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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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