Anxiety gone, motivation for life back (for now).

Another thing I’ve realized is the incredible effects of mood on our ability to mindful. When I’m anxious, angry, depressed or just stressed out, remembering to be aware of my body and mental activities becomes almost impossible.

That’s why we need to set up powerful, mood-regulating habits in our life. Daily habits. We need to learn to recognize states of mind, and how to respond to them. It takes time, but it’s totally worth it.

Sometimes, we don’t feel hunger physically in our stomachs, we feel it emotionally via our mood. Sometimes we just feel angry for no reason, but if we stop, breathe, and eat a piece of cheese, we feel better almost instantly.

I guess the part that’s eluded me the most is the “stopping to breathe” part. It’s definitely the key to understanding, because once we disengage from the emotion for a second, we get a chance to see the root cause.

That’s when we can direct our attention deeper, like I did today, and see exactly what you need, in this moment, to feel your best.

When you feel your best, that’s when you’re best able to stay mindful of life.

Meeting the needs of this organism we happen to inhabit is paramount in order to develop consciousness further. It’s a game of perception. Learn to understand what your mood is trying to tell you, and you will be rewarded.

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