STAY CONNECTED Mental health and physical health are intertwined, and real social connections have protective health benefits.
Here we are again. It’s a new year, and the gyms are full of people working hard to stick to their resolutions.
Except that they aren’t. Normally I would write a piece at this time suggesting ways to help make this year different; to make it the year that the resolutions finally stick. But really, after the never-ending stress of Covid, social distancing, lockdowns and January weather, has anyone bothered with resolutions this year?
Actually, I heard someone say that rather than a resolution, they will be adopting a word for the year, something of a mantra. I offered a few rather crude suggestions that I have been advised won’t make it past the editor. The idea did get me thinking though. Perhaps rather than a word, I could consider a quote, something motivational to help keep me moving over the next few months.
A quick scroll through social media at the start of January will always bring up a few quasi-inspirational quotes. Usually alongside a picture of someone trying to look happy while posing unnaturally. But those pictures tend to inspire me back down the coarse language route, so best to look elsewhere.
How about going for something more traditional? I love Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’, but somehow it doesn’t seem to suit. Nor do Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena’ speech, or the countless pearls of wisdom attributed to Albert Einstein.
No, in these dysfunctional times, it’s time to call on someone out of left field. Step forward Bart Simpson. My favourite ever quote from The Simpsons is something that could possibly be used by anyone who has lost their exercise mojo: ‘I can’t promise I’ll try, but I’ll try to try.’
We’ve all being doing our bit for the best part of a year now. We sanitise our hands, keep our distance, wear our masks and stay within our 5km radius. We can all recite the daily numbers, discuss the merits of different vaccines and recognise Dr Tony’s voice before he starts speaking. But now, when we should be full of beans and discussing our plans for the new year, we’ve got nothing left for ourselves.
The gyms and pools are shut, football of any code is cancelled and I hardly need mention that golf courses are closed. So, how to motivate yourself to get up and exercise for your own health?
Firstly, I say think of Bart. Try to try. Do what you can. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit every target this month. Things are rough enough as it is without unnecessary self-flagellation.
Which leads nicely to point two; remember that mental health and physical health are intertwined.
This means that while exercising is good for your mental health, minding your mental health also has protective benefits to your physical health. So while we all should be trying to do our 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, beating yourself up for only doing three days isn’t going to get you anywhere, especially when you consider that doing something is better than nothing.
By extension, doing something you enjoy, purely for the enjoyment; whether that be reading a book, listening to music or going for an easy stroll, can be rejuvenating physically and mentally.
Finally, remember that real social connections are important and have protective health benefits. Sure, you can’t drop over to your mum’s house for a coffee or your mate’s place for a beer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t call them. (I can already picture my own mum’s raised eyebrows as I type that!)
Social connections are particularly important for the older population. So call your granny, drop some scones around to your elderly neighbour and send a card to your uncle in England. You’ll feel good, they’ll feel even better and you will both be slightly more protected from ill health as a result.
You might not manage to do everything I’ve suggested here, and I doubt that I will either. Some of them I might not even try. But I’ll try to try.
Andrew O’Brien is a chartered physiotherapist and the owner of Wannarun Physiotherapy and Running Clinic at Westport Leisure Park. He can be contacted on 083 1593200 or at www.wannarun.ie.