I LOVE to swim…

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By Anita Manley

I just returned from the pool!

Since May, with the exception of vacation time, I’ve been swimming three days a week. I’m a life-long swimmer. I learned how to swim at a very young age, and later I progressed through all the necessary Red Cross levels to become a Lifeguard/Instructor. I have swam on swim teams, swam lengths alone and gone for periods of time when I was not swimming at all, with the exception of an occasional dip in a friend’s pool or a lake. (COVID was especially difficult as, like many others, I could not swim at all during that long, very stressful period).

I know this for sure… I am happiest when I am swimming regularly. I can cope with the stresses of life much more effectively and the regular cardio exercise just brings an authentic smile to my face. Not to mention, my doctor always sees improved results with my bloodwork when I am swimming.

I do prefer swimming on a swim team with a coach and other teammates. The rules and lane etiquette that come with this atmosphere are what I appreciate the most. Everyone knows what they are doing and where they should be swimming. If not, the coach helps with this. The odd time while swimming at the club that I belong to now, the average swimmer just doesn’t know about lane etiquette, and it can send me into a frazzled state. “Can’t they see that I’m swimming in this lane!” I think to myself. “There is room over there, why don’t they just stay in their lane! UGH!” But, without a coach and also without extensive swimming experience, some people just are not aware of the rules. I need to simmer down, be patient, and just move into another lane.

Thanks for letting me vent!

Back to the benefits of swimming and the inspiration for this post. I was reading some information on social media about swimming and came across this TED post on Instagram:

3 reasons swimming is good for your brain:

from neurobiologist Seena Matthew PhD

“It’s no secret that aerobic exercise is important to your overall health– but when it comes to your brain, swimming can make an extra splash. Let’s dive into the benefits!”

  1. Swimming can boost your memory.
    Studies have shown that swimming (even 20 minutes a day!) can improve attention span, short-and long-term memory– and even reduce the cognitive impacts of aging.
  2. Swimming can boost your mood.
    Because swimming is a full-body workout, it increases blood flow which releases feel-good hormones like endorphins.
    It also promotes the release of neurotransmitters– like serotonin– which can help reduce depression and anxiety.
  3. Swimming can boost your ability to learn.
    Aerobic exercise improves cell growth and builds new pathways in your brain. This can help you learn and store new information and recall it with higher accuracy.

So, not only is swimming helping me with overall physical health, it is also helping to improve my mental health. I hope to be able to keep up this routine well into my eighties, or even longer!

What do you do to stay healthy? Drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you!

This is the pool I generally swim laps in 3 days a week! Looks inviting doesn’t it?

The Many Benefits of Volunteering

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By Anita Manley

For me, volunteering is a family value. My Mom volunteered several hours a week at our church and at a home for the disabled, while I was in high school. She was committed to volunteering and helping out others. It made her feel useful and gave her a sense of purpose, while helping others at the same time.

Many organizations, such as The Royal, simply could not run without the assistance of volunteers. During the 2019/20 fiscal year, 409 volunteers put in 31,884 hours to help the mental health centre run smoothly. I think everyone realizes that volunteering is important to help out worthy causes and people/animals in need. But, what about the benefits for the person doing the volunteering?

Firstly, it helps build social connections. Getting out and meeting people with common interests helps so much with feelings of isolation or loneliness (especially during a pandemic). Since starting my volunteer work at The Royal, 9 years ago, I have made so many friends. These friends are fellow volunteers, staff and peers and I lovingly refer to them as “my Royal Family”.

Second, volunteering helps to improve health…both mentally and physically. It has certainly helped me counteract the effects of stress, depression and anxiety. Volunteering gets my mind off of my own issues as I am there to help others, who have more serious problems than mine. The fact that I’m in regular contact with others in my support system really helps to combat depression and feelings of isolation. Also, research shows that “people who give their time to others might benefit from lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan”.*

Another huge benefit I’ve found with volunteering, is how it has boosted my self-confidence and self-esteem. By helping others, I’m helping myself, through learning new skills, taking on new challenges and working towards goals and deadlines. By accomplishing all of these things, I feel a sense of pride, and have a feel-good attitude, of “I do have value– I can do this, and I can do this well!”

Probably the biggest intitial difference for me with volunteering, right off the bat, was how it gave me a sense of purpose. A reason to get out of bed in the morning. I would look forward to getting on the bus, and showing up at my volunteer job to see all those amazing faces and to share a few laughs. I have a big sense of connection to mental health (as you all know) and being able to give back to The Royal in particular, when they helped to transform my life, makes me feel so good.

In addition, volunteering can help out with your career. From teenagers looking for their first job, or adults wanting to change direction or get promoted. Volunteer experience always looks great on the resume and can help you build skills and gather experience in areas that you’ve never worked in before.

This past Christmas, 2020, I volunteered serving dinner to the women of Cornerstone Housing for Women. It made me feel wonderful to be helping those less fortunate than myself. It got me out of my ho-hum mood (by forgetting my own problems) about spending Christmas without family (due to COVID). These women were so happy to see me (with my Santa hat on). I was also pleased to see them. A happy Christmas for all of us!

For all of these reasons, I would suggest finding a volunteer opportunity that interests you.

*happiness.com

Volunteering is probably my greatest wellness tool.