There is no better place to build a support system than the gym.
Weird, yes, I know, but aside from having people who are looking to keep fit under one roof, the gym is full of some decent people who can help a great deal when it comes to mental health.
As a mental therapist I know that fitness and mental health are closely related. Out of my own experience, I know that eating healthy and staying active is good for the mind, body, and soul.
I have always eaten healthy diet and taken daily walks for exercise. While this worked for a while, it got to a point where this routine did not cut it anymore for my mental health. I was under a lot of stress, my heart was racing constantly, and I was experiencing shortness of breath. I felt the need to practice what I preach and start taking charge of my health.
Then I joined a gym.
Amidst the awkwardness that comes with having to work out with strangers and meeting new people, I discovered that going to the gym can actually be a lot of fun. Aside from being a place to meet and make new friends, exercising also helps to kick those happy hormones into action. It really helps with anxiety, depressive thoughts, and general overall health.
I also knew that I needed to build my support system if I wanted to succeed. That is why I intentionally started building my community by introducing myself to the fitness instructors and my group exercise classmates. This led to us to connecting on social media to hold us all accountable if one of us starting missing classes. This happened few times because I was either intimidated, uncomfortable or just feeling lazy. Sometimes I was just a baby that could not deal with the pain that comes with physical exercise.
So naturally, knowing all these facts, I do tell my clients to take on some form of exercise and there is usually some resistance that comes with that.
The most common things that I hear are:
1) they all have perfect bodies and I don’t
2) they all know what they are doing and I don’t, and
3) it is so intimidating and I am afraid I will make fool of myself.
So, there it is, I guess the fear of embarrassment and failure is so strong that it prevents us from starting an exercise program in the first place.
However, I can guarantee that after a week or two in the gym, you will realize that everyone in that space is looking for the same thing. These people just want to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. Making friends at the gym also helps in many ways. For one, you will get accountability partners who will challenge you into action whenever you find it hard keeping to your plan.
And because I have been there, I know that some days, you will be too tired to get out of bed, let alone going to work out in the gym. At such moments, these accountability partners will challenge you to push your body and stay focused so that you can achieve your goals at the end of the day.
I have never felt better in my entire life; I feel strong and healthy. I also found out that all of us have similar fears about being exposed and judged. After a few times going to the gym and doing my classes the feeling of awkwardness and uneasiness began melting away. I started having fun! I found my tribe because I build relationships after realizing that community doesn’t just happen you have to make it happen. Make that leap of faith.
Remember that change is uncomfortable and sometimes painful but If you are dedicated, you can kill two birds with one stone- achieve your physical health goals while ensuring that your mental health is in tip top shape. Food for thought right there