“Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant.”

Exercise can improve your mood instantly, but it won’t always lift you out of a depression. Everything we do affects how we feel. There more healthy habits you have, the better you’ll feel.

The benefits of exercise are so much more than just giving you a runner’s high or even reducing risks of heart disease. It’s not just about changing how you feel, it’s about what you are able to do despite how you feel.

We’ll talk about how to make working out fun so it feels like Christmas when you wake up; still, there will be days when you don’t feel like it. Here’s a little trick I use: I say to myself “Exercise is a healthy habit, and even though I don’t feel like it right now, I know I can exercise anyway.”

I don’t try to convince myself to do it or exercise any amount of willpower, I just remind myself that motivation is not a prerequisite to action. There’s no pressure, no self-put downs and no complaining. I remind myself that I don’t HAVE to exercise, nobody is forcing me to. If I do it or not, that’s up to me. This creates a little space in my head to make a conscious decision, not dictated by my current mood.


Exercise is a form of meditation. It is a period of time you set aside to practice complete mindfulness while you move your body. Through exercise we learn of be completely present. We can focus on the physical sensations of our movements. We can pay attention to how the foot feels when it makes contact with the pavement, left, right, left, right.

The repetition is good for the body and good for the mind. We can focus on the sensation in our muscles when we stretch as a reminder to stretch ourselves and live on the limits of our comfort zone. When we are doing strength training we can try to do it with perfect form, slow down and give it attention.

Every exercise and sport is a powerful metaphor for life. We’ll look at this idea more later and see how this sets you up for having a great day, even if you don’t feel like it.

Just like with food, variety is key. There are so many sports, different forms of martial arts, aerobic routines, strength training strategies. Once we get some momentum by reaching mini goals, participating in a sport can become really exciting.

That’s what we want. We want to build as many things into our life as we can that we can look forward to. When we get there, those off days are fewer and far between and you’ll be thriving.

How do you get yourself to exercise when you’re motivation is low? Leave a comment below.

5 thoughts on “Exercise

  • July 15, 2016 at 3:00 am

    Very well done. Particularly, I enjoy the idea of self forgiveness. In a way, remind yourself that you don’t have to do anything. Too many people pressure themselves to motivate nonstop and believe that if they miss an exercise session, they have somehow failed.

    I like to remember that if I plan three runs this week and only do two, then those are two runs I might have not done otherwise.

    I like that you posted about motivation. I ended up just writing about motivation.

    A bit of a personal story and talking about how we can make things like exercise quite easy.

    Great post

    • July 15, 2016 at 4:08 am

      Thanks for the comment Daniel. It is a fine line between staying driven and being too hard on yourself. I am a fan of just trying to be a little nicer to ourselves. That’s why I like CBT. It’s a good tool for me just as a reminder that I need to it’s ok not to be perfect. We also need those reminders that we are more capable than we give ourselves credit for sometimes.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment

  • September 4, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Hi Raj, thanks for your comments. You are right that often medication is a necessary part of the solution, not always, but usually people with bipolar disorder do need to take medication. The other side of the spectrum is the idea that medication is all you need. Taking meds and eating unhealthy and leading a sedentary lifestyle is not an effective treatment. So meds + healthy lifestyle = bipolar under control

  • December 8, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    As a behavioral health provider, we promote exercise in our inpatient and outpatient curriculum to stimulate the natural endorphin’s to promote the good feelings naturally. Most of our bipolar patients do require some level of medical intervention to stabilize their moods, but exercise can add significantly to their overall well-being when added in as a prescription.

    This article is important to reinforce the positive benefits of exercise!

    • December 8, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      Thanks for providing some perspective here. Absolutely on point, exercise and other holistic approaches rarely replace medication, sometimes they can, at the least they can make medical treatment more effective because the body is operating at an optimal level. So much depression is the result of poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, my approach is to use all the tools available.


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