Stretching has many physical benefits – some of which were discussed in my last post – but it can also have positive mental and spiritual effects as well. Some of these will be discussed below.
Exercise is an Anti-Depressant
The first mental benefit of stretching is one that comes after the completion of any type of exercise and becomes greater after pro-longed exercise routines. It is believed that exercise can improve mood and help fight depression. This article from the Harvard Medical School reviews a multitude of studies that review the positive effects of exercise on people with depression and concludes that exercise is a valuable tool for fighting depression.
Still feeling depressed? Maybe this baby stretching will fix that…
One of the reasons this happens is because of the release of endorphins into the brain and body that occurs after exercise. This is part of the body’s biological response to exercise and they act as a natural painkiller as well as having effects on the mental and emotional state of someone. This release of endorphins will make you feel happier, improve sleep, boost self-confidence, lessen anxiety and is one big reason so many people enjoy exercising,
Many people stretch each morning in order to kick-start their day or when feeling tired to re-energize their body and brain. By stretching you are increasing blood flow and circulation, you are breathing deeply bringing more oxygen to the brain and you are releasing stored stress and tension in the muscles (and mind). This is effectively waking up you and your muscles.
For a list of good morning stretches that are simple and not too difficult or straining for the sleepy stretcher check out this article from Popsugar.
Meditation and Focus
The Way of Stretching: Flexibility of Body and Mind says that, “meditation is the exploration of the pauses between thoughts… If you can observe your thoughts as neither good nor bad, just there, and identify with the calm between your thoughts, your moods and perspectives will become more balanced.”
When stretching you should inhale and exhale deeply. Counting these breathes or the seconds you hold the stretch for, is a good meditation technique to help find this calm. Taking a short period of time out of the day to stretch is a very useful way to relax the mind and de-stress. This will leave you feeling more at ease and focused.
Tangible and Positive Results
Another encouraging benefit of stretching is that it can quickly produce tangible and positive results both physically and mentally. For example you will:
– Feel happy in yourself for doing something productive for your fitness and health.
– Enjoy seeing how much more flexible you are getting (Can you touch your toes yet? Can you get your hands flat on the ground?)
– Feel the release of your physical and mental stress.
– Feel more connected and aligned to your body.
These mental and spiritual benefits of stretching are some of the best reasons to start stretching and smiling. In combination with physical benefits they make stretching a clear choice for anyone who wants to have a balanced healthy lifestyle. Have any of these benefits made you consider starting a stretching routine? Let me know in the comment section below!