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Physical Exercise and Mental Health

Physical Exercise and Mental HealthI. Psychological Well-being in Physical ExercisePhysical exercise has a positive impact on promoting mental health. This chapter focuses on discu...

Physical Exercise and Mental Health

I. Psychological Well-being in Physical Exercise

Physical exercise has a positive impact on promoting mental health. This chapter focuses on discussing the evaluation criteria and methods of psychological well-being, the current status of psychological health among students in China and its influencing factors, the interaction between physical exercise and mental health, as well as strategies for fostering good mental health through physical exercise.

(A) Criteria for Evaluating Psychological Well-being

Regarding specific criteria for psychological well-being, scholars and experts from both domestic and international contexts have put forth various viewpoints, but a unified standard is yet to be established. Among them, the ten standards for psychological well-being are: ① possessing sufficient self-security; ② having a comprehensive understanding of oneself and the ability to make moderate self-assessments; ③ aligning life ideals with reality; ④ remaining connected to the immediate environment; ⑤ maintaining the integrity and harmony of one's personality; ⑥ being adept at learning from experience; ⑦ maintaining positive interpersonal relationships; ⑧ effectively expressing and controlling emotions; ⑨ demonstrating individuality within collective boundaries; ⑩ satisfying personal basic needs within societal norms.

Psychological well-being can be evaluated through four aspects: intelligence, emotion, willpower, and personality. The specific criteria and methods are as follows:

First, normal intellectual development. Intellectual abilities encompass comprehension, observation, judgment, understanding, memory, imagination, and abstract thinking, reflecting a person's mental health. A normal level of intelligence is essential for learning, work, and life. Individuals with low intelligence cannot be considered psychologically healthy.

Second, emotional stability and optimism. Emotional stability and harmony manifest as external indicators of psychological well-being. They act as regulators for a student's normal life, learning, and work, often playing roles in either propelling or inhibiting psychological activities. Experiencing short-term unpleasant emotions due to setbacks in learning, life, work, or friendships is a normal emotional response. How one regulates emotions in the face of difficulties and setbacks, whether with optimism, confidence, anxiety, depression, or pessimism, reflects their level of psychological well-being.

Third, strong willpower and coordinated behavior. Willpower refers to the psychological process of consciously setting goals, directing actions, overcoming challenges, and achieving predetermined objectives. It's the concentrated manifestation of the dynamism of human consciousness and a significant pillar of personality. In this context, the self-awareness and decisiveness of actions are vital indicators of sound willpower. Psychologically healthy students possess correct perceptions of their action purposes and objectives. They balance ideals with reality, have aspirations without indulging in fantasies, possess strong competitive awareness while not harming others for personal gain. Their behavior is logical and reasonable, and they can manage themselves, be pragmatic, work diligently, and consciously and proactively steer their actions to achieve desired goals.

Fourth, well-rounded personality and self-acceptance. Personality is the sum of relatively stable psychological traits, and the ultimate goal of mental health is to cultivate a sound personality. A sound personality is demonstrated by: ① possessing the ability to adapt to various natural environments; ② having the capacity to handle and respond to family, study, social, and personal life problems; ③ having the ability to adapt to interpersonal relationships. Adaptation to interpersonal relationships is a crucial aspect of adapting to the social environment, and harmonizing various interpersonal relationships is a vital means of enhancing psychological well-being. Many psychological issues stem from the discord of interpersonal relationships. Hence, friendly interactions with others are not only an indispensable condition for maintaining psychological well-being but also a significant method for achieving sound mental health.

The criteria for psychological well-being are relative, as no individual possesses all the healthy psychological traits at all times. Therefore, one need not demand the absence of emotional fluctuations but should establish the right outlook on life and the world and face life with a positive and enterprising attitude.

(B) The Role of Physical Exercise in Mental Health

The Influence of Physical Exercise on Mental Health. Physical activity is an effective means of enhancing physical fitness and promoting physical and mental well-being. Maintaining an optimistic and proactive attitude toward life, dealing correctly with inevitable difficulties and setbacks, and fully utilizing one's cognitive abilities are essential for an individual's entire life. To maintain good psychological well-being, active participation in physical activities is required, improving adaptability to the environment, emotional control, interpersonal relationships, and prevention and treatment of physiological illnesses. It is an important pathway to promoting psychological well-being.

(1) Physical exercise contributes to intellectual development. Regular participation in physical exercise enhances memory, imagination, judgment, creativity, and the ability to distinguish between causal and accidental phenomena. The intention and stability of attention can be strengthened, and the scope of attention gradually expanded. Independence and critical thinking are notably improved.

Physical exercise effectively promotes blood circulation, enhances the functionality of other systems, provides the brain with essential material support, and improves memory and cognitive abilities. Additionally, physical exercise enhances the effectiveness of the nervous system's excitation and inhibition processes, making its responses to various stimuli quicker and more accurate. It also boosts the functionality of the nervous system. During extended periods of learning, relevant areas of the cerebral cortex shift from a highly excited state to fatigue, resulting in decreased learning efficiency. Engaging in physical exercise helps establish a rational alternation mechanism of excitation and inhibition in relevant areas of the cerebral cortex, reducing fatigue and improving learning efficiency.

(2) Physical exercise aids in emotional coordination and control, alleviating psychological disorders. People living in reality are continually limited by natural, social, and individual conditions, often experiencing negative emotional reactions such as tension, suppression, and anxiety.

The ability of long-term participation in physical exercise to regulate emotions and alleviate psychological disorders stems from the pleasurable feelings induced by physical activity. Moderate aerobic exercise releases a potent endorphin-like biochemical synthesized hormone - endorphins, which contribute to positive emotional states. Many individuals who regularly engage in physical exercise maintain high spirits and confidence, linked to the effects of endorphins.

(3) Physical exercise helps develop strong willpower traits. Willpower traits encompass a person's self-awareness, decisiveness, tenacity, self-control, bravery, perseverance, and independence. Participants in physical exercise continually overcome difficulties such as changing weather conditions, challenging movements, external obstacles, subjective fears, fatigue, and exercise-related injuries, enhancing their coordination, adaptability, and perseverance. This ensures that they remain clear-headed in favorable conditions and are driven and resolute in adverse situations, fostering constant progress. The more challenging the task of physical exercise, the greater the impact on individual willpower development. This strengthens psychological endurance and enhances adaptability to complex social environments.

(4) Physical exercise fosters harmonious interpersonal relationships. Physical activities bring people closer together, especially in competitive contexts, where individuals of different professions, ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds come together on the field, increasing the frequency of interactions between individuals and groups.

Physical exercise has a cohesive effect and can strengthen unity among groups. During physical activities, participants, whether acquainted or not, can find means of communication. A gesture or a set of movements can satisfy the desire for unity and cooperation. Through physical exercise, individuals can make many friends, learn to get along amicably and help each other, resulting in improved mood and elevated spirits.

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