As a follow-up to my post on living A Life Less Medicated I am now going into detail on the new all-natural methods on how I am dealing with depression. This is the second in the series, the first being a whole foods diet.
Another step I am taking to help tackle my depression is to do more exercises! Now I am a very unmotivated person when it comes to exercise. I am too tired to exercise but to get more energy I need to exercise… A horrible vicious cycle that I need to break out of for the sake of my mental health. If you suffer from the same cycle or are just struggling to get motivated, read my post here on some tips to get motivated!
How does exercise help with Depression?
Fristly, what does exercise do for us?
- help lift mood through improved fitness
- help improve sleeping patterns
- increase energy levels
- help block negative thoughts or distract people from daily worries
- help people feel less alone if they exercise with others.
Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that cut your perception of pain.
Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.
Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body’s endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.
“Exercise stimulates the release of many of the brain chemicals thought to be in low supply when someone is battling depression.” explains David Muzina, MD, the founding director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Mood Disorders Treatment and Research.
What Exercises am I trying?
I am not a runner. So if you are then definitely try that instead. I remember when I was fresh out of high school thinking that I wanted to join the army. I called them up, expressed my interest and they sent me out an information pack in the mail. It had a list of exercises that you would need to do at the first sign-up/interview. I think it was 7-12 push-ups, the girly kind on your knees. 50 sit-ups and shuttle runs. I could almost do the push-ups and I could do the sit-ups and then some.
So I got in training mode for the shuttle runs. I gave it maybe a week, realised I am not a runner and never thought about the army again. At that stage in my life I smoked cigarettes, (I did from about 14 until I was 25) so I am not sure if that affected my ability to run as it just felt like I could never get enough breath while I was running.
Needless to say I haven’t tried since. HA! But I can walk until the cows come home. So that’s what I am doing. And I have 2 super active boys and a dog to get me out that door. Thankfully we live next to a park so going for a walk is easy.
If depression has made you sedentary, then starting off with something easy like going for a walk is a great starting point. Plus getting out in the fresh air and into nature could give you the kickstart you need to get out of a funk.
In a study of 65 women with depression and anxiety, the 34 women who took a yoga class twice a week for two months showed a significant decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms, compared to the 31 women who were not in the class.
“Eastern traditions such as yoga have a wonderful antidepressant effect in that they improve flexibility; involve mindfulness, which breaks up repetitive negative thoughts; increase strength; make you aware of your breathing; improve balance; and contain a meditative component,” says Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
This is an exercise that I come back to time and again because I feel so great afterwards. You are getting a great workout in without feeling like you are. It’s a peaceful and mindful exercise that is great to do before you start your day to centre yourself and get your whole body loosened up. I like to follow-up the workout with 5 to 10 minutes of meditation to just relax and clear my mind of everything but my breathing. In. Out. I focus on my breathing and when something distracts me I just keep bringing it back to my breathing. One of the major factors in what brings on my down days is my overactive mind. I constantly need distraction by something, and having that time to myself in the morning to workout and meditate can really change my whole day.
Simple Indoor/Outdoor activities:
Just getting your butt of that couch or bed or where ever you may be slothing about is going to do you some good. For me it’s playing in the yard with my boys and gardening. For you it could be something like washing the car, using an app on your phone to do some aerobics in your lounge or going dancing with a friend. Whatever makes you happy! That’s the point, the only point. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself and happy to be alive. Playing a chasey game or throwing the ball around with my babies makes me so blissfully happy that I tear up when I hear them scream with laughter.
What exercises do you like to do to beat the blues? I am thinking about trying Pilates for some major back issues I deal with.. Does anyone do Pilates? Do you recommend it?
More great info on the benefits of exercise when you have depression found here:
Exercise is an effective method for mild to moderate depression. These treatment methods are just my opinion and what I am doing to help my own depression. You should always consult your doctor before ceasing any medication or undertaking any of these methods instead of medication. What works for me might not work for you so you should speak to your doctor first.