Exercise to ease depression

Exercise! It may be the last piece of advice you want to hear from others when you’re feeling low and unmotivated.

It is indeed a real struggle for someone with depression to even get out of the bed in the morning, let alone going for a jog, walk or get oneself off to the gym.

Given that you feel completely drained of energy and motivation to carry on daily activities, it might feel ridiculous, harsh and insensitive when you hear people say that you should try exercising to ease depression

Exercise needs the right mindset to focus, requires strength and energy and that is exactly what the problem with depression is – you don’t feel up for anything.

However, take note of this – the reason why scientists believe exercise can ease depression is that when you exercise, feel-good chemicals called endorphins are released in the brain.

Endorphins are responsible for making us feel a sense of well-being and happiness, so they are essential for reconfiguring our mood patterns.

Endorphins also work like analgesics (like how morphine functions) to reduce sensations of pain and perception of discomfort in the body and thereby trigger a positive feeling.

These positive feelings post-workout can be very refreshing and energising and can modify your outlook on life.

So, here’s how to start an exercise regime even when you don’t feel you’re up for it:

The first and foremost thing is to remember self–acceptance. Accept how you are feeling and where you are in life wholeheartedly.

If you don’t feel good about yourself, still be kind to yourself. Self-acceptance will allow you to make space for change.

Formulate simple goals: Pick just one physical activity that you would like to continue engaging in for the next one month. It may be something you used to enjoy such as jogging, swimming or playing tennis or it may be something completely new.

Start Slow: The thought of starting a physical activity can be very intimidating. The reason being if you have experienced ‘low moods’ over a period, it can be very exhausting both mentally and physically to begin exercising.

Therefore, you need to start an exercise program slowly and gradually increase the intensity and the duration of the workout. The idea is to give yourself some time to feel good again.

If you feel unsure of following an exercise regimen, maybe just go for a short walk.

Try and develop some determination to push yourself to go for walks for the next few days (say 5 days) in a row.

Once you can achieve this small milestone, chemical changes will start happening in your brain and you may not need as much of a push to continue your daily exercise routine.

Regular exercise has been proven to reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, fear, grief and sadness. It also improves self-esteem, sleep quality and confidence!

A word of caution, jumping into an exercise will not cure depression. It’s not a stand-alone depression treatment.

What working out can do is to galvanize a depressed person or give structure to someone learning to control ADHD for example.

People who suffer from anxiety, exercise can be particularly beneficial because it helps regulate adrenaline levels.

What is also scientifically know is rerouting nervous, anxious energy into exercise is more effective than trying to dismiss the notion that exercise cannot be used as another form of therapy.

The road to recovery if you have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety can be long and difficult, but symptoms are highly treatable.

Exercise should be considered as a treatment strategy in conjunction with other counselling services, such as depression counselling or anxiety counselling using other known therapies and approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or Intensive Short-term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP)

Counselling in Melbourne CBD psychologists and counsellors are here to partner with you to get you back on track to rediscover the real you.

To book for an online appointment click here or contact us at Counselling in Melbourne for more information about our anxiety counselling and depression counselling services in Melbourne.

About the editor, Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross

I am a Registered Psychologist with AHPRA’s Psychology Board of Australia and a Chartered Counselling Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, UK. My formal training began with a B.A. in Psychology and Welfare at Charles Sturt University, and B.A. (Hons) Psychology from the University of Wollongong. I then progressed to the M.A. (Hons) Clinical Psychology at the same university before moving to the UK to undertake a PhD in Psychology from City, University of London.

Find out more about Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross

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