I know when you’re depressed, the last thing you want to do is get out of bed and move your body. I also know that when people suggest exercise as a cure for depression and anxiety, I want to throw a net over them and drag them into the ocean. But don’t hate me, there is a nugget of truth to this. First of all, exercise can’t cure you! Although it can lift in your mood, so you don’t go out of your mind.
How do I know this? I’ve done both. I’ve been a depressed hermit isolating for days on the couch while bingeing Lifetime movies and eating anything I can dip in ranch dressing. I’ve also pushed myself to get off my ass and exercise. I totally believe mental health and physical health are related. Believe me, I am no athlete. I love the bed and the couch! Laying in bed is my everything. If it were an Olympic sport, I would win.
But being depressed and staying inside barely moving makes you feel worse. And the emotional eating on top of it will really throw you into a shame spiral; I can’t believe I ate that gallon of ice cream BY MYSELF. So when you have every negative thought in the book about why you can’t exercise with depression, I’m gonna let you know about the number one benefit of exercise for mental health- awakening the natural drugs in your brain! Yes, I said drugs 🙂 Legal ones.
Exercise and your brain
Depression is a mood disorder; it puts you in a shitty mood. You’re sad, you feel hopeless, and you don’t care about anything. All you want to do is sleep. Of course, there are different factors at play, but basically, what causes this is the biochemistry in your brain.
People with major depressive disorders have fucked-up brain chemistry, and exercise can help relieve depression symptoms by stimulating the “happy” chemicals in the brain.
Happy Chemicals for Depression
You may have heard of Runner’s High. No, it’s not smoking weed and going for a run.
It’s describing the endorphins that are set loose in your brain when you physically push yourself. The more you push yourself, the higher you get! Afterward, you’ll probably be all smiley. I’m not a runner, but I do try to push myself once in a while. Ok, once a year, but I’m trying to help you so…
Endorphins are basically sending a message to your brain telling you to chill out, relax; it’s all good. You know when you’re at the dentist, and you get the twilight sedation or laughing gas, and you feel all warm and happy? The chemicals in your brain do that type of thing when you exercise. It’s like medication, except you don’t need a prescription!
Other than endorphins, there are even more chemicals released from exercising like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. These chemicals also help you from being in a shitty mood. When you work out, your levels of serotonin can lift your mood like an anti-depressant. But it’s free. Free drugs!! These happy chemicals also help with sleep and stress. I mean, these drugs are amazing!
Motivation for Depression
So now you understand what exercise can do for your depression and anxiety, but how the hell do you get started? You’re depressed! It’s nearly impossible to move. Your body feels heavy, you haven’t been sleeping, you have no energy, so how can you even motivate? Unfortunately, there is no natural or unnatural drug for motivation, believe me, I’ve asked my doctor. She was like, “Nice try. You have to find that within yourself.” Dammit.
I know it’s not easy, but this is how you do it. Start with 5 minutes — just 5.
I’m sure you haven’t showered, so put on a bra, grab your headphones and walk outside for 5 minutes. You don’t have to talk to anyone; you don’t have to smile, you just have to move your body. Everyone has to start somewhere, and the hope is you will build on your time. You will walk longer and faster so you can get to a point where your heart is beating, and maybe you get a little sweaty. Sweaty= free drugs, plus nothing good ever comes from being dry 😉
Every day add 5 minutes, and soon you will start getting zips and zaps of endorphins and dopamine, and maybe just maybe your mood will change. You will be making your very own drugs, and nobody can do anything about it because it’s legal!
Reward Yourself for Victories
Did you do your 5 minutes? Yay! Now you get to reward yourself. Anyone with mental Illness knows that a 5-minute walk outside can feel like a marathon. We have to celebrate all our victories! You walked and got some free drugs flowing! Be proud. You deserve it!
Even though I like to reward myself with food, it’s not always the healthiest way to go, so I like to buy myself something. Maybe a new pair of leggings to walk in? Depending on your budget Lululemon is my favorite. I know they’re expensive, but they last forever. I have a pair that they don’t even make anymore, and they still look great. Or as great as spandex can look. You can also get a facial, massage, or eat pizza and dip it in ranch. Whatever your guilty pleasure is- treat yo self!
What do you think about exercise and mental health? What has been your experience with exercise? Comment and share because SHARING IS CARING!