The Exercise Cure for Depression

In addition to medication and psychotherapy, exercise can be a powerful treatment for depression.

Clinical depression affects about 15 million adult Americans each year. The illness is characterized by a persistent low mood, a loss of interest in typically pleasurable activities, fatigue, insomnia, poor concentration and feelings ofexercise cure for depression worthlessness. It is more severe and persistent than a simple down mood, and is one of the leading causes of disability and death around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Depression is usually treated with antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Both have proven to be effective in helping most people. Antidepressants are not addictive and have relatively few side-effects. Several types of psychotherapy have proven to be effective, with Cognitive/Behavioral Psychotherapy being the most researched.

But research has also demonstrated the effectiveness of a third treatment approach. We all know the benefits of physical exercise for our physical health, but recent studies have shown that it can be just as important for our mental health.

Several major studies have compared the benefits of physical exercise, antidepressant medications and psychotherapy for people suffering from depression. The findings show consistently that regular physical exercise can be as effective as medication and counseling for mild to moderate depression. People with more severe depression will often need a combination of the three treatment approaches. When the depressed person adds moderate exercise to their treatment efforts, the improvement can be dramatic.

Some studies have tried to determine how much exercise is enough to treat depression, but the results are still unclear. Some findings suggest that 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic activity, such as walking, running or cycling, three to five times per week is necessary.

Any exercise creates a change in our body chemistry, including oxygen levels, neurochemicals and hormones. Some studies suggest that exercise mimics the effects of antidepressants. If you’re already taking an antidepressant, exercise can boost its effectiveness.

So, we know that physical exercise can help relieve clinical depression. The problem is that, when we’re depressed, exercise is the last thing we want to do. When we’re depressed, we don’t feel like exercising, we don’t even feel like getting out of bed. The idea of getting up and exercising for 30 to 45 minutes can feel like climbing Mount Everest.

So begin with small steps. Walk down your driveway or once around your block. Just walk around your house and go back inside. Try to move more inside the house. Any movement counts. Do what you can do at first, then try to increase gradually over time. It will take a little time to see results, but if you’re persistent, they will come.

Depression is painful, often debilitating and sometimes deadly. If you think you are experiencing depression, consult with your healthcare provider. Medications and psychotherapy can be very effective. But in addition to other treatment efforts, try to make yourself get up and get moving. You’ll be glad you did.

Holding On To Our Hurts

We worsen the pain and long-term damage when we hold on to our hurts.

What do you do when someone hurts you? Notice that the question is when, not if. Everyone gets hurt at times. It’s unavoidable. The important issue is how we respond to those hurts.holding on to our hurts

Some people strike back. Their hurt quickly turns into anger, frustration or irritation. The transition is usually so fast that they don’t even recognize the hurt. They only feel the anger. They may claim that they don’t feel hurt, just angry. I would argue, however, that underneath all anger is a sense of being hurt.

Some people hold their hurt in. They don’t say anything to the offending party. They just get quiet and withdraw. They protect themselves by distancing. It’s harder for them to hurt you if you distance from them. This distancing can be physical where you stay away from them altogether, or it could be emotional distancing where you just build a wall around your heart. Either way, you distance.

In many situations, the most effective response is an assertive one. An assertive response lets the other person know they their words or actions hurt you, but does so without being aggressive. Your tone and words are direct and serious, but not angry or attacking. An assertive response addresses the hurt without damaging the relationship.

But what about your long-term response to being hurt? Are you able to let the event go, or do you hold on to your hurt? Do you replay the event over-and-over in your mind? Do you continuously analyze what they meant, why they did it, or what you wish you had said to them? Do you find yourself thinking about it as you lie awake in bed?

Holding on to our hurts or anger creates several problems. Here are a few:

  1. Sustained anger or irritation creates harmful chemical changes in our bodies. When we experience resentment, irritation or anger, our bodies release cortisol. This chemical helps our bodies prepare to fight or flee when we are faced with physical danger. However, it is intended to be released as brief bursts, where we defend ourselves and then calm down. Holding on to negative emotions keeps the cortisol elevated, which damages the body over time. For example, research shows a clear connection between sustained anger and heart disease.
  2. Continued ruminating about a hurt can increase our general negativity. When we replay negative events in our minds, we are more likely to anticipate future negative events. We expect the worst. We tend to distrust others more. Our negative expectations of others can hurt other relationships.
  3. Repeatedly replaying hurtful events or analyzing them to death takes up valuable mental space. Our negative thoughts can ruin times we could have enjoyed. When we obsess today about a hurtful act that occurred last year, we give that hurtful person our afternoon. We don’t enjoy the afternoon because of our ruminations about the person who hurt us. And, by the way, that person is probably enjoying their afternoon without think about us at all.

So, the best immediate response to a hurtful act is usually an assertive one, but the best long-term response is always to let it go. It isn’t easy to let go of our hurts, but it’s always best for our well-being.