Is Exercise a Prescription for Mental Health?

Current “wisdom” encourages individuals to exercise as a solution to just about every ailment imaginable and this is understandable given all the evidence that exercise has numerous benefits to overall health and well-being.  But for individuals who struggle with mental health, even getting started is a challenge.  A recent article by the BBC highlights a new sports program in England attempting to overcome obstacles to physical activity and exercise for individuals with mental health issues. I see this as a positive development, however simply prescribing exercise may not be an option for everyone.

In my experience, a critical step to improving mental health is addressing self-regulation; something which is vital to daily life. Individuals who suffer with anxiety and depression often experience difficulties with self-regulation that negatively impact motivation, sleeping patterns and eating habits. Simply adding exercise to the daily routine of an individual who is already under resourced and strained may garner some benefits, but is likely to result in self-regulation failure in the long run.

I have found that integrating exercise within the context of the counselling process, something I call Experiential Exercise Psychotherapy (or EXP for short), holds promise for those who encounter mental health and self-regulation challenges. By improving self-regulation skills that combine physical/social and cognitive/emotional strength building, individuals experience incremental gains that create a foundation for further growth.

When I began developing and using the principles of EXP (where body, mind and brain activities were continuously integrated within the therapeutic relationship), clients successes became apparent across a spectrum of life activities. So while I support participation in exercise and sport activities wholeheartedly, I am skeptical about prescribing it as a standalone antidote for individuals struggling with poor self-regulation and mental health issues.

Pot and the Teenage Brain

Here is an interesting Globe and Mail article that discusses the impact of marijuana on the young brain.  I was especially fascinated to read about the learning problems of an overtaxed brain as well as the risks for potential psychosis associated with pot use.

Taming the Bull: A Guide to Strengthening Self-Regulation

Recently, I have completed the new program manual called Taming the Bull: A Guide to Strengthening Self-Regulation.  This manual compliments the current therapy I offer to clients and includes a practitioner and client handbook as well as resources and images that are useful for those having difficulty with self-regulation.  In the near future, I hope to offer workshops to health practitioners interested in this program.

Activity Integrated Mindfulness Adult Groups

In January 2015, I will be offering Activity Integrated Mindfulness adult groups at my Bayview and Eglinton location.  These are a series of sessions conducted on the weekend specifically for adults and parents interested in strengthening their self-regulation.

For more information please contact me at badali.paul@gmail.com.

Finding Calm in Therapy

Working with clients is a unique opportunity in my day. I know that the work can sometimes be stressful and that it is important for me to find balance. I find calm within the space that is the practice and sharing this with others is meaningful to me.