There is substantial evidence to link physical activity and exercise with an alleviation of the symptoms of depression. But you don’t have to wait till things get down and heavy, add a little more movement into your day to avoid the black dog or to simply boost your mood.
Is it time you got moving?
In the current research, it isn’t clear exactly how exercise might be boosting your mood, but there are some possibilities:
Exercise and physical activity:
- Improves self-esteem
- Gives a sense of control
- Distracts from negative thought patterns
- Offers an opportunity to socialise, meet new friends or strengthen existing relationships
- Helps with sleep quality
- Improves your coping mechanisms
- Boosts serotonin in the brain and supports the production of endorphins – heightening feelings of wellbeing
- Gives you an opportunity to explore new experiences
How do I get started?
As with many things, starting is the hardest part! This can be especially challenging if you are suffering from depression or anxiety.
We suggest starting gently, slowly and small. There is no harm in adding 10 minutes of physical activity to your day and it is actually a more accessible starting point than committing to an hour.
Don’t think you need to jump into a new sport or workout routine immediately. Begin by taking a walk or a run, maybe completing an at home YouTube workout or even taking a dip in the ocean if you live nearby.
Don’t be put off if you’re not feeling immediate benefits or if you don’t like the exercise you’ve chosen. Try out different options and find something that suits your likes and lifestyle. There is something out there for everyone!
If you’re beginning to feel the benefits of your ‘starting small’, it might be time to up the amount of activity you’re doing or exercising more vigorously.
- Try to exercise at the time of day where you’re naturally most active. If you’re not a morning person, don’t plan a workout first thing and vice versa for you night owls.
- Wear clothes you’re comfortable in. There is no need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe of expensive workout gear (unless you want to!), but it is crucial that you feel relaxed in your kit.
- Start at home with tasks like gardening or spring cleaning – yep, they totally count! When you’re suffering from depression or anxiety it may be easier to start your journey in the comfort of your own home, so make a list of physical chores and get moving.
- Focus on physical activities you enjoy. As we mentioned before, it’s fun to try out different workouts and exercise methods. Once you find one you enjoy, stick with it. You’re more likely to make physical activity a permanent part of your life if you actually fancy it.
- Bring a friend. Whether it’s roller derby, pairs tennis or window shopping, moving your body with a friend can be the motivation you need. It also adds a layer of accountability if your friend is counting on you.
- Dangle the carrot. We mean this metaphorically – reward yourself! Maybe you book a massage in if you complete your weight lifting three times this week. Or you buy the new sports crop you’ve been eyeing off if you stick to your routine for a month. Or maybe if you get out for a twenty-minute walk today, you can watch an episode of Queer Eye on Netflix guilt free!
At Chef Good we aren’t experts in mental health, so we wanted to share some expert resources with you as well as our general tips.
- Beyond Blue on keeping active
- SANE on complementary therapies (including exercise)
- The Black Dog Institue on exercise and depression