How To Use Exercise To Improve Your Mental Health

How To Use Exercise To Improve Your Mental Health

Most people go to the gym or work out to improve their health, build muscle, and have a fitter body. However, exercise can have a tremendous impact on our brain and overall mental health.

The next time you debate whether to go work out, consider the following benefits:

1. Stress Reduction

Tough day at work? Consider taking a long walk, or making a quick trip to the gym. The most common mental benefit of exercise is stress relief; it increases levels of norepinephrine, a chemical that regulates the brain’s response to stress.

2. Boosts Happy Brain Chemicals

The next time you think, “I hate the treadmill,” remember that your brain loves it. Exercise releases endorphins that are responsible for feelings of euphoria and happiness. If you suffer from depression or are feeling a bit down, consider adding exercise to your regimen. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to reap the benefits; 30-minute workouts a few times a week can do the trick.

3. Confidence Booster

We often go into a workout kicking and screaming, but it’s rare to find someone post-workout who has regrets. That’s because not only do you feel good post-workout, but you often look it. Regardless of whether you’re seeing noticeable results, exercise can swiftly increase our perceptions of self-worth. As we continue, the obvious physical changes only solidify our positive relationship with ourselves.

4. Vitamin Gain

If you’re one who takes his or her workout outside, be prepared for more than just fresh air. Sunshine not only provides our body with Vitamin D, but it also helps reduce depressive symptoms. There’s more to just running to be done outside, too. Consider cycling, yoga, rowing, or a grab a few friends and consider joining a league.

5. Help Your Brain

As much as we hate to admit it, aging impacts the body and the brain. However, exercise has been shown to have a remarkable impact on slowing aging of both, including helping to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s or even to combat Osteoporosis. As we’ve learned from recent research, exercise can even grow new brain cells. Even though you won’t be able to see it, exercise results in a healthier, sexier brain.

6. Maximizing Memory

Memory not what it used to be? Exercise can help with that. Just like with preventing diseases and aging, exercises knack for stimulating your hippocampus boosts your memory and helps you to retain information when learning new things. Studying a new language? Schedule in routine workouts to maximize your likelihood of success.

7. Controlling Addiction

Dopamine—the principal chemical responsible for pleasure—is also what drives addiction. We just can’t get enough of it. However, instead of turning to drugs, alcohol, or food for a dopamine release, consider exercise. Not only does exercise help in addition recovery, but it helps you prioritize your dopamine cravings.

Of course, regular exercise is just one strategy to promote mental wellness. If you are feeling overwhelmed with stress, anxiety, or sadness, mental health counselling can be an essential part of taking care of yourself. However, the next time you’re trying to motivate yourself to hit the gym, remember: your body AND your brain will thank you.

How To Do Little Things That Improve Your Mental Health

How To Do Little Things That Improve Your Mental Health

Last week, we posed a question on social media and in our weekly newsletter.

The question was simple: What’s the most powerful thing you’ve learned about improving your mental health?

Your responses were fascinating and served as a reminder that sometimes the most powerful things are also the simplest.

Here are some that stood out to us. (Note that some were edited for grammar or clarity.)

  • Start every day with something that makes me laugh!
  • Slow progress is still progress.
  • Everything is temporary. Both happiness and, more importantly, pain.
  • If I keep replaying things over and over, I need to talk it out with someone.
  • So far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days. You’re doing great!
  • Say it out loud. Sometimes just putting it out into the world helps you find a jumping off point to tackle the overwhelming.
  • Set hard boundaries.
  • In order to help others around me, I had to look after myself first. And in starting to do self-care to improve my mental health, I am beginning to learn more about myself which helps.
  • Surrounding myself in reminders of the good things in my life.
  • Exercise really does make you happy!
  • There’s too many to name just one, but finding ways to put yourself first.
  • I come first. If I am not going to take care of myself, no one will. Also, how am I suppose to support others if I am not ok?
  • Realizing it’s not about being the person you used to be, but instead becoming the person you want to be.
  • When in doubt, talk to someone.
  • All the power is inside of you.
  • You aren’t your thoughts. You are enough regardless of what your thoughts about yourself may be.
  • Just because you have a thought, doesn’t make it true. So, why not just choose another?
  • I always try to remember that the things that frustrate me are really trying to teach me something.
  • That I’m not actually as stuck as I feel sometimes.
  • Learning about how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) impacts the developing brain and body; and how “trauma informed care” can help. Knowing this science gave me more empathy for myself, and to see past the shame and seek medical help, including mindfulness training and psychotherapy.
  • I am not alone and when I share my thoughts with others it reinforces this!
  • Doing things that I want to do, not things that people around me want me to do.
  • Journalling allows you to transfer the weight of your thoughts onto paper and alleviate the stress.

