Exercise and Mental Health
Many people have heard that exercise can help with depression. For people who are already practicing this healthy habit, that may seem simple. For others, it is hard to even know where to start. This is especially challenging for people who are or have been depressed, and hopefully, coming out of your funk. But what do you do to start?
First: Remember two basic principles:
- Set the bar low to start, to guarantee success and increase by small amounts (baby steps).
- Daily or every other day activity produces results. It matters little what you do on any single day, but is important what you do day after day.
The simplest exercise is walking. Just put on a pair of sneakers or comfortable shoes or sandals and just start putting one foot in front of the other. Left, right, left, right. Try this every day, for as little as 5 minutes at a time. When 5 minutes becomes easy for you, increase the time you spend walking. Even if you only increase it a minute at a time, you will build strength and stamina. Once you feel comfortable with this activity, consider finding a walking buddy, or join a group of walkers. This now adds a social component to your exercise routine, which further reduces depression. If you walk outside, the sunlight can stimulate serotonin, which provides additional depression relief.
Another strategy is to use group activities designed for beginners. Basic yoga or tai chi are activities that are good for people of all ages. These slower, low-impact forms help promote flexibility and mindfulness. This can help to combat the cycle of negative thinking and rumination. If you struggle with obsessing over problems or your perceived personal failings, these exercises, much like meditation and relaxation training help break these negative thought patterns and allow you to replace that with more positive thinking.
Cardio or aerobic exercise (running or brisk walking, dancing, exercise bike) is beneficial. Anything that gets your heart rate up and maybe leaves you feeling a bit “winded” is well documented in producing chemicals called endorphins that make us feel better. The feelings of a “runner’s high” can be produced with diverse exercises such as swimming (which is less stressful on joints) or other lower impact activities as well (stationery bicycle, rowing machines, etc.)
Strength training or lifting weights can also help. Most often this is recommended for individuals whose depression includes a component of agitation or anxiety. But strength training can help anybody struggling with depression. The experience of becoming physically stronger, and seeing muscles develop is empowering and helps counteract the feeling of victimization that comes with depression.
So how do you decide which is the right exercise for you? The answer is they will all benefit your mental and physical wellbeing and reduce your stress. But if you’re having trouble finding your way out of the depression, call the professionals at Ketamine Wellness Centers. We are experts in helping people find their individual and unique pathway to wellness.
Dr. Ellen Diamond is the Clinical Psychologist for Ketamine Wellness Centers.