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How Exercise Can Help Treat Depression and Improve Your Mental Health

How Exercise Can Help Treat Depression and Improve Your Mental Health

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6.7% of adults in the US experience major depressive disorder (Reference: National Institute of Mental Health). That means about one in every 15 people you know might have depression. Perhaps you have even experienced it.

Those with depression that do seek help, typically go to their primary care provider. Patients are usually treated with medication, and are not often offered other forms of therapy. Since the early 1900s, exercise has been known to improve symptoms of depression and your general well-being. For mild to moderate depression, exercise can be just as effective as medication (Reference: The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed Lynette L. Craft, Ph.D. and Frank M. Perna, Ed.D., Ph.D.).

Research has shown that it doesn’t matter if the exercise is cardio- or resistance-based. The most important thing is to find something you enjoy doing, so you are more likely to keep it up.

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Most people who regularly hit the gym, or go running, know the exercise “high” from endorphins. This is one thing that keeps them coming back for more-–it makes them feel good.

Unfortunately, those with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, often find it difficult and draining to go out to exercise. Exercise for mental health benefits does not have to be tough and grueling. It does not have to leave you sore for days, and it doesn’t have to be unpleasant.

Here are 7 simple ways to exercise to improve your mental health, without feeling like you have to overexert yourself:

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1. Go for a walk

This could be anything from exploring your local streets to hiking up mountains. Whatever you prefer is fine.

2. Take up gardening

Gardening can be good physical exercise that improves your cardio fitness and strength. If you plant your own fruit and vegetables, you’ll get the added benefits of fresh, healthy food.

3. Play a team sport

Team sports are not just for kids. Anyone can join their local basketball team, tennis club, or get some friends together for a game of football in the park.

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4. Hire a personal trainer

Outsourcing your fitness is a great way to not have to think about it too much. Of course, you still have to do the work, but an understanding trainer will coach you so you improve at your own pace, and will understand if your energy levels vary according to the state of your mental health.

5. Walk your dog

If you have a dog, obviously you have to walk it to keep it happy and healthy. The same goes for you. If you’re already walking your dog regularly, you could walk him more often, or you could try some different things like advanced dog training or agility school. This will get both of you out a bit more.

6. Exercise with a friend

If you have trouble sticking to regular exercise by yourself, arrange to meet up with a friend for exercise. If you have to meet your friend at a certain time, you are more likely to commit to the session.

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7. Try new things

If you don’t enjoy a particular form of exercise, try something else. Keep searching until you find forms of physical activity that you enjoy.

If your mental health is concerning you, see Mental Health America, Beyond Blue (Australia), or Mind (UK) for more information.

Featured photo credit: On The Shore / FaceMePLS via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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