It’s been a weird few months for me. I can’t say that anything drastic has happened in my life… I’ve just fallen into this weird funk. Getting out of bed was a chore, my gym routine began to slack, and I was perfectly content becoming one with the couch. I dreaded my days and couldn’t wait to crawl back under the covers and lose my thoughts to mindless television. I think I had caught a bad case of the winter blues. In not-so-pretty wording, I had depression.
About 17.3 million adults in the United States have been affected by depression, so if you’re going through some down times, just know that you’re not alone.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that negatively affects how you think and feel. It can pull you away from a healthy routine and leave you feeling hopeless, unmotivated and empty. Your sleep schedule suffers, you may struggle with weight loss/gain, and feelings of anger, irritability, and/or sadness will seem to eat you alive.
Unfortunately, it pushes even further than that. Following your routine while you’re feeling down is no easy feat. It may be harder to focus on your work, or problems may arise in your relationships. Overall, it makes it difficult to take care of yourself. Depression is ruthless.
The all-natural remedy
Get up and get moving! Exercise is one of the best ways to fight off depression naturally.
Studies done out of Duke University took patients with mild to moderate depression and put them into three groups- supervised aerobic exercise, home-based aerobic exercise, and an antidepressant group. The studies proved that exercise was just as effective as antidepressants for the treatment of depression. It appeared to be a three-way tie.
That’s not all. Research also shows that exercise can help prevent any future bouts of depression! Stay fit and happy, my friends.
So how does exercise help depression?
- When we get our heart pumping, our bodies release endorphins, which are the hormones that keep us moving and make us feel happy and well. Our perception to pain is also reduced thanks to these little peppy chemicals.
- Working on your health is a great way to boost your self-esteem. Reaching new goals, losing those stubborn, extra few pounds, and learning to love your body will give you that extra boost of confidence and a more positive mindspace. You feel good when you look good, right?
- Humans were not meant to be isolated. Unfortunately in this day and age with all the technology we are surrounded with, it’s so easy to keep to yourself and unintentionally withdraw from the rest of the world. But loneliness is a huge cause of depression. Even taking 30-45 minutes to go to the gym, or to a yoga class, or a park, etc., a few times a week will get you back out into the world to charge that social battery back up and shoo away the sadness. You may even meet others who share similar goals with you and would love to join in on your fitness journey.
How to make exercising easier when you’re down
Take baby steps. It’s not easy to drag yourself out of bed for a workout, especially when you’re feeling low. You don’t need to jump into an insane 6-day training program right off the bat. Focus on small goals, like a few jumping jacks when you get up in the morning, or some light yoga to go with your cup of coffee. Make it a plan to keep yourself moving throughout the day. Get up and walk around or stretch every hour, pop a few squats or throw in a couple push-ups. Get your blood flowing!
Create realistic goals
Make a list of your goals and categorize them into short-term and long-term goals. Be realistic. Sure, I would love to drop down to 10% body fat and be able to squat a good 300 pounds, but I don’t see myself reaching those within the next week (…especially because I secretly hate squats!). Those kinds of goals would go under my long-term list. My short-term list for the week would include hitting 10 minutes on the stairmaster every other day, adding on another 10 pounds to what I can press on the leg press, and drinking an extra 8 ounces of water every day.
Make all of your goals specific and reachable. Check them off of your list as you go, and create new goals as you crush the old ones! Those short-term achievements will keep you motivated and help you reach your long-term goals.
Build a routine
Creating a routine will make it so you’re less likely to procrastinate and skip your workout time. Plan a time during the day when you know you’ll be available and when you’re usually feeling your best. Mornings are normally the best time to get moving. You’ll feel refreshed and ready for the rest of the day. And now that you have a specific schedule laid out, make yourself go, even if you don’t feel like going. It’s only a little bit of time out of your long day and it will greatly benefit your mood and wellbeing for the rest of your day. Fake it until you make it… and I promise you’ll make it!
Find a fitness friend
Having another person there to share your fitness journey with will make it SO much easier. You’ll have someone to pick you up and push you to get moving on the harder days, as well as someone for you to push and motivate as well.
And once again, that social factor comes in. Having a buddy around to socialize with will help lift your spirits, even if you’re not feeling all that social in the moment.
Find your environment
Everyone has a different happy place when it comes to exercise. Some love the fresh air of the outdoors, some love the wide selection of equipment that gyms have to offer, and some love the peacefulness of their home. Find your comfortable spot to workout that you know you’d be happy to go to. Don’t drag yourself to the gym if that’s too loud of a place for you, and don’t stay at home if you know it’ll just make it harder for you to get up and do the thing. The environment you put yourself into will make a world of difference for your workout time.
Is stress the culprit to your depression? Here’s a few quick solutions to easing the pressures.
For general information on mental health or to find local treatment services, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).