And last, but certainly not least, this: “Improvement is a marathon, not a sprint.” 

Thank you to everyone who shared! For those of you that haven’t yet, we’d love to hear your response. Click here to share and we’ll curate the responses to update this post periodically.

How To Deal With Thanksgiving

How To Deal With Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us, the first break during the academic year.

For some, you’re back home for the long weekend. What a great opportunity to catch up on sleep, see old friends, and eat meals that aren’t served cafeteria-style! But this can also be stressful, we totally get it. For others, you might be stuck on campus. Maybe travelling is cost-prohibitive, or you feel like you simply have too much to do.

Here’s how to deal either way:

If you’re back home, buckle up for a lot of questions. It’s natural for parents, relatives, and family friends to be curious and want to know all about your college experience. How do you like your courses? Are you eating well? Have you chosen a major? What are your grades like so far? Phew, that’s a lot. But how do you handle it? Well, I guess you could design your own infographic like this student did. Or, try to remember that this comes from a place of love and support — be patient with them, they missed you!

Looking forward to connecting with old friends? I bet they are, too! But your parents might have different ideas. Try to communicate your expectations clearly and make sure everyone’s on the same page in advance to avoid disappointment.

Worried that the dynamics may have changed in your friend group since you’ve been away? This is normal and can throw things for a bit of a loop. Consider this instead: friendships grow and evolve and this is a beautiful thing! Seeing this “new” part of your old friends can be pretty cool, even if it’s a bit strange at first.

For those that aren’t able to get home, we highly recommend double checking what’s available to you during the break. Will the residence halls be open or must you leave campus? Do you need to submit any special requests to remain on campus? Will dining services be available? Is there a way to find out who else will be on campus? Does the college plan any special activities, events, or trips for those who remain at school?

Your campus may have some activities for campus-bound students to partake in over the holiday. Check out your Student Association or local clubs to find out!

If you know others who aren’t going home for the weekend, try rounding up a group and having a Friendsgiving celebration instead. You -could- challenge yourself to prepare all the at-home staples dorm-style if you want, or better yet, ditch the traditional turkey altogether and freestyle your meal! After all, this holiday is really about gratitude, and we know we’re thankful for snacks of all kinds.

If you’re missing your family back home, you could use social media to let them know you’re thinking of them. Better yet, schedule a good time to connect via Skype or FaceTime, and it’ll be just like you’re home! Well, almost!

Dinner or no dinner, volunteering your time on this day of thanks is a fulfilling way to spend Thanksgiving. Look on your campus bulletin board or online for volunteer opportunities within the surrounding neighborhoods. Churches, shelters, and hospitals are just a few of the places that could always use a helping hand.

And don’t forget, after the long weekend, coursework keeps on keepin’ on! So just because you’re relaxing over the break, try not to let your academics slide. This is a great chance to learn how to manage homework over a break — carve out a little time to stay on top of readings or assignments and you’ll be glad you did!

Regardless of where you are, take some time with check-in with yourself. Ask yourself how the semester is going so far? Are you happy with the choices you’ve made? Are you feeling balanced? Or are you struggling with something? Be honest with yourself. These weekends of downtime are remarkable in helping us gain perspective.

How To Make Decisions Without Struggling

How To Make Decisions Without Struggling

I’ve recently seen several clients who are struggling with decisions in their lives.

This struggle can feel like you’re stranded on a boat in the midst of a hurricane. If you can relate, ask yourself the following questions to help figure out why you may be struggling and get back to smooth sailing.

