… run in circles, scream and shout
~ attr. US Navy, 1940s
Exercise does wonders for mind and body. Moving around lubricates everything, relaxes muscles that otherwise will tense after a long time spent sitting still. It also releases lots of happy mood chemicals called endorphins and encephalins into your brain that make you feel better about life. These compounds target the same receptors as heroine, albeit with a considerably more mellow high and without being nearly as addictive.
Essentially, you were made to move and when you do things that are good for you, your body rewards you with a feel good high. This really doesn’t have to be an organised trip to the gym for a formal workout. Just walking briskly around Ravelin Park will trigger the effect without getting you too puffed out and tired. The downside of sugar is that the concentration and euphoria fades after only a few minutes, leaving you craving more, whereas if you are anything like me, you won’t be craving too much more exercise after a few laps of the park but will be feeling loosened up, settled and ready for a nice sit down and some more revision. Being outside and seeing all the varied shades of lush, restful green is soothing for the mind as well.
We recover when we are surrounded by nature – it is our natural environment that we secretly crave when boxed in by four walls and a desk. Just run about, dance like no-one’s watching (they probably aren’t, and if they are they will just put it down to youthful exuberance or ‘revision fever’ – that seasonal affliction that sees students all behaving strangely. Remember that stretching at your desk can help in between breaks.
Don’t feel you have to push yourself to feel good. Walking is almost as good as running and laughing has also been recommended as excellent exercise, so if you are truly averse to getting breathless or fear you might pull a muscle, just take an accelerated stroll round the grass, dance, laugh and be merry! You might at first feel self conscious but after a few moments your cares will begin to dissolve into happiness and you will cease to care what others think because you feel so good and your body is revelling in the sensation of relaxation, prancing fancy free. Oh, yes – I forgot prancing. Prancing is excellent discipline for strained brains. Going back in all these ways to our early childhood helps us reconnect to what is important – how to feel, how to be in the body, how to enjoy ourselves and how to exist as ourselves without constraint. All are important, and doubly so when you start to become preoccupied with something entirely artificial and transitory, like an exam. Take time several times each day to shake loose and remind yourself that you are real and that any thoughts, anxieties and apprehensions you might experience are but illusions conjured by a mind crying out to be taken for a dance across the grass until it refocuses on life’s real essentials, like how you feel in yourself, rather than what you think you ‘should’ be doing.