Exercises when feeling down
It can be extremely overwhelming to do the little things that are usually quite simple to do when we are feeling down and out. Whether we are feeling down,
depressed, sad or anxious, or a combination of all of these, it can reduce our
ability to be present, to want to get up and move, etc. Everyone experiences these feelings at one point and experience is unique to the individual.
Nevertheless, it's still very important to move your body and keep active, not just
for the sake of your body, but your brain, too!
Exercise is not a cure, but it can absolutely help alleviate symptoms. It's really important to keep moving and stay active even when we feel down.
In Alex Korb’s insightful book The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, he notes that “almost
everything that depression causes can be combated by exercise.”
Some benefits of exercise on mental health:
1. Improves memory and brain functioning
2. Enhances sleeping quality
3. Reduces stress and anxiety
4. Offers a sense of accomplishment
Sometimes we forget that everything is connected. If we are feeling depleted in our mental health, that will also deplete our physical health. Any type of movement is a step forward to feeling better.
Korb writs that “Exercise increases nerve growth factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which are like steroids for your brain. BDNF makes your brain stronger, so it’s more resistant to all kinds of problems, not only depression”.
Here are some simple things you can do to take small steps forward to feeling a little better:
Start small: Set a small goal for yourself and take the necessary steps to work towards achieving
that goal. Walking to the corner shop to get milk is a great start or even stretching in bed!
Write it down: Add exercise to your calendar or your reminders on your phone. Then when you’re done, check it off as complete. Korb reported that “Planning activates the prefrontal cortex, and checking it off the list releases dopamine.” This dopamine will help give you an extra boost to move a little more!
Be realistic with yourself: Sure, some people actually get up early and get to the gym, but that doesn't mean you have to. Sometimes you need to be realistic with yourself and set an easily achievable goal. Maybe that is going to be a 10-minute walk outside, or 15-minutes of yoga, or a 20-minute ab workout. Setting goals and achieving them is something that’s really crucial to your self-esteem and rewards system and will be a step forward to feeling better.
Move with a mate: It’s one thing to get up and move, but doing it with a friend can be even better as it helps us combat loneliness that can be a symptom of when we aren't feeling the best. If you are up for it, sign up for a group class! Or have your friend sign you guys up, and go together!
Celebrate when you follow through: The brain is hardwired to thrive off of rewards and positive reinforcement. Going for that 10-minute walk to the grocery store will activate pathways in your brain that release dopamine, our reward and pleasure neurotransmitter. When you're feeling down, this pathway is used less and we tend to dwell more on the negatives so being able to positively reinforce your active behavior will not only make you and your brain feel better, it will help teach your brain to remember the positives that are connected to exercise.
It is difficult to combat these feelings at times, especially when we don't feel entirely prepared or able to fight the feelings off. But, great news! There are so many things around us that we can utilize to improve our immediate circumstances, and exercise is just one of them!
If you're still unsure of where to start, check out these at home 10-minute exercises: 10 minute de-stress yoga, 10 minute Zumba , 10 minute Barre Workout , 10 minute Strength, Balance, Flexibility Yoga , 10 minute basic cardio!