Do I know how I feel?
We often struggle with making decisions because we’re not sure how we feel about the situation. It can be helpful to talk through how you’re feeling, either by writing in a journal, confiding in a trusted friend, or working with your counsellor. Most of the time the process of narrating what your situation will help clarify how you’re feeling about a tough decision and guide your next steps.

Do I have mixed feelings?
Maybe you’re clear on how you’re feeling but are still feeling torn between your options. Often, we’re torn because there isn’t a clear “best option.” If possible, try to get more information about the different options. Then, you can try putting this information into a weighted pro/con list, ranking each point on a scale of 1-10. Assigning different weights to each point can help clarify your priorities and may even tip the scale in the direction of one choice over others.

Is this a big freaking deal? 
You may be clear on how you’re feeling and, for the most part, have no mixed-feelings towards your choice. Even so, you may still be struggling. You may have a hard time following through with your decision or be replaying the choice in your mind, worrying and wondering. If this struggle sounds familiar, you can try asking yourself if this decision is just a Really Big Deal. If it is, try remembering all of the reasons behind your choice. We all have times in our life when we need to make choices that can potentially change our lives. Yes, these moments can be scary, but it’s important to trust yourself – you’ve got this!

10 Things You’d Rather Do Than Sitting In A Doctor’s Waiting Room

10 Things You’d Rather Do Than Sitting In A Doctor’s Waiting Room

Nobody likes to wait. Nobody.

Our modern world is centered around efficiency and speed from lightning-fast WiFi connections, to short commute times. We’re so used to fast, convenient processes that waiting for most things becomes immediately frustrating.

We all dislike waiting in a doctor’s office for an appointment. Not only is waiting utterly tedious, but sitting in a waiting room surrounded by sneezing, coughing individuals — and, dare we say, maybe even a crying baby — may have you feeling worse than when you first entered.

With Maple, you don’t need to suffer in an unpleasant waiting room. With your phone or computer, you can see a doctor in minutes, leaving you time to do other things.

Need some inspiration? Here’s a few ideas.

  1. Catch some Zzz’s: You could be lying on your soft mattress snuggled under warm blankets. Doesn’t that sound heavenly? And let’s face it, we could all use some more sleep.
  2. Prepare yourself a breakfast that’s out of this world: If your appointment is in the morning, you can save so much time from commuting and waiting at the clinic that you’ll be able to prepare a delicious breakfast. From eggs, bacon, and toast, to blueberry pancakes, you’ll be living your best life!
  3. Organize the stuff you’ve ignored for so long: From your desktop to your closet, you could use the same amount of time at the clinic to organize some neglected aspect of your life.
  4. Go for a jog: The outdoors never seemed so tempting, especially since temperatures are rising. The sun is out, and the plants are greener than ever. Spend time enjoying the beautiful outdoors.
  5. Netflix!: Wouldn’t you rather much catch up on that Netflix series you’ve been trying to finish for a while? A comfy couch, your favourite Netflix show, and a yummy snack is a nice way to pass a few hours.
  6. Go to the supermarket: Seems mundane, but getting to the grocers can feel like such an effort sometimes. With a little more free time, you can stock  up on food for the week.
  7. Catch up with friends: You could meet up with your friends for drinks, and finally catch up on news they’ve been so excited to tell you. Ultrasound pics are the best, right?
  8. Visit your folks: Mum and Dad always want to see you, but you always put off the visit because you just can’t seem to find time. Now’s your chance to make your folks happier than ever.
  9. Finish that project: You know that project you’ve started, but never found time to complete? Yeah that one! Well now you have a time slot to finish it. Whether that be a DIY project like fixing your bike, or completing your picture collage, the time is now!
  10. Treat yourself!: However you like to spoil yourself, you’ll have time do so. Go get that back massage and facial, go shopping, or simply take a lazy day.

The list can go on forever, but let’s face it, doctor appointments really do take up a lot of your time, and no one really likes sitting in a congested waiting room.

Your time can be put to better use. With Maple’s online doctor platform, you could skip the waiting room altogether, and have time to do the things you really like to do. Simply login, request a consultation, and in minutes you’ll be able to see a doctor.

You're in! Awesome.