When I come home from my early morning swim, my mind and body are buzzing with endorphins, which makes me happy, talkative, and excited. Almost to the dismay of my just awakening family, who cannot keep up with my early morning energy high.
Exercise makes you feel good. There is a sense of accomplishment. There are good chemical reactions in our bodies. When you exercise, your body releases natural cannabis-like brain chemicals that enhance your sense of well-being. These chemicals are called endogenous cannabinoids. Endorphins are among the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. They transmit electrical signals within the nervous system and interact with opiate receptors in the brain. The result is a reduction in the perception of pain.
Exercise reduces a person’s chances of developing depression, according to this study. While exercising your body has the ability to focus on something other than your worries. Exercise can also improve depressive symptoms in people diagnosed with depression. But it doesn’t help everyone.
Some people don’t or can’t exercise. For some, depressive symptoms are too severe to motivate them to take the initiative. For others, physical limitations make exercise challenging. But research shows that 40-50 percent of people with depression have a “largely” positively response to exercise. The symptom relief that many are experiencing leads to only 18 percent of people to “drop out” of exercise as a treatment. The dropout rate for talk therapy is 19 percent and medication is 26 and 28 percent.
So what can people do to begin to incorporate exercise into their life?
- Be prepared to exercise. Start your day with exercise if at all possible. Exercising in the morning helps you begin your day with a better outlook. Whether it is a light jog, a brisk walk or a class at the gym, pack your bag and have your work out clothes laid out. Fill up your protein shaker bottle with powder and even set your coffee machine to turn on when you need it to be ready. Having these things already completed will help make the process of getting some exercise a little less daunting and a little more motivating.
- Recruit a friend. Ask a friend to join you in whatever form of exercise you plan to begin. Having someone else waiting for you increases the likelihood that you will go. They can hold you accountable, which is just the right amount of pressure some of us need for motivation.
- Choose a form of exercise you enjoy. Exercise comes in all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to go to the gym and lift weights if you don’t want to. Do something that inspires you and engages you. If you have a dog, cross two things off your list at once and go for a jog or a brisk walk with your pup.
- Set realistic goals. If you don’t normally swim, saying you are going to swim every day for one hour isn’t realistic. But you could perhaps go swim (or swim jog) for 20-30 minutes and progressively work yourself to 60 minutes. If you make attainable goals you will become more fulfilled.
- Bask in the glory of your effort. Recognize every single time you get out and exercise. Give yourself a little reward to brighten the moment. Each day is one step closer to feeling better. Be proud of yourself for making the effort. You deserve it!