So, you have just woken up and the first thing that crosses your mind is a negative or depressive thought.
“Ugh, I have to go to work” or “Man I did not sleep well at all”. What should you do?
Research has provided evidence that supports the notion of exercise improving ones mood. Exercise can decrease depressive symptoms, anxiety, substance use and bulimia. To decrease depressive symptoms specifically, cardio and aerobic exercises work best.
There is no overwhelming research that indicates that you must perform a high intensity workout, rather all point to moving in some way in general.
But Jess, I’m depressed and can barely get out of bed. Why should I make a point to exercise?
When you exercise the brain releases endorphins or our “feel good” neurotransmitters, which decreases our pain and increases pleasure. Individuals diagnosed with depression have low serotonin so the “feel good” chemical that is released helps bridge the gap.
Also when we exercise, we have time to process or distract ourselves from life stressors. For some, having that extra time to focus on another activity, allows for fresh eyes and a fresh mind to reassess their situation. For others, exercising allows them to have a safe place and safe activity to process their thoughts and emotions regarding a specific situation. Either way it seems exercise provides an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Exercises to help with depression
Walk/Jog If available, take a walk outdoors. Soak in some Vitamin D and get some free light therapy. If you have a friend that could also benefit make a routine of walking in the mornings to boost your mood. Walking can be a precursor to an exercise. Maybe you have been interested in becoming a runner or cyclist but have difficulty making that first step to achieve your goal. Walking is a great way to start. Walking releases some of the same endorphins and improve attentiveness throughout your day.
Yoga, while challenging, has many benefits for the mind, body and soul. Give the beginner yoga videos or classes a chance to improve your mood, concentration and reduce your stress.
Tai Chi has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress and depression as it focuses on meditation, slowly breathing and slow movements. Tai Chi is known for its ability to improve one’s balance and mobility. In a study done on the geriatric population, results found that those who participated in Tai Chi as well as psychotherapy had improvements in their cognitive test and had reduced inflammation (physical perks!).
Dancing has SO many positive benefits! By dancing you can decrease stress, anxiety, depression, reduce isolation and lose weight. Dancing improves your memory, which many suffer from due to depression, and it increases your energy. Simply, turning on some empowering music when you wake and dance it out for as long as you want. I recommend Pink!
Swimming allows for deep breathing and long strokes to release of endorphins and decreases the excessive flight or fight hormones- that increase anxiety. Swimming requires deep breathing, muscle relaxation and stretches similar to many techniques that seek to relax the individual.
Do not get hung up on how long you do the exercise, as NIKE says, “Just Do It”. Even 10-15 a day will provide benefits to make a difference in your mood and decrease anxiety.
“But Jess, how do I get motivated to do these awesome exercises to help with depression?”
Figure out what you like
Although I have mentioned some exercises you can do to get started, do not feel limited. If you try these and none of them work, that is fine. You have identified what does not work for you or what is not attainable. That is just as valuable.
Plan for success
Identify, when your moods decrease in the day. Is it a certain day? Is it after a stressful day? Or does your anxiety kick in when you realize how much you have to do, but your depressive symptoms will not allow it to happen.
Those are the times to plan to exercise.
By exercising during your critical moments of the day, you are increasing the dopamine in your brain and making your receptors happy