Physical Activity Could Improve Your State Of Mind By
Curbing Stress Chemicals
A 2014 study demonstrated that PGC-1alpha — an enzyme produced in muscles during exercise — has the ability to break down kynurenine, a substance that accumulates in the bloodstream after stress and has been linked to depression.
Exercise may boost the production of serotonin — a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and some cognitive function, and that may be low in depressed people. Physical activity may also stimulate neurogenesis, the growth of new neurons. That could improve cognition, and, in turn, your mental health.
Exercise can give you a short-term burst of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that block pain and produce a natural “high.”
Many types of exercise can lower inflammation, a potential cause of depression.
There’s a reason that some athletes refer to their time at the gym as “therapy.” Exercise can be a great antidote to stress, which research has linked to depression, perhaps owing to the body’s inflammatory stress response.
Encouraging Happier Thoughts & Feelings
In 2009, one study explored depressed women’s use of long-distance running as a coping mechanism. Exercise can distract us from negative thoughts and feelings, while making us feel joyful and purposeful. It can also provide a sense of identity, which depression often steals from us.
What To Do Next
I know it’s not easy to do stuff when you’re depressed. Just getting out of bed is a victory some days.
But here are some things you can try, if you’re ready.
If you can do any of these, even just a little bit, congratulate yourself. Each one is an accomplishment.
#1: Take it step by step
You almost can’t start too small. If a 30 minute jog feels impossible, try a walk around the block. If that feels too far, shrink the distance even further to whatever feels manageable. Walk from the couch to the bathroom a few times.
I got a lot out of an illustration called “The Truth About Motivation” from the workbook Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders.
#2: Try something new
As Janis Joplin famously sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”
Depression can disintegrate you. But then, you don’t have any more rules to play by.
Sometimes, the benefit of feeling lost is that you can wander into new territory. I walked into a boxing gym when I felt so low I was willing to try anything.
If you can open yourself up to new experiences, you may find pleasure in things you never even considered before.
#3: Get support
Whether it’s therapists, doctors, family or friends, ask for help from the people around you. Tell them you want to try exercise.
They may be able to help you, inspire you, or even join you. If you can, seek out a community-focused gym or athletic group, an online support system, and/or a personal trainer. Assemble the “team” that works best for you.
#4: Get outside
Nature is powerful. Sunshine, fresh air, green space… even the friendly bacteria in soil may make you feel better.
Soak up as much nature as you can. If you live in the city, go to a park or spend time in a local garden. If leaving the house feels too daunting, start by opening a window and bringing some plants into your home. Try to work your way up to spending time outside.
#5: Mix it up
One you’re on a bit of a roll, consider mixing aerobic exercise (such as walking, cycling, running, or swimming), with anaerobic sets. While most studies on depression focus on aerobic activity, there’s a place for strength-based work, too — such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) — which can get those endorphins kicking.
#6: Be consistent
Whatever you can move, move it. The more you move, the better it works.
You might feel better right away after a single exercise session. Or it might take a little while. Either way, keep moving as often as you can, in any way you can.
Meanwhile, observe your symptoms. Consider logging your feelings in a journal, so you can look for benefits. If you’re not getting any better after a test period, consult your doctor.
#: Be gentle and patient
Don’t beat yourself up if you skip a workout. This isn’t about achieving perfection or becoming a superstar athlete. It’s about doing something good for yourself.
Eat, move, and live… better.
Written By Precision Nutrition (Camille DePutter)