Exercise can help treat depression - that is, if you have the motivation

Andrew Badham 2018-06-18 15:50:58

This morning, I came across yet another article promoting the benefits of exercise in treating depression. I’ll freely admit that I have a bias to believe the evidence these reports are putting forward. I certainly feel more vital, energetic and, quite simply put, happy when I’ve been allowed to truly exert myself. Essentially, I’m a dog.

It seems I’m not the only dog, though. Blockbuster star of Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World, Chris Pratt has been quite open about how getting back into shape improved his mental health.

“Being in good physical shape is the best way to combat depression. You just have endorphins running around your body. It is the best anti-depressive that there is.”

Now, whether it’s the endorphins being released, or some other mechanism that addresses depressive symptoms, is immaterial; what matters is that it works. So, people should just get up and exercise? Well, yeah. But here’s where the trouble kicks in. One of the major symptoms of depression is apathy, a loss of motivation or interest.

Most people find it fairly hard to raise the requisite motivation to head to gym on a good day. As Dylan Moran talking about the difference between Schwarzenegger and regular people said:

“Now you and I avoid lifting things; it’s unpleasant, especially heavy things.”

The mere thought of a workout for some people is enough to work up a sweat, if not from effort then from anxiety. So, how might someone who barely has enough motivation to escape their duvet then drag themselves off to the gym? How can they escape the cycle of becoming more depressed through inactivity and becoming more inactive because they’re more depressed?

Make it part of the work-day. Thankfully, for the majority of people affected by depression, it isn’t so severe that they fail to arrive at work. The difficulty is to do anything in addition to the enforced work hours. So, make your workout routine part of that enforced schedule. Don’t allow yourself to come home until you’ve done your hour at the gym. It’s also a great way to ensure that you don’t bring work-stress back home with you. Burn up all that excess tension in a healthy, productive space that will leave you calm and ready to enjoy time with your family.

If enforcing this schedule still requires too much motivation, try outsourcing your motivation to someone else i.e. a gym buddy. Find someone with motivation for two, who could drag you to gym on the daily. Not only will it help to ensure your commitment, but positive relationships have also been noted to improve depressive symptoms. When we interact closely with people, we begin to imitate them; we become more like them. Who knows, if you spend enough time with your gym buddy, maybe some of their motivation will rub off on you.

Maybe these suggestions will work for you, and maybe you’ll find other ways of getting a workout into your day-to-day, but regardless of how you go about it, taking physical steps toward changing yourself is always so much easier than changing a thought pattern. Thoughts and mindsets can feel so intangible and abstract, so sometimes it’s easier to just focus on what you can physically do. So get out there and get healthy mentally and physically.

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