Anxiety and depression are some of the most common mental issues caused primarily by the hectic lifestyle of today. They are common and tend to disappear on their own after a few years without stress but for some, they linger much longer. There are several therapies on how to combat them, but the most natural one is physical exercise.
Just like athletes from different sports do different sets of exercises so do different exercise programs help different people fight anxiety. The trick is to discover which physical activities help you in particular and to stick to them until your mind shows signs of improvement. In fact, here is a list of the most effective sports and hobbies that help relieves anxiety and depression and how to properly approach fitness therapy.
Sometimes even a walk helps
Nietzsche was just one of many philosophers who believed that one should think while walking, not sitting. The main argument is that you are able to consolidate your thought while performing a light physical activity. In fact, a light stroll through the park is so effective that it can be used as a form of therapy.
Since walking is considered light cardio, you are still benefiting from a light exercise which helps you set your thoughts straight. If you are sitting down or lying in the bed, your imagination runs wild, only worsening the symptoms of depression. This form of distraction actually lies at the core of all physical activity as a remedy for depression and anxiety.
Statistics show that somber thoughts grip us the strongest during the weekend or the holiday season. This is the time that we experience the least human contact and feel alone the most. This deteriorates the state of our mental health, so depression almost naturally fills the void.
What regular exercise does, whether it’s strolling or cycling, is to help us focus on a specific fitness-related goal. To use automotive terms, this jumpstarts our innate motivation, as we don’t have enough time to let our mind runs wild. Instead of thinking about what will other people say about our hairstyle, for example, we are going to be thinking of how to add a few more reps to the bench press.
Limited daily goals
In order to keep us going every morning, the fitness goals we set should be limited to a single day and humble in nature. Instead of setting your sight on a perfect body in six months, better get your daily goal at 20 push-ups, for example. Such small, realistic goals will help us keep going because the most important thing about depression is merely surviving another day of feeling down.
Essentially, establish a fitness routine that is centered on consistency rather than perfection. The latter is reserved for professional athletes who already have high levels of motivation which is precisely what you lack right now. Heck, if you don’t feel like doing the aforementioned 20 push-ups, just leave the house and walk around the block. Simple going through the front door will result in a burst of willpower and energy.
Having fun while exercising
If going to the gym to lift heavy weights doesn’t seem that much appealing to you, them simply don’t do it. Physical activity should act as a counterweight to anxiety and depression so if it’s not something you can enjoy in, don’t do it in the first place. There are so many leisure activities and sports you can take up nowadays that there is no reason to limit yourself to a single exercise.
If you are an extrovert person, then you might enroll in a class where you’ll be surrounded by other people. On the other side, there are plenty of solo activities for introvert personalities who prefer to fight depression on their own. However, even these people need the support of family and friends if they want their fitness therapy to yield results.
You are not alone in your fight
Apart from receiving support from your loved-ones and socializing at the gym and yoga classes, you can always buddy up. We are not referring to attending group classes but rather a single person that will literally compete with you. By finding a fitness buddy, you are giving your inner motivation a human face. Instead of forcing yourself to put in the running sneakers and get outside, they will ring you up to see if you’re ready. There isn’t a sport you cannot practice in a pair; you two can even rent a tandem bike to have fun cycling through the countryside.
Cycling one again
Do you remember when your parents were teaching you to ride a bike? Yes, you might have had a few bruises in the process but the overall experience was fun. One piece of advice when it comes to fighting depression is to remember all the times you had fun and felt present and try to reenact those experiences. For some, this means going back to school or cheering once again for your favorite sports team but for others, it’s taken long-abandoned hobbies.
Cycling is a great outdoor activity because it engages your lower body muscles like no other sport. Apart from working your calves, you’ll benefit from passing through picturesque landscapes and generally enjoying the scenery. Add some fresh air and a few fizzy drinks along the way and you get the ideal Sunday afternoon diversion from overthinking about your past. If you don’t own a bike, don’t feel depressed (pun most definitely intended) since you can order a solid mountain bike at Bikes Online and similar webshops.
Swimming: A full-body workout
Cycling and walking are all nice to get your mind off somber thoughts but if you really want to get ripped, then swimming is the way to go. A typical swimming practice lasts a mere 45 minutes and you can indulge in it once a week. It might not seem like much of an exercise but merely staying afloat engages all your muscles, not to mention the butterfly stroke.
Swimming is ideal for assuaging anxiety because a full-body workout is bound to drain all your excess energy. If you hit the pool regularly (remember what we said about consistency), you will no longer bite your nails or play with your hair. Just like you preoccupied your mind with work or hobbies, so should your body be “distracted” by a healthy lifestyle.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy diet in a faced-paced environment is a challenge but if you’re suffering from anxiety or depression than you should be extra motivated. Namely, the food and the ingredients you intake every day regulate the level of serotonin, your happiness hormone. If you keep eating unhealthy food every day and perhaps smoking cigarettes, then you cannot expect your depression to go away on its own.
In fact, smoking and excessive drinking stand in stark contrast to physical activity. You will experience shortness of breath because of tobacco smoke and fell chronic fatigue caused by alcoholic drinks. Treating your depression and anxiety using physical activity will require you to adopt a healthy lifestyle if you want to see tangible results.
Patience is a virtue
Speaking of results, don’t expect walking, jogging, cycling or swimming to produce miraculous results instantaneously. Your depression didn’t develop overnight so neither will the resolution come after just a few days of physical activity. This might seem like a daunting challenge at first but as time goes by, your level of inherent motivation will rise.
Give yourself some 4 to 8 weeks for the exercise program to take effect. During this period, the inner struggle will be the hardest but you simply need to press on and not abandon your exercise routine. We can help you by saying that each passing day will be easier because you are working out your willpower as well; not only your muscles.
Implementing positive distractions
Don’t you just hate it when you sit down at your laptop to get some work done but the loud noises from coming from the street keep distracting you? No wonder then that there’s a direct connection between stress and depression! However, distractions don’t necessarily have to be negative as there are positive distractions that you can incorporate in your fitness routine.
Everyone’s favorite positive distraction are wireless headphones. They can be worn while running, as listening to music we like helps us calm our nerves down and stay focused better. Furthermore, music will keep our thoughts preoccupied as we nod in the rhythm of our favorite song.
Another positive distraction is our pet friend. If you own a dog, then you two can jog together through the park and then play throw and catch afterward. In fact, psychiatrists recommend people suffering from depression to get a pet as caring for another living being strengthens you feeling of self-worth. Perhaps you can combine your love for animals with fitness by taking horse-riding lessons!
All in all, depression and anxiety are not easy to get rid of. Every person going through tough times can develop either but every person can also take up sports as a means of therapy. The only thing you have to calculate is which physical activity suits you the best.