When someone is mildly depressed, the first remedy that comes to mind: Exercise.In just a few minutes exercise burns off stress hormones and raises endorphin levels (the happiness hormone); now that’s a quick fix. This makes the depressed person feel better, more uplifted and therefore able to re-interpret the sources of stress in a more positive light.
However, people who are depressed experience fatigue, low energy levels, irritability, poor sleep and the lack of interest in getting dressed and looking presentable. Ironically, the depressed person who needs to exercise most is not likely to exercise. The situation becomes self-perpetuating.
Depression is associated with dark words. “I’m not good enough,” “What’s the use of trying,” “I’m boring,” “I just have no luck,” “I’ll never find love because I’m not good looking enough.” A depressed person repeats this negative self-talk so many times until it becomes automatic, constantly replaying the same sad lyrics in her mind and believing every word.
The question is: How do you break this cycle and get a depressed person to exercise? This problem reminds me of the fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. One of the dwarfs, Grumpy, is unhappy and proclaims, “I don’t want to be happy; I want to be sad!” Clinging to a sad state gives a person something he or she is seeking: attention and concern. “Take care of me. I’m a victim.” Exercise physically and mentally empowers the self, awakening the potential to grow and move on. I have observed women who felt stuck in their jobs and marriages, and began a strength training program. After about a year they were able to leave both situations to find greater fulfillment.
As they put on more muscle, coordinated their movements to flow and improved their balance, they transferred these skills to their emotional lives. They blossomed with a new-found creative force and most importantly, self-confidence. They continued to exercise regularly which gave them the natural “high” to look down at their relatively smaller problems and see the total picture – then the solution. Unlike being hooked on cocaine or other drugs which deaden the senses, a person practicing a daily regimen of exercise awakens the senses to greater pleasure in life.
Here are some suggestions to begin exercising when you are depressed and feel that you don’t have the energy to do it:You have to become aware of your feelings, specifically what is making you sad and why you are sad?Being sad has to feel so uncomfortable to you, that you want to change it and will make every effort to pull yourself out of it. If you are not motivated to release your sadness, you won’t. You have to want to let go.