Exercise: A “Drug” For Depression? (Part 2 of 2)

Posted in Depression on July 24th, 2010 by Dr.P :) – 1 Comment

Why do some people quickly dismiss the idea of bringing exercise into their daily routine, particularly given how important we know it is for general health, not to mention improving symptoms of depression? In exploring this a bit with clients, I have found they have a variety of automatic thoughts about this topic. Some common ones are, “It’s too hard,” “I’ve tried that before and it doesn’t work,” “ I don’t have the time,” “I don’t know where to start,” “I don’t believe it will help,” “I can’t afford the membership to a gym,” “I don’t like to exercise,” and so forth. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar to you? I have a couple of pages in my Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Workshop that address the difficulty with change, and common obstacles to doing things that can be helpful. You might check them out.

If you find yourself rejecting the idea of exercise, you might think about the answers to these questions: What is the cost of having good mental health? Why don’t I value myself enough to schedule this time for myself and my well being? Why do I look for excuses not to exercise rather than excuses to start exercising?

When you actively and regularly engage in an exercise routine, you are sending out some powerful messages to yourself and to the world: “I am worthwhile and important,” “I deserve to spend time on myself improving my well being,” “I care about myself,” and “I want to feel better!” These thoughts may not be in  your awareness, but they are there, and they are important positive thoughts to have when you are depressed.

Another benefit of exercise is the social support that can occur. If you join a gym, a sports team, an exercise group, or the like, you can make friends with similar interests. These kinds of teams and groups often support its members so that everyone can succeed in their efforts. Alternatively, you might simply ask a friend or relative to join you in your new workout routine so that you can support and motivate each other. Personally, having a workout buddy has worked very well for me over time to maintain a regular exercise schedule. Even if I do not feel like working out on a particular day, I respond well to encouragement from my buddy. On such days, I always feel good when I finish up my routine and I’m very glad that I got it done.

If you still find yourself struggling about whether to introduce an exercise routine into your life, you might try an experiment. For just one month (four weeks), commit to completing an exercise routine for 30 minutes, 5 days each week. Use a calendar to plan out the days and times. In a notebook, record the quality of your mood each day, particularly before and after you exercise. You might use a scale from 0-10 with 0 being the most depressed you have ever felt, and 10 indicating the happiest you have ever been. Also record your mood at other regular times such as in the morning during breakfast, or before you go to bed at night. If, after the four weeks are up, you find no improvement or benefit to exercise, then you can choose to discontinue it. If you find it to be beneficial, then you have a great start with doing something very important for yourself. What have you got to lose… besides your depressed mood? Good luck! You can do it!

Dr.P :)

Exercise: A “Drug” For Depression? (Part 1 of 2)

Posted in Depression on July 23rd, 2010 by Dr.P :) – Comments Off on Exercise: A “Drug” For Depression? (Part 1 of 2)

Recently, in the news there have been some articles about the benefits of exercise in improving symptoms of depression. Take a look at this article from CNN.

Psychologists have known for some time that exercise can help those with mild to moderate depression to feel better. How much this is emphasized in therapy, or how often a client follows through with a recommendation to introduce exercise into his or her daily routine is unknown. I know that in my work with clients when I have brought this up as an important lifestyle change, some clients hear it and seem to internally dismiss it. Other clients, the minority for sure, actually do start an exercise program. The latter group has reported that exercise has been helpful for them. Some of them even joined local sports teams, not only for the exercise, but for the social benefits as well. Exercise can and does pay off if you have depression.

Regular moderate exercise has such profound effects on our bodies overall, whether or not we are depressed. It keeps us healthy, fights of terrible diseases, increases our sense of well being, increases energy, helps improve mood, and may ward off depression in the future.

While it is recommended that people check with their doctor before starting an exercise regimen, most should consider engaging in 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five time per week.

If you do start a new exercise program, be sure to start gradually, with small reasonable goals, rather than jump right into a full blown program. It’s not uncommon for people to set their goals too high initially and find that they just can’t meet them. This can set you up for disappointment and a sense of failure, which is what you don’t need if you are depressed! Starting off slow and then gradually adding more to your routine offers opportunities for success and a nice sense of accomplishment.

I strongly encourage those of you who are depressed and not exercising to consider introducing exercise into your lifestyle. It doesn’t even have to be much. You might start off walking some laps in your house. Then, you might walk a lap or two in your neighborhood. After some time, you might go to a nice park and walk a few laps there. Some of you might join a gym that has a variety of aerobics classes, from beginners to advanced. Others of you may enjoy swimming, jumping rope, jogging, canoeing, biking, or using exercise machines. You might need to try some different things to see what is enjoyable to you and what helps improve your mood. Good luck! You can do it!

Dr.P :)

What Causes Depression?

Posted in Depression on July 3rd, 2010 by Dr.P :) – 1 Comment

One of the most common questions people have about their depression is, “What caused it?” While that is a difficult question to answer due to the many factors potentially involved, there is one answer worth exploring.

In my work with clients who have been depressed, this is one answer we make sure to explore. This one answer is, “something’s up and something needs to change.” What I mean by this is that our minds and bodies react to situations in our lives, sometimes irrespective of how our conscious mind makes sense of things. An example of how this might work is if you push and push yourself at work, telling yourself you need to get some things done. At the same time, your mind gets tired, your body gets tired, and they react (with stress symptoms) or shut down in response. Your conscious mind says, “keep going,” while your inner mind and body say, “we’ve had enough!”

So, for many of you who are depressed, there is a part of you saying, “something’s up and something needs to change.” It’s a powerful signal to your conscious mind to take some action. This action might include changing something about your work environment, your home life, your partnership, your relationships, your goals, your health, your lifestyle, how you think about yourself, and so forth. Certainly, some of the needed changes won’t be easy. In fact, they may seem impossible. However, making difficult changes in the short run, and dealing with the aftermath, may be well worth the benefit to your mental health in the long run.

Exploring the question of “what’s up and what needs to change?” can be done with a therapist. It can also be done by yourself if you are willing to take a good hard look at things and be honest with yourself. You might also elicit the input of trusted family members or friends. Or, perhaps you have already been getting this kind of feedback from those around you.

At the bottom of the home page, I have some links for workshops and other information that might help you with this process. They include the CBT Workshop, the Stress Management Workshop, Online Relaxation Exercises, and Managing Symptoms of Depression.

Good luck with your own self-exploration! You can do it!

Dr.P :)