11 Exercises that Help Treat Depression

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Depression is the most common health disorder, but it affects every step and every part of life significantly. Depression being a complex disorder, can be caused by genetic, environmental, biological and psychological factors. It is also the leading cause for disability. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people are affected globally by depression. The worst part of depression is that even a short-term depression feels like forever. It usually takes 6-8 months on an average, for a person’s mind to recover completely from depression.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent mood swings
  • Loss of interest in activities which were enjoyed in the past
  • Low appetite, No appetite or Weight loss
  • Hypersomnia (Sleeping excessively) or Insomnia (Difficulty to sleep)
  • Fatigue
  • Agitation (restlessness) or Delayed psychomotor skills (slow and low speech and movement)
  • Guilty about petty things
  • Feeling worthless
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • Reduced concentration
  • Impaired ability in decision making

More often, people affected with depression lose interest in activities including their favorite hobbies causing a drastic impairment in their daily life. Doing what we love and keeping ourselves happy is what makes us to keep going in life. It is very important to balance our moods, feelings, interests, etc to lead a happy day everyday.

Depression affects one’s daily life adversely and it becomes severe from time to time if it’s left untreated. It is important to find ways to be happy in order to fight the depression and go back to being yourself. Here are 11 exercises to make your day a little more happening and to reduce stress which will help in gaining back the interest that has been lost in activities.

Physical and Mental Exercises to Treat Depression

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Physical Exercises

Running

Running produces natural ‘feel good’ chemicals called endorphins and other hormones which help in elevating and improving the mood. In addition to the stress relief, mood boost, depression and anxiety aid, running also has other amazing perks. It helps burn calories, reduces the food cravings and helps you sleep better. Many people who are depressed have difficulty sleeping in the night. Running is the best fit exercise in taking a first step to fight depression.

According to a journal published in 2016, evidence was found that running and exercising works similar to antidepressants. This is because it upgrades the mood by promoting the growth of new neurons. According to a study conducted in 2014, just 5 minutes of running everyday also helps in living a longer life. [2]

Hiking

Hiking exposes us to the beauty of nature which calms the mind and the soul. The interesting concept and reason behind this activity are especially the decaying trees. Decaying trees emit some chemicals to slow down their decaying process, which in turn surprisingly slows us down too. Forest bath is the best way to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It involves going for a 20 minute walk or a hike into the woods to get exposed to nature, plants, trees, etc. This significantly lowers the levels of the stress hormone. This also improves the functioning of memory.

Yoga

Being immersed in yoga is exceptionally good for the mental health. In a study conducted in 2007, it was observed that the people who took yoga classes experienced reduced levels of depression, anxiety, anger and other neurotic symptoms. [3] Yoga teaches a lot of things like patience and balance of life. It is also the best form of exercise in the world for any health problem or any relief. Yoga also focuses on the breathing which helps calm the mind and also slows down the aging process of the skin giving a natural glow to the body.

Walking

People who find running continuously hard enough can opt for walking as an exercise. Walking everyday is as effective as psychotherapy.  Walking also is a mood-boosting activity and a is a good cardio exercise which is also beneficial for mental health. For a better mental health and peace of mind, 150 minutes of exercising per week is necessary. Even a 15 minute walk will help in clearing mind and relaxing, rather than no exercise at all.

Cycling

Best way to make use of a cycle is to use it as a mode of transportation. Using it this way helps in exercising and saving time. Cycling to commute to work saves time and gets your exercise done for the day. Hence, this is a very handy and benefitting exercise to choose from, instead of going with any other transport.

Dancing

Dancing is an own comfort in itself. It relieves stress, anxiety and helps in being happy. Dancing offers a variety of options to choose from based on the interests and convenience of the people like zumba, contemporary, salsa, hip hop, jazz, etc. Studies prove that dancing reduces stress and anxiety more effectively than other physical activities. In turn, dancing develops a good connection between a person’s mind and the body. To many people, dancing becomes their own personal expression.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an exercise that originates from China. It involves Chinese martial arts but with meditative moments. It helps with depression, stress and anger management. Exercises involved in Tai Chi are based on balance, concentration of the mind, relaxation of the muscles and also concentrates on the breathing. On whole, these exercises which rely on many positive aspects bring out a regulating and happy mood.

Mental Exercises

Positive Lists

Positive lists are filled with motivation and encouragement. Whenever you get a compliment or an appreciation, note it down and pin it where you will always see. Whenever you do something that you’re proud of, tape it up or make a list. This is called list of positivity. It helps to motivate, encourage and boost mood whenever you are going through worse.

Self-Love

Self-worth is the most important thing to stay happy with whatever we do in life. Loving yourself is the most crucial thing to enforce in order to heal yourself from depression. Self love makes a person to grow stronger each day giving in the confidence that is needed the most.

Rewards

Make goals, prepare short-term plans and reward yourself each time you reach a goal. This is a strategy to stay motivated and keep going without giving up. The reward can be anything based on a person’s interests like chocolates, a meal, a small gift, a movie out, etc for short-term goals and a vacation, etc for long-term goals.

Creativity

Certain studies conducted have shown that most of the people battling with depression are very creative indeed. Even if you aren’t, it is helpful to start a new hobby or an interest. Creativity outlets can be anything like writing, reading novels, painting, drawing, singing, designing, crafting, cooking, baking, etc. These activities bring out joy and improve mood. They are also effective stress busters.

Fighting depression is a long run battle but inculcating the above activities into your daily schedule eases life while battling it. It is a choice to stay how you are and let the depression consume you or become a survivor by strengthening yourself everyday with motivation. Life can never be perfect, but to make it something worth living is our job.  Have a happy life ahead.

References

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-symptoms-causes#1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/759100

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2176141/

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