Using Exercise to Fight Depression
This time of year many people suffer from depression and / or anxiety. It is getting colder outside, it starts to get darker sooner, and the majority of your free time is spent indoors. If you suffer from depression, anxiety or just pure frustration at what’s going on in your life – there’s good news. Medical Studies have shown that the difference between exercising regularly and doing nothing can have a dramatic effect on your mood, perceived depression and overall outlook on life. Just how much of an effect, and why is exercise overall so important for you to stay happy, let’s take a look?
Exercise’s benefits are most often connected with the physical effects on your body, but go through an exercise session yourself and you can see right away the effect it has on your overall mood, and actions throughout the day. Just think about this, exercise not only helps you to reduce stress, boost energy, strengthen your heart and muscles, reduce body fat, improves health it also indirectly ward off worry and anxiety. Using exercise to fight depression just plain out works. Whether you’re worrying about the economy, anxious about possibly losing your job, frustrated with your kids, or even in fear of a speech you have to do the next day, whatever the case exercise can help relieve overzealous feelings and bring you back to center.
Often times, people turn to these “depression” pills you see on TV, or even worse accept depression as a “condition” that they are victim to. While the case is likely to be that they just aren’t exercising, getting out of the house, and just dwelling on their own problems. Research has shown time and time again that exercise is an effective, but often underutilized method to help combat depression symptoms. Anyone can get down if they constantly think negative and about their problems rather than positives and solutions. Exercise serves as a great distraction and helps you break out of the downward spiral and onto a new path, often a much brighter path, especially if the exercise you’re doing is an outdoor activity. Depression is mostly brought on when you stay in the same place in isolation. For example when you are incessantly in your house and don’t get out of your home. Outdoor activity is a wonderful way to brighten your mood and put cheer into your day, this is especially important during the winter when feelings of depression are more common, indoor activity is a great option then.
Or you can get out and join a group of some sort, and make new friends. Joining small study groups at church or spending time with brothers and sisters in Christ socializing and interacting is critical in warding off feelings of depression. Even if you don’t feel like exercising at the moment, rest assured as soon as you take that first step, stride or whatever you do your mood will start to improve and you’ll want to go further. Just try it; when you’re in a really bad mood or just frustrated with life, all you need to do is just grab your iPod and tennis shoes, go for a run, spend time meditating, praying and focusing on all the good things that God has given you and by the end of your run you will totally forget what it was that you were so stressed about.
One of the reasons using exercise to fight depression works, is exercise may increase levels of mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain, reduce levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, and give you an outlet for your energy which in turn will also improve your quality of sleep. Plus if you just think about it, knowing that you’re doing something positive for yourself, gives you a sense of confidence and accomplishment, which in turn will likely cause you to take more positive actions subsequently.
I know even myself, if I exercise first thing in the day, my day always seems brighter. If I happen to skip an exercise session or wasn’t able to fit it in, that day just doesn’t seem to run as smoothly. Things seem mentally harder, I’m generally more irritable, and I can sometimes just boil up with frustration at people and the world. So I can attest to the benefits of exercise on your mood from personal experience.
This doesn’t have to be anything advanced or even super vigorous. Anything that gets your blood flowing, muscles active and mind off of whatever worries you may have during the day. Whether that’s walking, yoga, biking, jogging, swimming or lifting weights, they all provide the same benefits toward stress and depression. And the time period is not as critical, even just 10 minutes at a time can have a positive effect. While you would certainly want to ramp up the time to see optimal effects for both mood and physical fitness, starting anywhere is a great way to break a downward spiral and start going up.
So next time you are feeling down or just bummed, rather than turn to one of those “anti-depressants”, caffeine, or some other stimulant that may only temporarily help, turn to exercise. It really is the best anti-depressant and ongoing tool to help you maintain a positive mood and outlook on life. You will not only mentally feel better but you will start to transform your body and become a better steward of the body God has given you, and you will become a better witness for the good news of Jesus Christ to all that you come in contact with.