As a Mental Health Practitioner, I have been experimenting with well-being exercises that support my writing, and I want to open up discussions about writer’s well-being.
Well-being is defined as “the state of feeling healthy and happy” by the Cambridge Dictionary. Thus, there are multiple facets to our health and happiness than just our mental health, which can impact each other.
Today I want to discuss Being Active.
Physical Health :: Activity
One of the most recent aspects of my training course has focused on the well-being of our bodies, and physical activity.
When people think about writer’s physical health, the key things I’ve heard focus on the sedentary aspect of sitting at a desk. Often authors talk about back and neck ache, and stereotypes have us pictured with a beer belly slumped over a typewriter. The warnings mentioned on the NaNoWriMo forums focus on Repetitive Strain Injury and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: pains in the hands/wrists and arms.
In my experience, I have written between 50,000 words and 160,000 words every year since 2009, yet I began experiencing back, neck and wrist pain when I switched to a day-job where I also sat and typed a lot. I have found that regular movement can help minimise and manage this pain, particularly pain in my neck.
Being active doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should run a marathon.
The aim of completing ‘physical activity’ is just increase from your current level, if you feel it may help.
Physical activity releases feel good hormones, relieves stress and helps us relax, as well as giving our muscles and joints a chance to move. It can improve the quality of our sleep, allow us to concentrate better, can protect us against anxiety and can be as effective for mild depression as antidepressants (Meyer et al, 2016).
In the UK, guidelines are to complete cardio for 2.5 hours a week and strength training “at least two days a week” (Department of Health, 2011).
What To Do
I personally don’t like running, so my activities tend to focus on strength or balance instead of cardio, although I do walk from my car to work. Even getting up out of the seat once an hour to do a few yoga stretches can help.
If you feel it may be beneficial for your physical or mental health, then have a think about increasing your current level of activity. To hit 2.5 hours a week, think about what you already do. I walk 10 mins from my car to work, aim to take a 10 min walk at lunch (even if it’s just to visit the other office) and 10 mins back to the car. I then strength train in my living room three times a week for about 15 mins plus warm-up + cool-down.
Are there any activities you used to do and loved, yet haven’t made time for lately?
For the first six months, I didn’t own any home-gym equipment, and I’ve noticed that I’m able to carry water cooler refills and paper boxes at work much more easily.
Physical Activities :: Ideas
- Press ups (against a wall, against a table, from your knees, then full form)
- Squats (holding a door-frame for assistance if needed)
- Dance to some music
- Vacuuming the house
- Yoga (YouTube had some great beginner videos)
- Walking the dog
- Cleaning the bath
Perhaps not all of these activities are fun for you, but do they give you a sense of achievement after? Does your mood lift each time you come into a tidy room? Let that be a motivator too.
A favourite website of mine is Nerd Fitness – motivational speeches and useful information about the safe way to perform various exercises; making it fun with the inclusion of pop culture references and nerdy game mechanics.
Department of Health. (2011: updated 2016) “Start Active, Stay Active: A report on physical activity from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers”. Accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/start-active-stay-active-a-report-on-physical-activity-from-the-four-home-countries-chief-medical-officers
Meyer, J. D., Koltyn, K. F., Stegner, A. J., Kim, J. S., & Cook, D. B. (2016). Influence of exercise intensity for improving depressed mood in depression: a dose-response study. Behavior Therapy, 47(4), 527-537. Accessed here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005789416300119