Lately I’ve struggled to go for a walk outside every day due to depression and not pushing myself. I’ve always known exercise makes you feel good, but I came across this article which explored how walking can be beneficial in coping with depression.
Vigorous exercise is brilliant, and by vigorous I mean the getting-your-heart-pumping-and-sweating-a-lot kind of exercise.
Exercise helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:
- Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
- Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
- Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects (Information found here)
I’m not quite sure about the increased body temperature having calming effects, I’m not really a fan of feeling hot but I suppose if it’s cold … warmth is good?
Releasing endorphins though is incredibly positive, as Depression causes a chemical imbalance which means a person’s mood is low and harder to lift. For instance, a symptom of depression is no longer feeling enjoyment in situations that the person found enjoyable before Depression.
Coincidentally, chocolate ‘can also lead to enhanced secretion of endorphins… the release of endorphins upon ingestion of chocolate likely explains the comforting feelings that many people associate with this food and the craving for chocolate in times of stress.’ (Information found here)
Ding ding ding! We have a winner. And it’s name is chocolate.
Eating chocolate makes a lot of people, including myself, feel better. Unfortunately, it also makes some people, including myself, gain weight. Bummer. No, it doesn’t cause weight gain, but as I’m person using chocolate to feel normal, then it’s not good for my thighs. Exercise on the other hand helps to improve mood (you’ve achieved something by walking a mile) and also physically would help with weight loss.
For those who have never experienced Depression or don’t fully understand why, if exercise is so beneficial, everyone with Depression isn’t out running a marathon, here are the reasons why:
- Being restless and agitated
- Waking up early, having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more
- Feeling tired and lacking energy; doing less and less
- Using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
- Not eating properly and losing or putting on weight
- Crying a lot
- Difficulty remembering things
- Physical aches and pains with no physical cause
- Feeling low-spirited for much of the time, every day
- Being unusually irritable or impatient
- Getting no pleasure out of life or what you usually enjoy
- Losing interest in your sex life
- Finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions
- Blaming yourself and feeling unnecessarily guilty about things
- Lacking self-confidence and self-esteem
- Being preoccupied with negative thoughts
- Feeling numb, empty and despairing
- Feeling helpless
- Distancing yourself from others; not asking for support
- Taking a bleak, pessimistic view of the future
- Experiencing a sense of unreality
- Self-harming (by cutting yourself, for example)
- Thinking about suicide. (Information found here)
All of these symptoms can be overwhelming, especially when a person doesn’t know that they’re Depressed or even what Depression is. It’s taken a long time, with the help of antidepressants and therapy, to get to the stage where most days I can go out for a walk, and more often I can get on the treadmill.
I think it’s easier to imagine the difficulties in exercising whilst in the throes of Depression like this: its 4am, you’re so tired that you can’t think straight, and someone asks you to come for a run. At that moment, you’re going to be thinking “Why on earth would I get out of bed to run? I’m knackered! The last thing I want to do is move.”
It’s difficult, It really is, but personally I know how much better I feel when I’m fitter, and since walking is very do-able, I’m focusing on walking everyday outside, and also partaking in yogalates and random happy dancing in my living room.
Random happy dancing also improves mood, although there hasn’t been a study in this, because … I made it up. But if you wanted to try it out, all you have to do is think of all the dance moves you would never do it public… and then do them. Seriously, people will congratulate me on finding a cure for Depression when they realise how effective random happy dancing is.
If you suffer from Depression, how does exercise fit into your life? And if you haven’t experienced Depression, what is your opinion on it? And how rich and famous do you think I’ll be when I bring random happy dancing to the masses?!