“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.