Depression affects nearly 19 million adults each year, but you don’t have to be one of them. When we are feeling tired, depressed or anxious, many of us look for a "quick fix", like reaching for a pint of ice cream or going out for a cocktail. While negative distractions like these are tempting, they can cause more harm than good.
A better alternative to life’s stressful moments is get off the couch and get moving. Medical research from the American Psychological Association shows that exercise and depression are inversely correlated. That is, the more sedentary we are, the more depressed we become, but the more we exercise, the better we feel.
Exercise It’s a well-known fact that exercise helps improve our psychology in many ways. Moving around can reduce current stress, make us more resilient to future stressors, and improve sleep patterns. There is nothing better for your mind than getting your body in shape.
Yoga and Meditation If high-intensity workouts are not your thing, consider meditation and deep-breathing exercises or try a yoga class. Meditation and deep-breathing have been shown to make us less stressed and even reduce blood pressure. Try meditating just a few minutes in the morning and see how you feel in a few weeks.
Social Connections Speaking of yoga classes, group exercise classes are a great way to lift your spirits. A spin class or just taking a walk with a co-worker can help you feel more connected with other people. And if you don’t like going to the gym, try finding a workout buddy or a trainer to make it more social and fun.
Outdoor Fitness When you're feeling down, the last thing you probably want to do is lace up the Nikes and go for a run, but getting outside can make a world of difference. When the days get shorter, many of us fall into a seasonal depression, so it’s important to get outside in the middle of the day and get some sunshine. Outdoor exercise in the form of cycling, running, golf, tennis and even gardening can help fight depression and get you going.
Walking If cycling and running are too strenuous for you, try walking. A study published in 2005 found that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day, five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week had a significant impact on overcoming mild to moderate depression. If you add in some music and stick with it for 30 days, you may never get back on the couch again.
Tips for Success
If you are strapped for time, try getting up a little earlier and knock out your exercise program first thing in the morning. Put on some headphones and add some music to your workouts to get yourself going. Keep a journal of your behaviors, your diet and your mood swings for one week to see how one thing affects the other.Stay away from sugar and avoid the post-sugar crash.
Get Moving! It has been said that “exercise is the most potent and underutilized antidepressant”, so why not give it a try. If you are willing to get some exercise for an hour a day, five days a week, then you can do a lot to manage your own mood swings.
The great thing about exercise is that it doesn't cost much, but it's one of the best ways to boost your mood, stay connected with others, and feel a whole lot less stressed throughout the day. It also provides amazing health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and cancer, as well as lowering blood pressure. You can do this!