Exercise in itself will not cure depression or anxiety
That’s not what this is about. If you suffer from these or any type of mental illness then you do need to seek professional help, talk to a councillor or psychologist and get the help you need. On top of this though you can help yourself by using exercise as a tool.
Being a sufferer of depression myself and still controlling my own anxiety, I understand the benefits of exercise as a tool to help manage symptoms.
Ughh But I hate exercise!
By exercise I don’t mean you have to sprinting laps around a track, or going into the gym and trying to bench press and deadlift twice your body weight. Exercise is relative to each and every individual. For some, they may see exercise as going swimming, others may like to lift weights and there may be people who just want to walk. Which ever you decide is right for you, then that’s what you do. Looking at why this helps, it comes down to certain hormones and psychological adaptations.
- Regular exercise will release “feel-good” endorphins, these are basically a naturally produced hormone in response to pain. The thing is these can also be produced by exercise (and laughter). A release of these hormones and brain chemicals can enhance the sense of well being.
- Sometimes exercise can be used to remove yourself from things around you that are causing your anxiety, taking yourself away and using exercise can take your mind off the negative thoughts or the negative situations you find yourself in that can feed the mental illness.
Not only does this help from the psychological effect but it can also have a positive effect on your emotional well-being and act in a way to promote positive reinforcements.
- Gaining confidence in yourself by creating exercise targets and hitting them. Again these do not need to be huge goals like run a marathon, but small achievable goals or challenges. Once you start to reach a few of these you will gain more self confidence. Over time, noticing a change in your body will also give you self confidence in appearance, and that has a knock on affect.
- Knowing you’re coping in a healthy way. This may seem like a strange thing to put here but having exercise as a tool as opposed to say, alcohol, drugs, dwelling on your feelings or just hoping that it will all blow over will really help. It reinforces the positive nature of what you are doing. It shows you are doing something by yourself, for yourself, that isn’t having a negative affect on your body. Knowing you are doing this is the right way, and making goals and targets that are for the future, is what pushes you forward and always gives positivity ahead.
Exercise and Physical activity
Exercise is not the same as physical activity. Now you don’t need to worry overly about the semantics (good word me) as both have benefits to your health. Physical activity we could class as anything that works your muscles and requires energy. This could be walking round the house, washing your car, gardening or any daily activity that will produce this affect. Exercise is more a planned or structured body movement that is done repetitively to improve or maintain physical fitness. Like I said, semantics (got that word in twice). Exercise will be better for goal setting and hitting those small achievable targets, this is much better for your overall progress The ideal scenario would be to have both of these in your weekly schedule. So planning a walk/run, weight sessions each week, plus some gardening or doing some general household work that will get you moving is absolutely perfect.
Don’t suffer alone
If you do suffer from any depression symptoms or anxiety go and see a trained professional and get a diagnosis. From there you can work towards improving your mental health, there a number of avenues you can go down so remember you are not in this on your own. Please get the help you need.