Exercise is the best medicine you can give yourself when you’re depressed!

We tend to dismiss natural and healthier forms of treatment because we want the quick fix that is going to make us feel better when we are feeling sick or unwell from depression or anxiety. Antidepressant medications are the normalized way for treating depression and anxiety, as well as other mental illnesses in America. Of course, antidepressant medications do help, however, research from Harvard Medical School shows that exercise is just as effective in treating depression and anxiety as oral medication. Not only are you getting your body in better shape, it’s an instant mood enhancer and reduces your anxiety.

Benefits from exercise

Everyone needs regular exercise to stay happy and healthy! Research shows that there aren’t only mental health benefits to exercise, but physical and psychological benefits as well. Some of the benefits of exercise include preventing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, lowering your blood pressure and arthritis as well as improving your overall mood and sleep patterns. Exercise releases your body’s feel-good hormones, endorphins, which is what causes your mood to improve. Studies show that the more you exercise, the better you’ll feel daily.  Exercise may also play a role in keeping your depression from coming back once you’re feeling better.

It Can Be Fun and Simple

Exercise looks different for everyone and there are many fun ways to engage in physical activity. Some people enjoy working out in gyms and lifting weights while others enjoy exercise by doing activities like playing basketball, riding a bike, going on a run, or swimming. Exercise can be as intense or not intense as you make it. If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy physical activity, change the way you think about exercise and make it your own. Find small ways to add bits of exercise in your day. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator throughout your daily activities. If you don’t live far from your job, consider walking to work or even biking. Any physical activity that gets up and moving can help to improve your mood is good for your overall physical health not to mention how good your body looks and feels after!

You Feel Good During and After

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “How will exercise make me feel better with my depression and anxiety?” There are many good benefits of exercise. Taking the time out of your day for at least thirty minutes of exercise three to five days a week can remarkably improve your depression symptoms. Regular exercise helps with:

  • Releasing endorphins and brain chemicals in your body that make you feel good about yourself which is ultimately an instant mood enhancer
  • Giving you an outlet to managing your depression and anxiety in a positive way by giving you a healthy way to cope with it
  • Taking your mind off worries and stress so you’re able to have more positive thoughts that feed your soul and well being
  • Gaining your confidence by getting in better shape and meeting specific exercise goals you created for yourself. No matter how big or small, a goal is a goal!

How to Stay Motivated

The key to finding an exercise routine is figuring out what works best for you and what does not. It’s important to find what works for you and not to push yourself too hard. Generally, thirty minutes of exercise daily is good for the mind, body, and soul, but if you’re someone who finds it difficult to stay motivated, this may be a challenge. Because the benefits of exercise will only last if you’re consistent, it’s important to find exercises and activities that you enjoy doing. The following steps are important to keep in mind in finding and sticking to your exercise routine long term:

  • Figure out what physical activities you enjoy doing and make time for them throughout the day. Doing what you enjoy will help you to stick to your routine and complete your physical activities with comfort and at your own pace.
  • Set realistic goals that work for you at your comfort level. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits and gradually build yourself up to where you want to be instead of setting unrealistic goals you’re unlikely to meet.
  • Talk to your doctor or therapist for guidance and support regarding your exercise routine and a treatment plan you can stay consistent with. Therapy sessions are also a good way to release stress and any discomfort you may be feeling in your body physically, mentally, and emotionally. The more consistent you are with your routine and therapy sessions, the better you’ll feel.
  • Think of exercise as a fun activity instead of a daily chore or task you must get done. If exercise is just another task on your list to complete, you’ll find yourself not wanting to do it. Look at your exercise routine the same way you’d look forward to a therapy session – something that is going to make you feel better.
  • Prepare yourself for any setbacks you may encounter, but also know that what you can do is enough and that’s all that should matter. If you miss a day or two of exercise, don’t beat yourself up and know that the progress you have made still matters. Give yourself credit for every goal completed, big or small and affirm yourself for your progress.

In addition to frequent exercise, certain foods may also help you fend off depression.