Exercise, regular sleep and getting out in the great outdoors for your vitamin D quota are all terrific remedies for depression that really do make a big difference to your moods and state of mind. Here's why...
Article by Troy Sawyer (Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Health & Wellness Coach, Sports Nutritionist)
Updated April 18, 2023 -- This post contains affiliate links
Exercise is definitely one of the most powerful remedies for depression and anxiety going around. I’ve been involved in the health and fitness industry for over 30 years now and in all that time I’ve yet to see someone who's still feeling down or depressed after a good, solid workout! The reason for this is very simple… exercise releases potent “mood elevator” chemicals in the brain known as endorphins. So it's virtually impossible to feel depressed after exercising. Of course we're talking about doing solid exercise here. Just going for a walk from the couch to the fridge doesn’t cut it!
Another reason exercise helps to alleviate depression is you begin to feel much better about yourself. When you see your body changing (in a positive way) you naturally begin to feel better about your body and who you are as a person. Exercise also reduces anxiety and stress levels because working out actually “de-stresses” you. If you’re feeling uptight, stressed, nervous or worried about something and you go for a workout, you get to take all of your emotions out on your workout.
And what a huge difference this makes!
So exercise is one remedy and treatment for depression you really cannot miss doing. If you’ve never exercised before then this is going to be a whole new challenge for you. But the rewards make it extremely worthwhile.
The best way to begin is to join an exercise group (such as a bootcamp group) or join a gym with a reliable friend (yes they must be reliable and motivated!) There are so many good exercise programs and groups out there. If you don’t have a friend to join with then you may have to go it alone. Yes, it’s going to be extremely uncomfortable and way out of your comfort zone, but you can do it… you really can! The secret is to make exercise fun, and make it a social event so you actually look forward to catching up with your (new) exercise buddies every week.
We also recommend you try and combine some of your regular exercise with the outdoors during the warmer months. Exercising outdoors provides extra benefits as the sunlight and fresh air help to energize your body and improve sleep. Hiking is one excellent way to get some exercise and fresh air and vitamin D, all at the same time.
For further validation on the benefits of regular exercise for treating depression, there was a recent article published by Reuters titled "Exercising Three Times a Week Significantly Cuts Depression Risk". The study in question is one of the first to really prove that regular exercise does in fact help to lift your moods and treat depression. You can read the full article here.
There's no way any of us can think or function properly without a good night’s sleep. When the brain has been deprived of sleep it becomes foggy and you literally can’t think straight. It’s also been proven that your moods go downhill significantly and you quickly become depressed and angry!
So you must make sure you get regular and uninterrupted sleep every night (try and aim for 8-10 hours of solid sleep each night). You also need to make sure your sleeping patterns are regular by going to sleep at around the same time (10 pm for example) and rising at the same time (7 am).
Another helpful tip for promoting restful sleep is gaining exposure to bright light early in the morning. This might sound silly but 20-30 minutes of morning light is vital to keeping your body clock, and more importantly, your hormones, in sync. Studies have shown that bright-light therapy can help control depression significantly in the autumn (fall) and winter months when it becomes light later in the mornings (have you noticed that you're usually more depressed in these months than in spring and summer?) You'll need to use a 10,000 lux light box (like these ones) to get the required amount of light. These terrific devices work a treat and are similar in light to a bright sunny morning.
When you’re outdoors and the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful, warm day you can’t help but feel better. Having the sun on your skin soaking in lots of nourishing vitamin D really is therapeutic. However, not every day is like this. When its cold and raining it’s a lot harder to enjoy the outdoors. That’s why you need to make the most of the good days.
When it’s a bright sunny day, don’t stay inside… get out! Make the most of the beautiful weather. Soak in the sunshine. Go for a nice walk. Take a drive out in the country. Get family and friends together and enjoy a picnic lunch or barbecue. The options are endless, but it’s up to you to make the necessary effort. The fact is just sitting at home alone is not going to help you with your depression (even though that’s probably what you feel like doing most of the time).
As the saying goes “if it is to be it’s up to me!”
…As a final note, we would like to add that there's one more important ingredient to overcoming depression and that is something called... “hope”. We as human beings all need something to look forward to in life.
Without hope we are dead.
You really need to see a future for yourself. You need to find things for you to look forward to seeing and doing and write them down in a journal. Yes, set some goals for yourself. And be grateful for the fact that you can actually treat and cure your depression. Be grateful that you aren’t going to be stuck with this condition for the rest of your life.
I strongly recommend you take the time to read the book The Magic by Rhonda Byrne (author of The Secret). I guarantee that if you follow her program to the letter, you'll never suffer from depression ever again!
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