I’ve been depressed off and on most of my adult life and some of my younger years. I’ve been on anti-depressants before, and never felt they did the work I needed from them. Anytime I’ve come out of the haze of depression I’ve looked back and realized how horrible I was. I also remember the last haze fairly well, and can see how much I fostered the depression with all that I did not do. I sat around the house watching TV, eating too much, and barely getting up to let the dog out some days. I was in it, in a bad way! Depression can over take us if we let it. I’ve told others this before, but this time around I’m not letting it take me again. I felt a presence in me so close to my heart back in December, just after Christmas, that told me I can lose weight and be happy with my life if I just let go of the depression. I knew it was God’s push that led me to be happy again, and it was the movements and the activities and the healthy living that had sustained that happiness in me.
Exercise and a healthy diet are my saving grace. I would not be able to focus myself into the person I am now, with the structure I have given myself, be able to smile when I’m hurting, or just plain be a forgiving person if I didn’t have this going for me. With my degree in psychology and my research outside of the classroom I know a lot about the depression that hits me and others, and I even know plenty about the medication that goes into treating depression. First off, I think anti-depressants work and are suitable for most people. I am not one of them. I hate taking pills, mostly because I can’t remember to take them, and really want to give myself the power to overcome my own problems. In most people, they aren’t capable of doing this, due to the chemicals that create depression in our body. I still had plenty of the chemical problems with depression but research shows that exercise positively affects the same neurotransmitters that antidepressants target. Exercise also produces feel-good brain chemicals called “endorphins,” which promote the sense of well-being and satisfaction and can releases tension in muscles that contributes to depression-related soreness and insomnia. Exercise also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, relieving feelings of anxiety and agitation as well as raises your body temperature, which appears to have calming effects. All of this is what helps me to keep the depression at bay, but so many people need to take the medication on top of the exercise in order to get all the positive effects the antidepressant has to offer.
Exercising has so many more positive results besides weight loss and muscle building. It can increase your attention, give you more confidence, and increase your self-esteem. All of these have happened for me. But, even with exercise you have to make the choice to change the side you’re on. Are you going to be on your own side or the side of the depression – make the spiritual switch (as my pastor would say), are you going to give God your faith that he will help you through your troubles and fulfill all he has promised or are you going to give into the Evil and allow those dark thoughts of self loath take over? I know how difficult it can be to make that choice. When you are in that dark place you begin to focus on everything bad around you, how hopeless everything seems, and that you are an undeserving and pathetic person because you aren’t able to do what you need to do. When the Evil as strong as this comes to take you over, you need to know the weaknesses and the information about exercise can give you an effective strategy to fight against it. Most of us during our dark times forget that how we think and feel is directly related to what the chemicals in our brain and body are doing.
So, how do we make the first move out of the dark hole? You’ve already made a choice to get out, so now you just have to move. I know that getting out of bed, taking a shower, and doing your daily routine seems like to much work, but when it’s all done you will feel accomplished and determined to do more the next day. Here are some tips –
• Always talk to your doctor first!
• Do something you enjoy (or that you did enjoy when you weren’t depressed): For me it was going for walks with my family at first. Then it moved into cooking again. I finally went back to scrapbooking and found my real passion (besides exercise). Maybe for you it’s playing a sport with friends, fishing and camping, or long drives outside of town to a place you haven’t been in awhile.
• Set Goals: Just get moving! Taking a shower for the first day and getting the dirt and tears off of you are a great first step. But, research has shown that at least 30 minutes per day results in maximum depression-fighting benefits, but you don’t have to start there if that seems overwhelming at first. Start with any duration and intensity level that you're pretty sure you can easily manage on most days, and go from there.
• Know your weaknesses & plan for set backs: Yeah, we all have them and yes they will make us feel bad again. If you know that ahead then you are a step ahead of the depression before it even hits you. My first major set back right away was when I bought a scale finally. I had been using my Wii Fit to weigh myself, and the week I brought that scale into the house it revealed to me that I was 5lbs heavier then what the Wii had been telling me. I felt like a failure, that all my work was a waist of time. I cried probably for 30 minutes, said I was quitting, and sat on the floor of the bathroom feeling like a failure. But, once I was done I picked myself back up and after awhile I was back on track. It will happen; you will gain weight or just stop losing. You have to fight through this and give yourself credit for all the hard work you have already accomplished.