5 Hacks to Sticking to Exercise Through Depression
You’re a BodyHack fitness junkie. Face it. It’s why you’re here.
But some days (more often than not), you just don’t want to do it. You’re tired. You’re grumpy. And the last thing you want to do is use up more energy.
Days the color of midnight haunt us all from time to time. And while there’s a difference between blue days and being clinically depressed, the symptoms are almost identical. Studies show that 17% of the American population will suffer depressive bouts at one time or another.
And while I’m not a psychologist, I do recognize that fitness is not an end-all be-all solution to every depression or anxiety mental health issue. But there are proven facts that exercise can help ease those symptoms as effectively as meds.
In trials held by Dr. Lynette Craft, Ph.D., 70% of patients put on exercise as treatment for their mental health found a significant reduction in their symptoms. 60% of those patients who went into remission had the same results as those put on meds 16 weeks later. In other words, meds work, but so does exercise.
Depression is a complex disease, but what it boils down to is an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Fitness helps bring back that balance. It releases chemicals in our brains that make us feel good (neurotransmitters and, like serotonin, and endorphins), it reduces immune system chemicals that make depression worse, and it calms us by increasing our body temperature.
To ease the pains of the downs of daily life, you have to maintain that brain balance. It’s not a one time fix. It takes dedication. It takes drive. (Which is something you may feel like you don’t have if you’re depressed.)
But the good news is it doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds.
The last thing you want to do is get up and move when you’re mentally exhausted. Finding the will to do it even when you don’t want to, takes the strength of the World’s Strongest Man, Nick Best.
But if you can do these five things, you’ll barely have to move one ounce of your mental muscle to stick to your workout routine so you can start feeling better.
1. Set a schedule
Putting your day on autopilot helps you get things done without thinking. After all, thinking about things is what leads us to procrastination. Establishing a daily routine that involves fitness will make it second nature and, therefore, something that your mind and body expect to do.
2. Don’t Think About it
Thinking about a task that we really aren’t in the mood for makes it all the more difficult to follow through. Don’t think about what you are going to do. Don’t think about how difficult you think it’s going to be. DO think about spending a few minutes to make yourself feel a little better. And DO think about how fast the time will go.
3. Lose yourself
Get lost in your exercise. Feel your body moving through the motions and listen to its feedback. Think only about what you are doing right now and how it feels. Leave EVERYTHING else outside of the gym (or home gym) door.
4. Turn on the tunes
The pace of the music you listen to affects your mood and your movement. Research shows that when the brain processes musical pulses, the motor areas in the brain are recruited as well; indicating a connection between music and movement. Find an upbeat rhythm and listen to it before and during your workout.
5. Focus on the after-effects
As humans, we are driven to do what makes us feel good. Focus on the feelings coursing through you after an intense workout and make that the focal point of your day.
Whether you like aerobic or non-aerobic exercises, the good news is they both work equally well to help reduce and ease your mental health symptoms after a few weeks of working out. Be consistent and you’ll peak atop your own mountain of emotions.
If you suffer from depression, what are your tips to getting in your fitness when you don’t feel like it?
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