Abu Dhabi: How fitness levels impact mental health is a key message of the ongoing ‘Abu Dhabi 360’ community initiative, which was launched Abu Dhabi Sports Council last month.
Taking a 360-degree approach, the programme aims to achieve a “whole person” wellness through a personal, attainable journey that redefines health and fitness.
“It may sound unusual, but it can be helpful to approach your mental wellbeing like an athlete,” said Dr Haseeb Rohilla, an expert in adult mental wellbeing. “Athletes are very careful with their bodies. To ensure you’re at your best mentally, you need to care for yourself physically. Your health is precious.’’
First, find a way to move your body. Go for a walk or swim, dance to some music, play some football or basketball with friends, or even do some stretching at home. The Abu Dhabi 360 app can provide some other movement or workout suggestions that will fit your life.
“Exercise is like a triple threat for a low mood. In fact, a healthy diet, good sleep and exercise is all that is required to alleviate mild problems with mood,’’ said Dr Rohilla, explaining that exercise helps produce endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in your brain. It also increases your heart rate, which triggers another chemical called norepinephrine, which can help you deal with stress more effectively. Finally, exercise increases blood flow to the brain.
“All of these things combined can lift your mood and help with the blues in other ways. For example, if you’ve had some exercise and fresh air, you’ll have more energy and be less irritable.”
Food for thought
The second component of caring for your body is fuelling it properly.
“If you’re feeling low, try to resist the temptation to reach for comfort foods that contain a lot of sugar, fat, and refined carbohydrates,” said Dr Rohilla. “You’ll feel good for a few minutes, but you’ll crash soon after and may feel even worse.”
Instead, he suggests trying a snack with protein and vegetables, like carrot sticks and hummus. For other feel-good recipes, check out the Abu Dhabi 360 app.
The third component of caring for your body when you have the blues is getting enough sleep.
“Fatigue significantly affects your mood,” said Dr. Rohilla. “It also makes it harder to cope with something challenging. If you’re really struggling on a given day, make sure you get a full eight hours of sleep that night and consistently. Try to avoid screen time an hour or two before you go to sleep and instead use that time to read, journal or even meditate…. you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.”
Finally, if you’re feeling blue, reaching out to someone you care about might not be a bad idea.
“You can talk about how you’re feeling, do something you enjoy together, or even just ask them to share a funny story—laughter really is a good medicine,” he says.