We’ve heard it said that exercise is mentally as well as physically advantageous. We’ve heard it said that the endorphins caused by exercise make us happy. Happy people don’t get depressed or anxious.
Is that all there is to it? Are hormones all that stand between depression/anxiety and optimum mental health? How does exercise alleviate depression and anxiety?
How Does Exercise Reduce Stress?
Anxiety and depression stem from stress which can be found both outside as well as inside the body. All these things are centered in the brain. Hormones called cortisol are produced when these conditions are present. They don’t go away until a feel-good hormone like endorphins chases them out.
Moreover, exercise has behavioral benefits as well. Exercise is a social thing, as evidenced by runners, bikers, and walkers, the majority of whom walk in groups. Exercise provides a distraction from that which induces the stress.
Exercise blows the stress right out of your head. Last but certainly not least, exercise instills confidence in you by sculpting the body and increasing its energy. Depression can’t hang around in those circumstances.
Where Should You Begin?
You’ll notice that the exercise examples above go hand-in-hand with proper breathing exercises. If you were to take up swimming, dancing, tennis, or some other vigorous aerobic exercise, you would have to regulate your breathing in order to complete the exercise.
You can do that first without getting active. Sit or stand inside or outside, whichever makes you more comfortable. Close the eyes and visualize a stream, a sunset, or something that relaxes you. Now feel your nose breathing in the oxygen. You can hear your inhale and exhale. Concentrate on simply breathing for about ten minutes. You’re feeling calmer, aren’t you?
Mindfulness Reduces Stress
While you’re deep breathing, remember that doing mental exercises helps alleviate stress, too. As you’re breathing, slip your watch off your arm. Do you feel the coolness over the area of skin the watch occupied? Do you feel the emptiness where the watch used to be? Now slip it back on. Feel the weight of it.
Feel the warmth of the skin beneath the watch. Feel the completeness you feel with the watch back on. You’re totally aware and in the moment as you breathe in and out. Stress can’t survive awareness like this.
Exercises For Anxiety And Depression
You’ll begin slowly and work your way up to very vigorous exercises with more repetitions and a longer workout. Slow and steady to begin with gets the body accustomed to the work and the mind open to happy endorphins’ presence.
Stand with feet hip width apart. Bend the knees in a boxer’s bounce and bring the elbows to a boxer’s stance. Jab the left arm and return to the boxer’s bounce. Now punch the right arm and return to the boxer’s bounce. Do this moderately, or you could pinch a nerve in your back. Repeat the jab-punch rotation ten times.
Stand in the same stance as the boxer. As you kick the left leg to your side, punch with the right arm in any direction you choose. Tip your body over to the right to balance yourself. Do this ten times. Now switch to the right leg. Punch with the left arm. Tip the body to the left for balance. Do this ten times.
If you have joint problems and can’t do a full jack, then doing a half-jack gets the same job done. The point is to be vigorous in your exercises. Stand with feet hip width apart. Extend the left leg and bring the arms up an a jumping jack movement. Now extend the right leg with the arms moving up and back to the side. Give it a hop as you extend the legs to get your heart pumping. Do this ten times.
This one needs no description. If you don’t have a rope, hold the body in the same posture and imagine the rope in your hands. Imagine it as your feet jump over it. Imagine your hands bringing the rope up and down to leap over it. Do this ten times.
Exercise causes both mental and behavioral changes in the mind. Now get out there and get happy!