For many women, poor mobility and mental health are closely linked. Often, the energy and time invested in looking after physical needs can mean mental health is overlooked. Low mood is generally an unseen health problem. The North Carolina Office of Disability and Health reports that individuals with disabilities are more likely to experience long-term depression.
Reasons for depression can range from lack of work, a loss of sense of identity, along with isolation, loneliness and lowered activity levels. Read on to find out how to mitigate this situation.
PLEASE NOTE: These are just a few alternative approaches to elevate your mood but if you experiencing signs of depression, it’s imperative to consult your physician or a licensed professional immediately, to determine the best treatment for you.
Mental Health and Team Sports
Studies have documented a clear connection between exercise and better mental health.
For instance, Research in Developmental Disabilities found that people who participated in wheelchair basketball scored significantly higher on various indicators for positive mental health and social skills than did non-players. Apart from the positive effects of the physical exercise, team sports, such as basketball, involve players in a supportive community which can help to avoid isolation and loneliness and create a sense of identity. Players report they find it easier to focus on their ability rather than their disability.
Adaptive sailing is another great example of a sport that can be enjoyed by those with disabilities. Sailing is an ideal challenge, as it requires a lot of mental functioning with just a few physical movements. Sailboats can be decked out with adaptive equipment, so that there is little or no need to move around the boat. As well as appreciating the serenity of cruising around a bay, or going further afield, sailors can also learn valuable social skills such as leadership and discipline.
Opportunities for Socialization
Team sports that are adaptive provide another benefit to those with limited mobility. They also promote socialization which is a crucial component of a healthy mind. Interacting with others and enjoying a shared interest or common goal, brings people together and can improve a low mood. However, it is also documented that connecting with friends, can boost your cognitive function and even lower your risk of dementia. Getting out into the local community, is an ideal way to make friends, but if this is too challenging, there are alternatives such as using web-based communities to make friends and share stories with. Alternatively, if you’re looking for more one-on-one support, there are networks such as The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which offers peer mentorship, connecting those with experience of living with paralysis, together.
Calming the Mind
Of course, not all activities need to be team pursuits. Individuals might like to find out more about adaptive skiing, archery, fishing, or even rock-climbing. However, there are also less physical activities that are important because they help to balance mind and body, using gentle, holistic techniques such as meditation or yoga. While yoga is traditionally associated with popular poses such as downward dog, it is more important that the participant feels at one with their individual body and is able to connect the breath with an awareness of the physical and spiritual self. Yoga is ideal for absolutely everyone, so regardless of whether you use a chair or lie down to stretch, there is much to benefit from this peaceful activity.
The Mood - Light ConnectionSeasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months. Do you feel happier when you have been out in natural daylight? Studies on patients with low mood and depression showed they were significantly helped by exposure to natural sunlight. It follows, then, that any exercise which takes place outside will be twice as beneficial for boosting mood.
The Importance of Vitamin D
Light may not be simply connected with low mood, it may also benefit more serious mental health issues such as schizophrenia. Whilst the causes, and therefore treatment, of schizophrenia are varied, one connection may be Vitamin D. Studies have shown that people are more likely to develop schizophrenia, if they were born just after the wintertime. Such babies were low in Vitamin D which our bodies produce in response to sunlight. Light therapy may thus prove to be a useful addition to established treatments for schizophrenia.
Scientifically speaking, when light enters our body it stimulates the pineal gland – often called the ‘third eye’. This in turn improves our immune system and has a positive effect on our nervous system. It's therefore no surprise that ensuring we are exposed to light every day, can help both our emotional and physical wellbeing. Combining some physical activity with natural light exposure can help safeguard mental health of wheelchair users.If it’s hard to get out, there is also phototherapy (light therapy) which involves a special light box or lamp that emits a bright light and mimics natural outdoor light which appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood.
So be proactive and try some of these mood-boosting suggestions towards a more fulfilling life - YOU DESERVE IT!
About the Author: Lucy Lawrence, whose sister uses a wheelchair for mobility, is a professional freelance writer with many years experience. While she writes about a wide variety of sectors and topics, she feels particularly strongly about the needs of those who live their lives in difficult or challenging circumstances due to illness and injury.