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by Tony Gjokaj January 24, 2022 3 min read

When I look back at my prior experiences with my mental health and suicidal thoughts, quite a bit of it came from my behaviors and my environment.

I ate terribly.

I slept poorly.

I did not exercise.

I surrounded myself with people who would put me down regularly.

I was always stressed and I would just sit at home and play video games for hours at a time to avoid things.

Then I started exercising and the whole trajectory of my life changed.

My behavior and habits got significantly better.

I stopped pursuing habits that harmed my personal growth, and I started focusing on habits that improved my lifestyle.

I demanded more for myself and even surrounded myself around people who would lift me up.

This is why I believe that exercise is the ultimate habit builder.

The Domino Effect

According to James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, the best kind of good habits are those that cause a Domino Effect in your life. In his article of the same title, he noted that a 2012 study showed that those who lived less sedentary ended up reducing their daily fat intake.

The participants consumed less food as a result of mindlessly eating on their couch watching television because they were living more actively.

We are going to explore this domino effect from two perspectives: starting with nutrition, and moving on to sleep.


Research has shown that those who exercise regularly consume more fruits and vegetables on average

This makes people more prone to consuming more nutrient-dense foods, leading to less overall calorie consumption and more satiation (satisfaction or fullness) from our diets.

Nutrition can also help improve the quality of sleep. According to Harvard Health, a high intake of fruits, vegetables, fish and unsaturated fats like olive oil have been associated with decreased risk of depression.

We can look into individual minerals like magnesium as well. Magnesium has been shown to help with sleep quality — especially in those deficient in magnesium. 

When I started to exercise frequently, my body started to crave more nutritious food options. It led me to eating foods that contained more nutrients than “empty calories” that would be found from processed foods.

Quality of Sleep

Research has shown that there is a bidirectional relationship between proper sleep hygiene and exercise. Those who tend to exercise frequently report better quality of sleep.

Based on this bidirectional relationship, it’s also noted that those with poor quality of sleep find it difficult to exercise frequently due to energy levels and motivation. This is due to the fact that sleep deprivation can downregulate dopamine, our motivation neuromodulator. 

In addition to this, those who are sleep-deprived tend to eat poorer quality foods (processed foods). Research has shown that those who are sleep-deprived tend to eat more calories on average.

From personal experience, when I started to exercise, my sleep insomnia went away completely. 

Sleep insomnia is different for everybody, but exercise completely helped mine.

And as I slept better, I started to make better nutritional choices as well.

The Habit Builder In Action.

I personally contribute exercise to helping me pursue healthier habits in general.

While I mentioned that my nutrition and sleep improved along with it, other things happened as well:

  • I started gaming a lot less than 8 to 10 hours a day. I would work on myself and started to grind less on my favorite games. While I would still play, it would be a lot less.
  • I started listening to personal development podcasts and reading books that helped me on mindset.
  • I started to forget things a lot less.Depression can make you forget things often

Exercise has also helped build better habits for my friend and client, Chris.

A few days ago, I talked to Chris about his fitness for mental health journey.

In our call, he talked about how exercise has run over to other aspects of his life.

You can watch our latest call here:

 With that, I want to thank you for reading.

It is my hope that building habits around exercise can help improve your overall food consumption and sleep.

I also hope it improves your entire well-being.

And if you need an extra kick in the ass on your fitness and mental health journey, you can sign up for our Fitness for Mental Health email list. We’ve got a few freebies in it to help you on your fitness journey. You can sign up here!

Thanks for reading, and look forward to providing more value for you all in the future!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help millions exercise their way out of depression and anxiety.

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