Can you really run away from your problems? Is the old adage, “Turn that frown upside down” really true through something as simple as moving your body? It is whispered through lockers rooms around the world that “exercise feels so good,” but is that powerful enough to physically lift the cloud that depression and anxiety can place on us? There are a ton of reasons to believe that it does and there are specific exercises that will banish the blues much quicker than others. No, walking to the kitchen to retrieve the ice cream is not one of them!
When you are feeling low, just the thought of exercising could feel like a chore, but once you get moving the right way, it is not so daunting. Exercise helps to relieve tension and pent up negative energy. It will help you sleep better at night, therefore allowing you more rest, ultimately lowering your “bitch-mode”. Exercise releases endorphins, those natural painkillers that raise your mood and give your body a natural boost. Lastly, exercise will firm you up and help to keep your waistline in check. This improves self-esteem, confidence, mood and overall health.
Let’s get all in your brain for a moment…
When dealing with depression and anxiety, psychologically, exercise is a goldmine. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduces your perception of pain. Bonus? They also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine (i.e., that feeling following a run that makes you scream that you feel “euphoric”). When you feel that incredible feeling from those endorphins, it can resemble the same as having a positive and energizing outlook on life!
What are my top 6 exercises for success in easing depression and anxiety? Drum rolls please…
Time and time again, running has been touted as an age-reducing exercise that promises to kick your health into high gear. Rightfully so—It torches calories, reduces food cravings, lowers your risk for heart disease, and increases the release of neurotransmitters, like serotonin and norepinephrine, to the brain. Running lowers stress, improves memory, improves sleep, and the repetitive motions of running have been linked to having a meditative effect on the brain. Some research has supported that running has also been effective in decreasing the need for depression medications. Love!
Mood Booster: Fill your iPod with your favorite uplifting, energetic tunes to help you crank out miles and push you over those hills.
2. Hiking in the woods
Want to really maximize the calming effects of exercise? Combine a great activity with being in the great outdoors. There is evidence that being around plants, trees, fresh air, and sunshine—nature—can help reduce anxiety and depression. In a 2009 study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, Japanese researchers sent participants to either a wooded or urban area. They found that those who’d taken a 20-minute “forest bath” (a.k.a. a walk in the woods), had lower stress hormone levels than the participants who had been in a city. So, you combine walking (raising endorphins) and being in nature (reducing anxiety and depression) and you got pure exercise bliss.
Mood Booster: Grab a hiking friend and your favorite hiking boots and hit the trails. The socialization and laughter with a good friend will surely have you smiling by the end.
Here is the deal. Yoga kicks butt—and depression and anxiety. Why? Not only does it improve your strength, flexibility, conditioning, and opens up your energy portals throughout the body, but it also focuses on the breath. Breath is the life force and with calm deep breathing, our stress reduces and energy increases and our mood lightens. It also helps with digestion and basic body operations. It is so difficult to be angry, anxious, and stressed when you are breathing deeply.
Mood Booster: Hit up your local gym or YMCA and jump into a relaxing yoga class to “Om” your way to calm.
I don’t know a woman alive who doesn’t feel incredible when she is shaking to a sultry, upbeat tune! Dancing is by far one of my favorite exercises to banish the blues. Dancing increases the energy flow throughout the body and it opens up the chakras, allowing the energy to move freely. Certain moves open certain chakras, ultimately bringing out self-confidence and feelings of freedom. The activity, like the others, increases endorphins, and creates a sense of peace. Dancing also helps to slim out the body and strengthens the core muscles.
Mood Booster: Sing! Singing and dancing to your favorite tune opens up the energy in your throat chakra, increasing your self-confidence and decreasing stress and depression. Total healing power.
Strength training is about mastery and control and it requires full attention, concentration, and mindfulness. Boosting your strength brings on quicker results and increases your self-esteem. Just be sure to start slowly and use the assistance of a personal trainer if needed.
Mood Booster: Wear your favorite red workout shirt. It increases your energy to help you push through harder exercises.
6. Playing outside:
Let’s get a little dirty—down and dirty—with playing outside. If you enjoy being outdoors, even simple activities such as gardening, throwing a ball around with your kids, or washing your car may do you some good. The sunlight in healthy doses stimulates serotonin levels and increases your mood. Again, being in nature is super healing. If you really want to balance out your energies and ease your anxiety and depression, get your feet and hands in the dirt or on the grass. This is a process called “grounding” and has been shown to be incredibly healing!
Mood Booster: Grab your camera and start clicking away at all the wildlife, including your children, and beauties in nature. Exercise and captured memories are a great combination. Plus, reliving the experience through photos can be an automatic mood booster!
When sweating away sadness, remember some key points…
- Not everyone will be affected the same way by the same exercises. You have to find what works for you!
- Recruit help from a professional if you are unsure what to do or how to weight lift safely.
- Put your exercise routine into your schedule and make it a priority. Consistency is key.
- Variety is the spice of life and this holds true with your exercise. If you get bored, it is not as effective, so keep it varied when you can.
- Exercise classes and memberships to gyms can get expensive, especially when you don’t use them. Don’t let exercise programs break the bank. If you go to the gym regularly, then get that membership! But, if you only go sporadically, save your money and get outside instead.
- Try to exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes, three to five times a week. Take it easy if you are just beginning and build up when you feel you are ready to rock out more time.
- Stop making excuses.
So many exercises to choose from…
What if you don’t know which exercise will fit your fancy? Quiz yo’self to get to know yo’self:
- What physical activities do I enjoy?
- Do I prefer group or individual activities?
- What programs best fit my schedule?
- Do I have physical conditions that limit my choice of exercise?
- What goals do I have in mind? (For example: weight loss, strengthening muscles, improving flexibility, or mood enhancement)
“Move your rump to move mental mountains”
Take action now! Take the quiz above and figure out what exercise fits your fancy to blast away depression and anxiety. Recruit a friend if you need support to get started and stay committed.
Go to the comment section. Make a comment and let me know what you have struggled with, what you have tried, and what your action plan is. The best discussions start between like-minded friends! Share this with your friends and get more people in on the action.
Do you currently have a workout routine that is your go-to for decreasing stress? If so, I want to hear all about it! Live your life with passion and purpose…
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