Poor mental health has been shown to be a significant health problem.
Studies show that 45% of adults experience anxiety, depression, or substance use disorders at some point in their life.
In addition, mental health is the leading cause of disability burden in Australia.
Interestingly, studies have indicated that there is a relationship between inactivity and poor mental health. People with psychological problems are more likely to be inactive or low in physical activity, than those without psychological issues.
Studies have also found that there is an increased risk of becoming inactive among those individuals experiencing poor mental health, significant life transitions or loneliness.
How Physical Activity can Improve Mental Health
Some of the positive psychological outcomes of physical activity include:
- changes in brain neurotransmitters (elevated endorphins, elevated mood, decrease in pain);
- positive affect;
- increases in self esteem;
- subjective wellbeing;
- increased confidence;
- increased resilience;
- life satisfaction;
- quality of life;
- sleep duration;
- enhanced social interactions (attachment, belonging, networking).
Exercise can be a useful tool for psychologists to use to promote these positive outcomes in patients. Additionally, psychologists can assist with behavioural counselling techniques. This may involve the following steps:
- Assess: A discussion with the client regarding their knowledge of physical activity and what they believe are the benefits, will determine how to move forward. The individual’s current behaviours are assessed to determine the frequency, intensity, time and type of activity they are engaging in. How they feel about the change and their attitude toward it will be assessed to identify what stage they may be at, in order to move toward the change. Assessment can be done during the session with psychological questionnaires and screening tests.
- Advise: Specific information is provided to the client on the benefits and need for change. Clear advice is provided on the importance of physical activity.
- Agree: An action plan is made in collaboration between psychologist and client, to suit the client’s lifestyle. Preferences for the client’s exercise regime can be discussed including supervised or unsupervised exercise, fixed time and same sex environment.
- Assist: The psychologist will provide understanding, acknowledgment and reinforcement to help guide the client, as well as strategies for when obstacles and barriers appear. Problem solving will help the individual to move through the barriers, including social support options. Psychological approaches that may be used at this step are motivational interviewing, self monitoring, planning, and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
- Arrange: The client’s progress is followed up, including additional support by other health professionals discussed if required.
Author: Cassandra Gist, BPsych (Hons), MPsych, MAPS.
Brisbane Psychologist Cassandra Gist has a Masters in Health Psychology, and is able to treat clients aged from two years old right through to adulthood. She is experienced in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Cassandra Gist, try Online Booking – Loganholme or Online Booking – Mt Gravatt. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129, or Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.