Exercise & Self-Esteem

February 18, 2019 0 By admin

Month of Love Series

For this week’s post for the Month of Love series, I am sharing an updated version of a guest post I did for Divine Independence’s Empowerment Rebellion series which you can find here! This post is an in-depth look at what exercise does to your brain and how it’s connected to your self-esteem. I will also talk to you about my journey to self-confidence through exercise.

When people think about exercise, their immediate thoughts are weightlifting, running, and are most likely negative unless you are already exercising. But as far as this post goes, exercise is any type of movement. Running, weightlifting, dancing, walking, etc. And any movement, is good for your self-esteem, self-love, and self- confidence. Let me tell you why.

What happens in your brain?

When you exercise, a lot of things happen in your brain. Your levels of Serotonin (mood influencers, controller of impulsivity), Norepinephrine (amplifies signals that influence attention, perception, motivation, and arousal), and Dopamine (reward and motivation) all become raised and balanced after a certain period of time. Which explains why if you are new to exercise, you still hate it after you’re done with your first workout. After exercising for a period of time routinely, the chemicals in your body increase on a general level, so dopamine and serotonin levels are higher throughout the day, which leads to more constant positive feelings and more stable levels. However, if you were to stop exercising the levels would return to normal. Lastly, BDNFs or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factors encourage the synapses in your brain to talk to each other and create new connections as well as develop nervous tissue in the brain. 

How will it change how you feel? 

Physically, it will take about a month for you to see a difference in your body, however, after two weeks you will begin to feel better in general which will lead you to feel better about yourself mentally (higher endorphin levels on average). At four weeks you will start to see physical changes in your body and begin to feel better about yourself emotionally (liking the way you look in certain clothes or in general, clothes begin to get looser).  After eight weeks, other people will begin to notice that you are changing emotionally, mentally, and physically.  

You will begin to see yourself in a more positive light once you begin to notice the changes. Your clothes will fit looser, and you will see yourself differently in general. How you think about yourself will also begin to change. You will become more confident and adventure out of your comfort zone a little because of it.  

Please remember that compliments from others will help boost your self-esteem, but it is not long lasting and to truly love yourself, you must find the love from within, not from the outside.

 People will begin to tell you how different you look and that you look happier and more energetic. They may also tell you that you were fine the way you were. Or you shouldn’t have to change the way you live to love yourself. Remember that their opinions of you don’t matter. If you use exercise or movement to feel better about yourself then that’s fine. If you love yourself the way you are and dont think you need to change the way you live that’s fine too! 

You may want to reward yourself for all of your hard work by having a cheat meal or slack off on your workouts. Be aware that this is totally ok to want to do and you should give your body a rest every now and again! However, depending on how much you slack or cheat, your body may begin to go back to the way it was. Don’t let this discourage you! Once you have begun exercising and eating right, it is much easier to reign yourself back in. You may also find that you don’t enjoy the same “bad” foods that you did before. They may make you sick or not taste right.

My Journey

A year ago, I started an 80-day exercise and nutrition program. I didn’t like the way I felt and looked. At first, I was intimidated but I convinced myself that if I could do this, I could do anything. I completed the program and only cheated on the nutrition piece FOUR times. I still slip up. There are days where I wake up and feel less confident but it’s less frequent. My level of confidence is higher now than it’s ever been even on bad days. I’ll be honest, I let myself go after I finished. I was enjoying how I looked so much that I forgot to constantly stick with it, but I’ve now gotten back on track. If you’re questioning if exercise will help you love yourself, give it two weeks, three days a week. If you don’t feel a little better, then you can say you’ve tried. 

Important things to remember

The first one to two weeks may make you want to give up. You will be sore and tired and feel worse than you did before you started. DON’T GIVE UP. After that second week, you will start to feel the changes happening. You just have to push through!

There are many different forms of exercise. Lifting weights, running, yoga, dance, taking walks. Try to find the right fit for you. 

Lastly, This is a JOURNEY. It is full of self-discovery, excitement, and accomplishments but you will regress sometimes. You will let yourself down eventually. None of us are perfect and you cannot hold yourself to that standard. If you make a mistake, apologize to yourself and move on. Journeys have ups and downs.