It’s a statistical fact that one in four Americans suffers from a diagnosed, or diagnosable, mental illness. The number of people who have personalities that tend towards depression or anxiety is, anecdotally, larger than that. Some of this is simply down to the way people are wired, for want of a better phrase, while some of it is doubtless a reaction to a world that is not at ease with itself. The issue of mental health is a source of some concern, and it’s not going away soon.
It’s beneficial for people who are struggling in this way to seek medical advice. For some people, therapy and medication can be beneficial. But it is fair to say that counseling and medication are not by themselves going to make people magically feel better in the long term. No one thing is – there is a long road, filled with various steps, that has to be traveled before many of us can even say we’re in recovery. One of those steps may be finding a pastime that helps us face down the symptoms of a mental health condition, and below are three examples of sports which have the power to make a difference.
It may not be the first place your mind goes when you think of beneficial hobbies, but archery really works very well for a lot of people whose daily lives are affected by anxiety. Those who practice it regularly, including clients of companies such as Bow Spider, report that it works like a form of active meditation. If you are concerned that yoga might not be your thing, archery may be the perfect substitute – it balances body and mind and teaches you a lot of helpful things about how to breathe. Plus it offers you a social outlet with a purpose, which can be great for overcoming crippling shyness.
There is, admittedly, a certain shyness bar to swimming for many people with social anxiety and depressive issues. This might be a better option for those who are further along the recovery road, or you could look for closed sessions near you if you’re concerned about swimming in front of other people. If you can overcome the initial nervousness about trying it, swimming is great for mental health. There are few more relaxing feelings than being in water, and the occasional swim is a sound way of dealing with aches and pains and also building breath control, which has direct therapeutic benefits.
The great thing about running is that there is a very low bar to starting it. As long as you have decent running shoes and some appropriate athletic garments – a t-shirt and jogging bottoms will suffice – you can pretty much start right away. It’s beneficial for mental health issues, including both anxiety and depression, because running releases endorphins which make it easier to feel happy and optimistic. You’ll also feel fitter and more energetic, which will be invaluable when it comes to dealing with down days. As you get more into it, you can pick out running routes that take you through more scenic areas, which can also be good for lifting the spirits.
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