Digital and modern conveniences have made our lives more comfortable today but they are also instrumental in perpetrating a disturbing trend: an overwhelmingly sedentary lifestyle that is spent working long hours at a desk, commuting, or indulging in leisure time watching movies or series. A sedentary lifestyle is characterized by prolonged sitting and low levels of physical activity. While the physical health consequences are well known, what is often overlooked is its profound impact on psychological well-being.
Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to depression, anxiety, overthinking, comparison, doubt and self-criticism. Additionally, lack of physical activity disrupts the delicate balance of neurotransmitters in the brain including dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, which play an important role in managing various psychological functions.
The following activities and practices are simple but effective solutions to combat the negative effects that a sedentary lifestyle can have on the mind:
Gardening: Growing and caring for plants at home can be both healing and satisfying. Greenery and the act of caring for plants calms the mind, reduces stress and creates a pleasant, peaceful experience. The greenery and oxygen released by the plants enhances relaxation, providing some much-needed break from the stress of everyday life.
Cooking: This is a therapeutic practice that clears the mind and provides a way to deflect negative thoughts and stress from work and personal life. The work involved in preparing food helps foster a sense of accomplishment, creative expression and promotes psychological well-being.
Pet sitting: For pet owners and those who appreciate the companionship of pets, caring for them is more than just unconditional love. Pet care includes a variety of activities such as proper feeding, bathing and play time. These activities not only involve physical movement, they also increase bonding with the pet, regulate your nervous system and provide emotional satisfaction.
Household chores: Participating in household chores such as cleaning the kitchen, dusting and doing laundry is a great way to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. In addition to maintaining a clean living environment, these activities help destress the mind.
Following a daily schedule: Establishing and adhering to a structured daily routine, especially in the morning, can contribute to your physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. Exercising daily helps stimulate the release of natural mood-enhancing endorphins. And devoting at least an hour to pleasurable hobbies can significantly reduce stress, foster a sense of discipline and centeredness and elevate mood.
When it comes to reducing the risks of a largely inactive lifestyle, every little effort counts. Simple but meaningful interventions such as the ideas prescribed above can make a big difference to your mental well-being. Take the first step today.
Rucha Shrikhande Divekar is a consultant psychologist at Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune.