Depression is like a cloud that avails and blocks your vision. It causes a persistent feeling of sadness, loss of interest and low self worth. It affects more than 19 million adults every year across the world and is often misdiagnosed. And while you can’t tell someone who’s depressed to just shake off the blues, there are effective ways to bring light to the darkness. One vital way of bringing back joy to your life is through exercise.
Exercise might be the last thing you would want to do when you’re depressed. But once you gather enough motivation to start, it could be life altering. Now I’m not saying that running a few rounds around the block will help you suck up and completely cure depression. But consistent exercise can elevate your mood and may also be the key in treating severe depression.
What actually happens when you workout?
What happens inside your body? :
• Your brain releases ‘feel good’ chemicals such as endorphins which trigger a feeling of positivity and ecstasy also reducing the feeling of pain (like morphine). This is the reason why you might end up feeling euphoric after an intense workout or getting a ‘runner’s high’ after a long run.
• There is a relation between anxiety and the temperature of one’s body. Anxiety can cause alterations in the body temperature. When you workout, the body temperature constantly increases which can have some calming effects on the body and help relax the muscles that were tense due to anxiousness.
What happens outside your body? :
• A physical transformation or just breaking through your personal fitness plateaus helps you gain more confidence and your sense of self worth also increases.
• Once you become consistent, working out becomes a part of you. This adds a purpose to your life and you have something to look forward to every single day.
• Since you have to leave your home to do most physical activities. It opens up more social opportunities by giving you a better chance to meet new people. Meeting new people and exchanging a little smile or greeting here and there can be a great mood booster.
• The world is your mirror. Working out also changes the way others start seeing you which in turn changes how you see yourself. When people start looking up to you as someone who works out consistently, your mind also starts reflecting that image people have about you. This helps you become a stronger version of yourself physically and mentally.
How can you design your own stress busting routine?
A study suggests that 3-5 hours of aerobic exercises per week is enough to help cure depression. Workout sessions lasting more than 30 minutes would be ideal but smaller amounts of physical activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — may make a difference.
It is important to find your niche here. While going to the gym and exercising can be great, it is not something everyone would enjoy. Figure out the kind of physical activities you enjoy doing and, how and when would you follow through these. A few examples of these can be gardening, jogging, walking, aerobics, sports, swimming, dancing and tons of other options to choose from. Choosing an activity that involves working out with a group of people would be perfect, providing you some social exposure and increasing your sense of community.
And finally, make sure that exercising is something you enjoy and is not something that you’re ‘just’ doing. When you start looking at exercise as something that’s a chore, the whole purpose of doing it is destroyed and it may even stress you out more. Set reasonable goals and start gradually making slow progressions. Make sure that your workout routine will not harm your body in any way and it would be highly recommended to take your doctor’s advice before starting off with a new exercise routine.
Depression is not something you can miraculously sweat off instantly. It’s a daily challenge and it’s the whole long term journey you go through during this process that will ultimately lead to the cure. Be positive, realistic and take solace in the fact that nothing will last forever and all the bad feelings will eventually fade away during your next workout session.
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