People who struggle with depression and anxiety symptoms know just how difficult it can be to gather the strength to exercise during those moments. However, once you find the necessary motivation, physical exercise can become one of the best remedies for these problems. The incredible physical benefits of exercise are well-known, but there are also some psychological ones, which not many people are aware of. The connection between depression and exercise is not entirely clear at the moment even if some studies have tried to prove it and succeeded. So, here’s how exercise can help steer clear of depression symptoms and make you feel a lot better about yourself.
How Can Exercise Help with Depression Symptoms?
Not many people know it, but regular physical exercise can do a lot for your mind too, not only for your body and muscles. For instance, regular spin workouts are a surprisingly great way of relaxing the mind and relieving mental stress. It seems that vigorously working out muscles in a repetitive and rhythmic fashion can clear the mind better than meditation. Harvard researchers even have a name for this phenomenon: “muscular meditation.”
What’s more, exercise can help reduce the symptoms of depression because:
- It distracts your mind: Each time you are engaged in some type of physical exercise, you pay attention to what you are doing and forget about other worries for a while. This also works when you are battling anxiety or depression symptoms. Workouts can break the vicious cycle of negative thinking and distract your mind to help it only focus on the activity that you’re doing;
- It releases endorphins that make you feel good: When we feel good, including when we work out, our brains release mood-lifting chemicals called endogenous cannabinoids. The name is not coincidental, and it actually refers to the effects of these chemicals which resemble those of cannabis but in a completely natural way. There are also other such chemicals that get released and make us feel better after working out.
The Emotional and Psychological Benefits of Exercise
1. It Helps You Gain Confidence
Just like in life, when you exercise you set certain goals that you sometimes achieve and other times you don’t. So, each time you reach your goals, your you also experience a confidence boost because you feel like you can do it. Each time you overcome a challenge you feel a lot better about yourself which, in turn, is of great help if you are depressed or anxious.
Confidence also works the other way around. Through physical exercise, you begin treating yourself and your appearance a lot better because you start to see and feel certain changes. With the changes in your body, the changes in your appearance come too.
2. You Cope with Your Symptoms in a Healthy Way
By exercising regularly, you do something positive, so you’ll start coping with your depression in a healthy way. If you go out or to the gym and work on your body you’ll gain enormous benefits for your mental state, which is a lot better than drinking, doing drugs, or gambling to forget about problems or depression.
Moreover, anxiety and depression symptoms get worse when you engage in the said bad behaviors or when you do nothing at all and hope to just wake up one day feeling better. If left untreated, your depression will become worse and it might even lead to a tragedy. So, always try and find something healthy to do if you’re depressed!
3. You Get More Social Interaction
Each time you are going to the gym to work out, you get to socialize with the people there and maybe even make some new friends. This is another way in which being physically active can help you cope with depression symptoms. Even if you don’t feel like making friends at the gym, a warm smile or a nice gesture can make you feel much better. If you’d rather exercise outside, the same thing applies. Whether is your neighbor greeting you or a fluffy dog,these experiences heal you. Don’t avoid them because when you are battling depression, it’s crucial not to be alone. The people around you can do you a lot of good without even realizing it.
Finding the Motivation to Exercise
A big problem is that too many people believe that exercising means running laps, lifting weights, and doing cardio until you fall down. That is not the case. It’s enough to simply be physically active at least thirty minutes per day to maintain your spirits high and body healthy. Choose the stairs instead of the elevator, run around with your dog, or do some yoga at home. These are all activities that will help alleviate your depression symptoms.
However, finding the motivation to move when you feel so down can be a struggle. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to succeed:
- Know what you like: The first step toward finding the motivation to exercise when you struggle with depression is to find what you like doing. For example, you can start your day in the garden, do yoga in the afternoon, and job in the evening. It’s important to do these things with pleasure so that they won’t feel like burdens. Even if you go to the gym, tell your instructor what you like doing and go through with it. Once you find what gives you the motivation to continue, things will be much easier;
- Be aware of your limits: It’s important to never try to do something that you might not be able to. While physical exercise is beneficial when it comes to depression, setting impossible goals will have the opposite effect. Remember that you want to feel better about yourself, not worse. Find routines that you are good at and stick to them! Don’t try anything too crazy or extreme because you might regret it;
- See what’s stopping you from being active: It’s also crucial to see what is exactly stopping you from being active. Is it a lack of time? Do you feel too self-conscious to go to the gym? Do you hate working out alone? Or maybe you don’t have the money for all that gym equipment. No matter the cause, there are solutions to each of these issues. You don’t have to spend money or worry about people seeing you when you work out at home. Have a friend over and exercise together. Simply figuring out why you are not exercising will make you feel much better;
- Be prepared: Finally,finding the motivation to work out when you are depressed also means being prepared for any future obstacles. Nobody can promise you that there won’t be any, so it’s up to you to face them bravely. Obstacles might even make you mentally stronger and help you further cope with your symptoms better.
All in all, it seems that physical exercise can connect the mind and the body in a harmonious way and make you feel better, especially when you battle depression. Having a workout routine can help you clear your head, leave your worries behind, and feel better about yourself. However, if your symptoms do not seem to go away despite doing everything you can, including working out, go see your doctor. Only a specialist can tell you precisely what you need to do for things not to go downhill.
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Rawson, Richard A., et al. “The impact of exercise on depression and anxiety symptoms among abstinent methamphetamine-dependent individuals in a residential treatment setting.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (2016).
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Steger, Michael F. and Todd B. Kashdan. “Depression and Everyday Social Activity, Belonging, and Well-Being.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (2010).
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