We have all heard that exercise can help with depression. This advice is all well and good if you’ve never suffered from depression, and for those who have it is something we can comprehend when we are feeling ok; but when depressed getting a workout in can often be the last thing on our minds. So that is why I have put this 6 step process together to help you get on your way to a good workout and hopefully an improved mood.
Step 1 – Focus on how you will feel after the workout. This is important, because chances are right now the last thing you want to do is move, let alone go and do a workout. You may have managed in the past to drag yourself down to the gym only to start moving and get nowhere. It is all too easy to associate with those feelings as they are the ones you are presented with in this moment. Instead remember a time you have worked out in the past where you felt absolutely amazing at the end. Those feelings are waiting for you at the end of the workout that is infront of you, you just have to get out there and do it!
Step 2 – Spend a little bit more time mobilising and stretching. Motion creates emotion. So you get to the gym, you’re still feeling depressed so your mind is saying “let’s just get this over with”. So you rush into your first set just wanting to get on with it and it feels like absolute hell. You’re not warm, you can’t lift the weight you know you should be able to manage and this can all lead to frustration. Instead get in there and spend a little bit more time loosening up. Movement can be a great way to change your mental state, and movements like opening up your posture, reaching up for the ceiling or torso side bends can be great natural anti-depressants. When we are depressed we tend to shut ourselves off physically, we ball up and close everything in. Physiology works in both ways so as much as an emotion can create a movement, a movement can create an emotion too.
Step 3 – Get through the first few sets and give yourself a pat on the back for each one. This is the last tough part of the workout, get through this and you’ll be sailing all the way to the finish line. It is important that you realise that you are doing something good and that you give yourself credit for that. Look at your history, in the past you would allow the depression to take hold and do as little as possible (or nothing if you could get away with it) and here you are working out. Nice job! I’m proud of you and you should be bloody proud of yourself. We need to reward ourselves for the little things, that’s what creates the momentum to do the bigger things. Remember even a bad workout is better than the one you didn’t do!
Step 4 – Once you have momentum listen to your body. Sometimes it needs an easy workout but sometimes even a depressed person can get a PB. By this point you have momentum on your side, you may even be “enjoying” yourself! At this stage there is no hard and fast rule on where to go, so it’s important that you listen to your body. The thing with depression is sometimes it needs a good shaking up and other times it needs a more delicate approach. By this point you will know which one you need. If you need it gentle then just get through the workout and try to enjoy the process. But if the momentum is really on your side then you will know it’s time to knock out a new personal best; and what better way to completely own your depression, by turning it into a strength!
Step 5 – However the workout turns out, celebrate the fact that you did it. Just getting up and doing something is a victory. You’ve done it! You’ve made it to the end of your workout, maybe it was epic, but maybe it wasn’t as good as you know you can do when you’re at your best. Either way is OK and again you should be proud of yourself, not based on how well the session went, but based on the fact that you actually did it! I know that in my past there are more workouts I have missed due to depression than those I have managed to get in there and get done. So every step forward is a victory, even if it’s a baby step.
Step 6 – Lock in that feeling of satisfaction you have at the end, you will need it for step 1 next time round. This is immensely powerful, because if you can associate with the feeling of utter satisfaction at the end of a workout that was born from depression then you have the key to beating this every single time! In step 1 you probably remembered a workout from when you were feeling at your best and that has power, but knowing that you got from depression to pride, satisfaction, maybe even a bit of gratitude is even more powerful. You have just been your own personal underdog story and everyone prefers a hero who has earned it over someone who has never had to fight for anything! You rock, remember that!
Bonus step – Go with a friend! A good friend can make anything better, plus we humans are much more inclined to do things where there are other people involved than we do for ourselves. Get your friend to join in with your celebrations, share the experience and lock in all those positive emotions together!
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- Fitness, Mindset, Motivation
- depression, exercise, fitness, mental health, movement, personal trainer, personal training