If you’ve hit the gym lately, you know that it’s hard to worry while your heart is pumping and you’re focusing on getting your body through the workout. Many people find that their troubles seem to disappear while they’re exercising. Focusing on the task at hand can quiet the stressful, worrisome thoughts that many people experience as they go throughout their day.
When you have a worrisome thought that pops into your head over and over again even though you’d like it to go away, this is called a rumination. These types of thoughts can be really stressful for some people and can cause some people to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like binge eating or drinking alcohol. It’s like being unable to turn off an alarm that just keeps ringing over and over again.
If you experience these thoughts and you feel stressed about them, hit the treadmill (or elliptical, sidewalk, pool, or wherever your preferred mode of exercise takes place). After about 20 minutes of exercise, some people find that a clear, calm mind emerges.
Now, let’s add an additional mental exercise to your physical exercise. If your head is feeling calmer, sit down with a notebook after your workout. Jot down your problems or stressful thoughts. Notice if your worries feel any different than they did before your workout. Chances are, you’ll be able to think about your troubles more objectively now that you’ve burnt off some stress and cleared your head.